HL Deb 27 May 1853 vol 127 cc659-706

The EARL of MALMESBURY moved, that a Select Committee be appointed to in- quire into the probable effect of extending to the case of successions to real property and property under settlement the stamp duties now payable in respect of legacies. In bringing forward this Motion, be was not influenced, in the remotest degree, by any party or political spirit, and he could therefore promise that, as far as he was concerned, none such should enter into the discussion of it. His feeling was, simply, that their Lordships' House was the most fitting place for a preparatory inquiry into the very important subject in question, because it evidently was composed of persons the least in the world personally interested in the question. The greater number of their Lordships had already succeeded to the property which they could in the course of nature expect, and therefore they could not be suspected, in discussing the question, of allowing any of those selfish motives to influence them, of which others might, though unjustly, be accused. When the late Government fell, in consequence of their financial policy not being accepted by the House of Commons, it became obvious that one of the very first questions which the succeeding Government most take up, was that of financial policy. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli), with all his genius and talent, having prepared and brought forward a proposition of finance of such comprehensiveness and magnitude, it was naturally to be expected that his great Parliamentary antagonist would attempt, in an honest and honourable rivalry, to bring forward a measure equally important. He was not surprised, therefore, that Mr. Gladstone should have brought all his powers of mind to bear upon the subject, and originated a proposition of similar magnitude. But he had not expected, any more than their Lordships, any more than the public, or, he believed, any more than some of the right hon. Gentleman's Colleagues, that he would have dealt with the subject of a succession tax on real and settled property, inasmuch as the difficulties of that subject had never been exaggerated, though painted in vivid colours by every statesman whose speeches were left to us for the last century. But the right hon. Gentleman had faced that difficulty; and a Bill was now printed which proposed that a succession tax on real and settled property should become the law of the land. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) at once admitted the justice, abstractedly, of the principle of taxing the succession to one kind of property, if you taxed that to another. But this was not merely an abstract question; it was one of necessity first, and of possibility afterwards. Supposing it to appear absolutely necessary, Parliament had then to consider the difficulties which stood in the way. It appeared to him that this question of a tax on succession to realty was one of which both Houses, and indeed the whole country, were profoundly ignorant—certainly, in comparison with the other great questions to which, of late years, they had applied their attention. It had not been before Parliament since 1796, which involved a lapse of time including two generations; and perhaps that would account for the evident inferiority of the recent debates upon this subject in another place to those upon other subjects, not more important, but upon which there was more general information. That information, sufficient to afford them a fair insight into the probable working of Mr. Gladstone's proposition, it was most desirable that they should in some measure obtain, and nowhere, he thought, could they do so, better than before a Committee of their Lordships' House, to whose Members no personal motives could be imputed, and whose powers would enable them to examine witnesses upon oath. That Committee could examine the first solicitors and conveyancers of the country; men of great experience in these matters, and who could give such information on the subject as would be useful to the Government, to the Opposition, and to all interested in the operation of this measure. For himself, he was not in a position to offer any opposition, for he confessed himself as ignorant as most people must be upon the measure. This much, though, was to be said against it, that we had extant the opinions of men and the history of facts which certainly did not encourage us to proceed—at least not rashly—in supporting Mr. Gladstone's proposition. The question was brought before Parliament on the 21st of April, 1796, when Pitt proposed that a succession tax should be laid on real property. Mart the events then taking place to justify the proposition. Bonaparte was at that moment crossing the Alps into Italy; Nelson had not gained any of those great victories which were to sweep the French navy from the sea. An immense war and an invasion were threatening this country. England stood alone among all nations, as she had lately done to her honour and happiness, the only point on which the hopes of Eu- rope rested. It was impossible for a Minister, under such circumstances, not to feel that any tax which the emergencies of the country required was justified. Mr. Pitt brought forward that proposition. He was met by Mr. Sheridan, by Mr. Grey, and by Mr. Fox. He was defeated, and could not carry this tax even in the plenitude of his power; but the hon. Member said he was beaten by the country Gentlemen. That was not the case. The first person who opposed the proposition was Alderman Newman—a person of great personal property in the city of London; he opposed it with great vehemence, and he made this memorable remark, that if they had the succession tax, this country, which was the best to live in, would be the worst to die in. Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan opposed the measure; and he would read the few pithy words in which Mr. Fox expressed his opinion as to a succession tax on realty. He said—"Of all the shapes in which despotism could exist, a tax on the succession to land was the most odious." What did Mr. Sheridan say? He said, that "the present was the most execrable measure of finance that ever came before Parliament." That showed the animus of the speakers; and Mr. Fox was no leviathan of land, Mr. Sheridan was no territorial aristocrat; but they were men who opposed injustice wherever they met with it, and detested it the more when it was practised under the garb of official impartiality. The opinions of such men did warrant some apprehension as to the effect of such a tax, and justified him in asking their Lordships, before deciding on the question, to inquire calmly into it. He had no doubt that, if the Committee were granted, they would go into the whole question of the justice of any succession tax at all. It could hardly be avoided, and he saw no objection whatever to that result. He thought a succession tax was one that was commonly called a war tax—one which urgent necessity alone could justify. That was the manner in which it was defended by Mr. Pitt, and he saw no reason for thinking it had changed its nature and properties; but if they went into the question, and also into the justice and policy of a succession tax upon real property as well as upon personal property, they would find the case was one of great difficulty. The first impression made on his mind, when he heard of a succession tax on real property was, that it would at once change the entire character of the estates which were held in this country. Their Lordships did not, as was formerly the case, hold directly under the Crown. In former days the Crown might and did—it was the condition of the tenure—send a commission to have a valuation of the rental of a Lord who had died, and a succession tax upon that was paid; but many of their Lordships had inherited their estates, large and small—and it was the same with the humblest freeholder as with the Peer—absolutely, with a right to give away the same, or mortgage them, as they pleased; but surely now the whole nature of that property would be altered, when they put a tax upon it which was to be paid by the heir before he could take possession of the estate to which he had succeeded: with a succession tax, on the payment of which depended the right to hold the property, the property became of the same nature as that for which a fine was payable on renewal. But he must do the justice to the right hon. Gentleman who proposed this tax to say that he had not overlooked the difficulties of the question, and that some of them had met him in a very disagreeable manner. He had read with very great care the first and second speeches of the right hon. Gentleman on this subject, and, having also read the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman was about to bring into the House of Commons, he found that the right hon. Gentleman had thought fit—and as he considered wisely—to alter it very considerably from what he had at first intended to propose. For example, the right hon. Gentleman intended at one time, after having taken the value of a man's life interest in an estate which he inherited—supposing the estate were entailed—to leave it alone until he converted his estate, or any part of it, into money, and when that took place the succession tax was to be paid on the purchase money received. He saw the right hon. Gentleman had abandoned that point, and he thought he was right, for it would have led to endless litigation and inconvenience. But the right hon. Gentleman was also mistaken in another point. If he understood the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman rightly, the right hon. Gentleman said he considered the term of a generation was thirty years. He was convinced the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in that calculation. Their Lordships well knew that the average at an insurance office of human life, taking one with another, was generally about seven and a half years. They had only to take the record of themselves and their families, called the Peerage, and to read fifty pages of that book, and they would find, although their Lordships had the best chance, above all the rest of Her Majesty's subjects, to live long and happy lives, they would see how much the Chancellor of the Exchequer was mistaken in calculating a term of thirty years to a generation, and that the average was twenty-two years. But one of the principal arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman was, that great frauds were committed, and that more stringent, and consequently more expensive, machinery was required to prevent them. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had exaggerated the amount of frauds under the present system. He had seen several solicitors upon this point, and they had all told him that nothing could exceed the exaggeration of the fear that a man would, to evade the succession tax, hand over his property by deed of gift to any person during his own life. Out of five solicitors whom he had spoken to on the subject, there was only one who knew of any such case, and that one, who was in extensive practice, knew but of two such cases in an experience of thirty-four years. But he would point out what appeared to him to be some of the most evident difficulties in carrying out this scheme. If the Bill should pass, let them consider the case of property heavily mortgaged—mortgaged as far as it would bear—up to three-fourths of the value. Suppose the property was in the hands of a minor—and he would assume, as the right hon. Gentleman was made to say, that the succession tax was to be made the first charge—how was the money to be raised upon the narrow margin left to the minor; the margin meaning all that was left to satisfy the previous mortgagees, who were to be ousted as far as the succession tax was concerned? The minor would be hard pressed between the two fires of the mortgagees and the Government to obtain the little rental that remained. Then, again, originally the term for which the estate was to have been held, was restricted to four years. It was true the right hon. Gentleman had added another year of grace, because, apparently, not having any land of his own, he was not aware that the year a man came into his inheritance was the worst of his life, for he lost the amount his father gave him, and did not get a shilling of his rents. But if any period was to be fixed, why should it be four years? Why should not the period he ten, or twenty, or thirty years? The reason of naming four years was to get as much as possible out of the land during a man's life; and, therefore, the best thing that could happen to the Government would be that every man should die after he had held his property four years. But there was a case that struck him as one of great cruelty, and for which he did not see that any provision was made by this Bill. It was the case of officers killed in action. He could instance cases of two, three, or even four brothers falling in battle within a very short time of each other, leaving children wholly dependent upon the property successively coming to these brothers. He could give them proof of officers falling in battle, having very small properties—as was particularly the case in the Highlands—worth perhaps 100l. a year; and was it right or just that, when they fell in the cause of their country, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should hasten to put his hands into the pockets of the orphan, and take from him, young as he was, and therefore the more helpless, a poundage on the miserable property left to him by his parent? But what seemed most to have staggered the public with regard to this scheme—for no one would dispute the abstract principle that realty should be taxed as well as personalty—had been mainly the tax upon settled property. In the eye of the law that property amounted to a purchase. It had been purchased by some persons for many years. In the case of marriage settlements, men who had been married thirty years or more, but who had not yet come into possession of their wives' property, would find themselves become subject to post facto legislation, this being as to them a retrospective law. Every one of their Lordships and Her Majesty's other subjects, who had not yet touched any part of their property settled upon themselves at their marriage, and who were waiting for the determination of the previous estates, would have to pay a succession tax upon that property whenever it came to them; and that after they had made in the eye of the law a purchase of that property. Although the right hon. Gentleman did not scruple to lay his hands upon that purchased and settled property hitherto held sacred, he did exempt some property to an enormous amount, and that was in the case of corporations—they were only to pay for property that accrued to them hereafter: the law had no retrospective action for them. Then he did not quite understand how the right hon. Gentleman meant to deal with the property of the Church. The right, rev. Prelates were corporations sole. Were, they to be exempted from the operation of the Bill? But if Church property was not to be exempt, he would tell the right rev. Prelates that they would stand in this position—as they did not inherit by relationship they would be burdened with the full 10 per cent tax; and if he were told that the tax would be paid by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners because the bishops were paid fixed sums, yet that could not be said of the working clergy. He wanted to know, therefore, whether Church property was to pay the tax, and, if so, was the tax to be 10 per cent? There was another class of property which, so far as he could see mentioned in the Bill, must be taxed if the system was consistently carried out. He wanted to know whether heirlooms, such as pictures, books, plate, &c., coming to a man holding an estate in tail, were to be taxed? It appeared to him that if the Bill was consistently carried out they must be valued, and the tax paid upon them; but that would be hardly just, because the party coming into possession of them had no power to sell them, nor raise one shilling upon them. With respect to timber, on looking at this Bill, he saw that ornamental timber on an estate was to be valued, and the tax paid upon it. But how was that tax to be raised? They were to appoint a valuer to inspect and value the timber; but he would ask those of their Lordships who had sold or purchased an estate upon which there was either a great deal or only a small quantity of timber to recollect what enormous expense and trouble they had had in having a valuation of the timber made. Then, again, this might happen three or four years, and in each instance, from the change in the timber, a fresh valuation must be made. If the valuer made a mistake—if he sent in an assessment not pleasing to the Commissioners, they might send down their own appraiser; and if he gave a greater assessment than the first, there were three or four clauses in the Bill which he advised their Lordships to read, that they might see how in this country, where a constitutional Government existed, it did not prevent their being liable to as severe a law as any that was ever propounded by a despotic monarch. Then, as to the value of mines; that value could hardly be ascer- tained, because a vast quantity was under ground, and it might be worth, as he was told was the case on one estate, 10,000,000l. All the machinery that was brought to bear on timber property was to be brought on mines. It appeared to him, also, that when a man got a reversion which he had purchased, he would have to pay on it. That, certainly, would be an ex post facto law. Also, the owners of landed property were to pay when the jointures of widows fell in, as so much accruing to their property. That being the case, of course they would have to pay the succession duty for legacies given to servants and persons of that kind, when those legacies fell in. Supposing a gentleman left 100l. a year to his butler, the latter, not being a relative, would have to pay 10 per cent duty, and, when he died, the heir in possession, being no relative to the butler, would also be called on to pay 10 per cent on the falling in of the legacy. Was that just? Again, there was the settlement on younger children, which was very common in this country; and when a man came into an estate under these circumstances, how was the Chancellor of the Exchequer to treat him? Sums varying from 5,000l. to 20,000l. were often apportioned among a number of children. Supposing there were three children, and the two younger children were provided for by a settlement of 10,000l. each out of an estate worth 30,000l., would the Chancellor of the Exchequer charge the heir upon his actual interest of 10,000l., or his possible interest of 30,000l.? There were difficulties in such cases; and he had only named them to show the strong necessity for an investigation of this question. He might refer to four clauses of the Succession-tax Bill, to show the inquisitorial character of that measure. Who were the persons to be accountable, according to this Bill, for the duty? "Every trustee, guardian, committee, or husband." They were to give notice— to the Commissioners or to their officers of their liability to such duties, and shall at the same time deliver to the Commissioners or to their officers a full and true account of the property for the duty whereon they shall respectively he accountable, and of the value thereof, and of the deductions claimed by them, together with the names of the successor and predecessor, and their relation to each other, and all such other particulars as shall be necessary or proper for enabling the Commissioners fully and correctly to ascertain the duties due; and the Commissioners, if satisfied with such account and estimate as originally delivered, or with any amendments that may be made therein upon their requisition, may assess the succession duty on the footing of such account end estimate; but it shall be lawful for the Commissioners, if dissatisfied with such account and estimate, to cause an account and estimate to be taken by any person or persons to be appointed by themselves for that purpose, and to assess the duty on the footing of such last-mentioned account and estimate, subject to appeal, as hereinafter provided; and if the duty so assessed shall exceed the duty assessable according to the return made to the Commissioners, and with which they shall have been dissatisfied, and if there shall be no appeal against such assessment, then it shall be in the discretion of the Commissioners, having regard to the merits of each case, to charge the whole or any part of the expenses incident to the taking of such last-mentioned account and estimate on the interest of the successor in respect whereof the duty shall be due, in increase of such duty, and to recover the same forthwith accordingly; and, if there shall be an appeal against such last-mentioned assessment, then the payment of such expenses shall be in the discretion of the court of appeal hereinafter appointed. Then, with regard to penalties the Bill enacted:— If any person required to give any such notice or deliver such account as aforesaid shall neglect to do so, he shall be liable to pay to Her Majesty a sum equal to 10l. per centum upon the amount of duty payable by him, or such less sum as such duty, if assessable at the rate of 1l. per centum upon the value of the succession, would amount to, and a like penalty for every month after the first month during which such neglect shall continue; and if any person liable under this Act to pay any duty shall neglect to do so within 21 days after the same shall have become due, he shall also be liable to pay to Her Majesty a sum equal to 10l. per centum upon the amount of duty so unpaid, or such less sum as such duty, if assessable at the rate of 1l.. per centum on the value of the succession, would amount to, and a like penalty for every month after the first month during which such neglect shall continue. The provisions of the Bill were such as to make it what any lawyer must declare to be a most tremendous and inquisitorial measure. If that Bill passed into law, who, in God's name, would accept the situation of trustee or guardian? He thought at that stage of the question it would be wrong for him to discuss the general effects which the Bill, if it passed, must have on landed property; but he could not observe without great suspicion the unfeigned joy with which a class of persons not supposed to be especially attached to the ancient institutions of the country and to monarchy had accepted it. If he wished to show how such a measure would undermine the landed interest, not only by the succession duty itself, but by the enormous expenses, difficulties, and litigation to which the proprietors would be subject, he could hardly better illustrate his argument than by referring to a family whose name was immortal in this country. When Lord Nelson fell at Trafalgar an estate was settled on him and his heirs by the country. It was but a small estate—very much in proportion to those honours which he thought were rather churlishly given to that great man. But what had occurred since his death? It was now less than fifty years since he fell, and in that time three heirs of Nelson had succeeded to the property. Now, the object of the country in securing to the family that property must have been to maintain the name of Nelson with all the honour it deserved. Yet, if the proposed tax on succession had existed, that property, small as it was for the title and services performed, would have been subject, since 1805 three times to a tax, not of the lowest rate, but of 3 per cent, because the heirs succeeding were collateral. He looked also with apprehension to the passing of this Act, because it was most honestly and fairly stated in the preamble that it was sought to be enacted "towards raising the necessary supplies for defraying your Majesty's public expenses, and making a permanent addition to the public revenue." He must say all his feelings of justice and policy militated against this permanent tax, because he thought it a tax the imposition of which could only be justified in times of war and great national difficulties, such as those times when Mr. Pitt proposed to impose it. If it were made permanent, there would be no security against its being increased at any time hereafter, whenever the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in want of money. He begged their Lordships distinctly to understand that in consequence of the comparative ignorance which prevailed with respect to this important subject, he asked for a Committee to investigate it, and he thought himself justified also in taking that course by the apprehensions expressed by Fox and Sheridan—men far superior to the humble individual who now addressed them, and perhaps to many of their Lordships then present, in their knowledge of public questions. He would candidly say he should enter the Committee with his mind perfectly open to conviction, and if reasons could be found which would justify the proposition of Mr. Gladstone, he should join the admirers and supporters of that Gentleman, in giving him full credit for having added to the means and elements of taxation in this country. The noble Earl concluded by moving, that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the probable effect of extending to the case of successions to real property and property under settlement the stamp duties now payable in respect of legacies.


My Lords, I do not deny that the Motion of the noble Earl commends itself to your Lordships by a certain degree of plausibility. It does not seem unreasonable to conclude that a subject so important, so full of difficulties, so complicated, and affecting so directly, so personally, and so nearly your Lordships, is one suited for such an inquiry as that which the noble Earl proposes—an inquiry into the probable effects—for that is the object of the inquiry—of the tax on successions as proposed by Her Majesty's Government. Nevertheless, my Lords, I think there are reasons which ought to induce your Lordships not to support the Motion of the noble Earl, and which are such, at all events, as will prevent me from giving the slightest encouragement to any such Motion. And, first, I beg to call your attention to the time at which this Motion is made. If this were a new subject—if it were a new system of financial policy on which the Legislature had to inquire and make up its mind before coming to a decision—there might be some reason in the proposal; but I beg to refer your Lordships to the fact that this proposition of the Government has been in detail before the other House of Parliament five or six weeks, has been explained at length by my right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in all its bearings—that the Resolutions, which were laid on the table of the House of Commons five or six weeks ago, have been adopted within a fortnight by that House, and passed without a division. Then, I say, if in this state of things the noble Earl makes a Motion to inquire into the probable effect of this measure, it is impossible I can accede to such a Motion without also joining in the doubts—nay, more than doubts—which he has expressed, of the wisdom and justice of the measure. Now, whatever course your Lordships may adopt, nothing shall induce me to take any course which may be supposed to express any doubt of the wisdom, justice, or equity of the proposal of the Government. The Resolutions to which I referred, as having been explained by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and adopted by the other House, have been embodied in the form of a Bill, which now stands for a second read- ing in the House of Commons. The noble Earl's speech, in truth, has been a speech against the second reading of this Bill, as if it were before your Lordships. The Bill, however, is not before us. Nevertheless, if your Lordships should have this Committee, your Lordships would inquire into all the points adverted to by the noble Earl, as contained in the Bill which I now hold in my hand. Now, your Lordships must be perfectly aware that, be your opinion what it may, and be the result of your Committee what it might, you cannot alter a little of this Bill—not a particle. You may—and this you have the full right to do—throw it out on the second reading. That is perfectly within your Lordships' competence to do—though I will not say how deeply I should regret, as well for the sake of this House as for the sake of the country, that you should adopt so rash and impolitic a course. If, however, I had any doubt as to the propriety of opposing the Motion for a Committee, the noble Earl has furnished me with a reason for so doing; for he has fairly told you that he moves for it for the purpose of showing grounds against, and rejecting the provisions of the measure now under the consideration of the other House of Parliament. Now, the Government are convinced that it is a measure not only wise but just; and even the noble Earl does not pretend to deny the justice of the principle of the measure, but only refers to difficulties of execution. Still, with all due respect for the authority of Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan, I must observe, that we have made great progress in many things since their days—and, among others, certainly in a better comprehension of matters of finance; and I must also declare that in their days the proposition was just, notwithstanding the criticisms they passed on it. The country has long felt the injustice of these exemptions, on the part of the landed interest, from taxation. That feeling has been gaining ground daily; and I ask any of your Lordships whether you can candidly say that you believe it to be possible to maintain the exemption much longer? There is no agitation—no violence—there is no outcry at the present moment, but there is an extended feeling of the injustice and inconsistency of exempting landed property from that duty which is imposed on other property, and property less capable of bearing it. I fairly admit, at once, that this measure for imposing a tax on successions is indispensable to carry into effect the financial system as proposed by the Government. It will be impossible without it to effect that which is the substance of the proposal of the Government. The renewal of the income tax for the period of seven years would never have been proposed or thought of unless accompanied with the means—the obvious facility—at the end of that period, of dispensing with it, if Parliament should think fit. Moreover, it would be impossible for us to effect those great and important remissions of duties which will, I hope, give a great increase of prosperity and comfort to the great body of the people of this country, and which have secured for the financial propositions of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer a degree of acceptance and popularity which I have not seen attend any Budget in my day. The noble Earl has done justice to the ability displayed by my right hon. Friend in explaining the financial scheme to Parliament; but he must be prepared to go further, and also admit the singular success with which that scheme has been received, as far as can be collected from the opinions pronounced by persons of all parties and descriptions. Now, it appears to be urged by the noble Earl that this measure, though not of course intentionally, but in its effect, must be injurious to, and is conceived in a spirit hostile to the landed interest of this country. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes—that it is conceived in a spirit hostile to land, just as the measure of my right hon. Friend, the late Sir Robert Peel, was hostile to land. I believe, indeed, that that measure of my late right hon. Friend, so far from being hostile to land, has very much contributed to the safety of the land, and to the freedom with which at this moment we debate upon these measures; and I also believe that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is just the same sort of enemy to the land as the late Sir Robert Peel was. Exaggerations of a most absurd description have been used in reference to this measure. We have heard it said—"Here is a proof of a Conservative Government! They are going to raise a tax of 2,000,000l. from the land." That is one of the assertions made. Well, it turns out that, by the most accurate calculations that can be made, one-fourth of that sum only is expected to be raised from the land:—the amount from real property is difficult, of course, to calculate, but, taking it altogether, it has been shown, by every calcu- lation deserving of credit that could be made that the land will not be affected in any proportion like the other descriptions of property. The noble Earl says, before this measure proceeds further in either House he desires to have an inquiry by Committee. Now, does the noble Earl mean to propose that as a practical course to your Lordships? Do you suppose that with this Bill ready, and after the Resolutions on which it is founded have been so triumphantly sanctioned by the House of 'Commons, you will by your Committee arrest the progress of this Bill? Now, if I were to agree to the Committee, I should be bound, when the Bill comes before this House, as come it unquestionably will, to pause in pressing forward its progress; but I intend to do no such thing. Your Lordships may agree to the Committee, if you think fit; but, I moan, in dealing with this Bill, to take such a course as seems to me most conducive to the interests of the country; for I am thoroughly resolved, on the part of the Government, that the country shall not see that there is the slightest intention to waver or hesitate for an instant in our adherence to our opinion of the wisdom and justice of this measure.


assured their Lordships that he would not detain them upon this subject more than a few minutes. He recollected, on one occasion, during the progress of the Reform Bill, when a vote of confidence in Ministers was before the other House, and when some arguments of great force had been employed against the measure of the Government, Lord Althorp—a man, as their Lordships knew, of singular integrity and worth—in answering the objections of the opposite side, assured the House that the question before them bad been fully considered by the Cabinet, and that he knew there were very good reasons in its favour; but what those reasons were he was wholly unable to state, but he trusted the House would determine to abide by the decision of the Cabinet; that it was a question of confidence, and, though there were good reasons which might be urged upon the subject, they were determined not to go into the argument, and therefore he asked the House of Commons to support the measure of the Government, and reject the arguments which had come from the other side. Now, whether the confidence of the House of Lords was as great in the Government of the noble Earl opposite, as the confidence of the House of Commons ultimately proved, to be in the Government with which Lord Althorp was connected, he would not take upon himself to say; but, on the present occasion, the noble Earl had taken the same line of argument, and employed nearly the same words, for he had not attempted to grapple with a single point brought forward in opposition to this measure—to deal with the inequality, the injustice, and the impracticable character of the proposed tax, so forcibly set forward by his noble Friend behind him. But this he had said—"We, the Government, are perfectly satisfied with the justice and expediency of this measure; we will not admit that in a single instance it is capable of improvement; we will not allow your Lordships to consult about the merits of the measure; when it comes from the House of Commons it must be passed by your Lordships, right or wrong; you may inquire as you please, but I have every confidence in the House of Commons as well as in the House of Lords, that it will be ultimately passed by them into a law." Now, he ventured to say, that that was hardly a line of argument which the Prime Minister of this country ought to pursue in that House. He was ready to admit that in matters of finance their Lordships had great difficulty in dealing with what was considered the peculiar province of the House of Commons; but, on the other hand, he conceived that it was not the duty of that House blindly to legislate even on financial matters at the bidding of the House of Commons—still less should the House of Lords comply with the behests of the other House, whatever they might be, whether right or wrong, just or unjust, practicable or impracticable, on whatever question came before them. What they wished to inquire into, and what the noble Earl refused to allow their inquiry into, was as to the fact whether the proposals soon to come before them, were right or wrong, just or unjust, and practicable or impracticable. They did not condemn the proposition of the Government; they were not opposed to the proposition, but they desired to have the means of sifting and inquiring into the nature of it; and he trusted their Lordships would, on this occasion, see the peculiar circumstances of their own position, and that, whatever might be the measures proposed by the advisers of the Crown and adopted by the other House, they would keep in view the co-ordinate privileges which they possessed on all matters of legislation. The noble Earl objected to the time at which his noble Friend had brought forward this Motion; but he did not know whether the noble Earl's objections were that the Motion was too early or too late. The noble Earl said, if this was a new question, one which was to the Legislature a new and unventilated proposition, there might be some reason why their Lordships should institute inquiry into its merits; but, six weeks ago, he said, in a speech in the other House of Parliament, one of his Colleagues had fully explained the principle of the measure which he intended to introduce. Now, it was for the first time he had learnt that the speech of a Minister in the House of Commons was a legitimate and Parliamentary ground on which to found a proceeding in their Lordships' House. [The Earl of ABERDEEN said, be did not allude to the speech but to the Resolutions, which were laid on the table of the House of Commons five or six weeks ago.] The noble Earl told them that five or six weeks ago this statement was made of the details, and that the Resolutions were then laid on the table. He did not remember the precise date, but he could tell their Lordships not only the date of the adoption of the Resolutions of which he had talked in such a tone of triumph, but the reason why they were adopted in the manner to which the noble Earl referred. The reason was the unwillingness of those who opposed the Government to subject them to any embarrassment by protracting the discussions on the last day before the adjournment of the House; the Opposition, therefore, consented to waive their objections to the Resolutions, and to allow thorn to be passed without a division in order not to carry the discussion over the recess, and thereby act as an impediment to the public service. It was on that understanding, accompanied by the declaration that by continuing the debate they might impede the public service, that a division was not taken, and on this the noble Earl now thought it decent to raise the triumphant argument as to the passing of the Resolutions without any division. The noble Earl must remember the practice of the House of Commons sufficiently well to know that nothing was more common than to allow resolutions to pass in Committee to enable the Government to introduce a Bill founded on such resolutions; and for these reasons, that they might not act as an obstacle or impediment to the public service, and that the members of the Government might have an opportunity fully to explain in all its details the proposition which they intended to submit. On this occasion the House of Commons acted in that spirit, and passed the Resolution, which he thought they hardly would have done if they could have foreseen the use—he would not say the ungenerous use—which the noble Earl had made of their forbearance. But they had not got all the details of this measure. His noble Friend had shown that, since the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the proposition of the Government had been changed in some very material points; and consequently, if on the first announcement their Lordships had proposed to appoint a Committee on the Bill, the Government would have said they were going into Committee upon they knew not what—that the intentions of the Government might change—that the principles of the measure might be altered as well as the details. He would not say that the present Government would ever alter their principles, but they certainly had altered the details of their proposition. They had now the matured measure which the Government intended to submit to the consideration of Parliament; and how long had they had to consider it in that form—how long a period to see by what means the Government proposed to overcome those immense difficulties which the noble Earl did not deny existed? He had in his hand the Bill introduced into the other House of Parliament, as well as the noble Earl, and he found it was ordered to be printed by the House of Commons on the 23rd of May, and he for the first time saw it at eleven o'clock last night. It was a Bill of fifty-five clauses of most complicated legal arrangement, dealing with questions of immense difficulty, and with questions with regard to which legal authorities would tell them the expense, embarrassment, and difficulty, would be enormous, and which would have the effect of throwing into the hands of the gentlemen of the legal profession profits that would amply remunerate them for the loss which legislation on other matters were said to have caused them. Then the noble Earl said they were dealing with a question that was not now before the House; but he did not know whether the complaint was that the question of inquiry had been brought forward too soon or too late, for the noble Earl, having complained that they asked for this inquiry too late, proceeded to say they asked for it too soon, because they ought to wait until the Bill was under the consideration of this House. The noble Earl said the speech of his noble Friend was practically a speech for the rejection of the Bill on the second reading. The noble Earl said that course would be perfectly within their Lordships' competence, though it would not be discreet to exercise the powers vested in them by the constitution. He admitted, as the noble Earl said, if this Bill came before their Lordships, he should regret its rejection on the second reading. But then the noble Earl said it was not competent for their Lordships to amend this Bill in Committee. He denied that fact, and asserted it was perfectly competent to amend this Bill, or any part of this Bill. He knew that, according to the privileges of the House of Commons, a Bill so amended in Committee would not be accepted by the House of Commons; and consequently, if Amendments resulted from the inquiry, that House, if they did choose to incur the sacrifice of the measure, would have to introduce another measure in which they might endeavour to meet the reasonable objections urged by their Lordships' House. He admitted with the noble Earl that that was not a convenient course, that it was inconvenient at a late period of the Session to raise objections and make alterations which the House of Commons might not be disposed to agree to, or might find it too late to accept. Therefore, he said this was the time, before the House of Commons had pledged themselves to the principle of the Bill, or to the details, and before its privileges could be in the slightest degree interfered with by the exercise of their Lordships' legitimate powers—now was the time to consider the merits of the plan in a Committee, when objections raised might be acquiesced in by the reason and good sense of the other House, without any interference with their privileges, or involving the country in protracted uncertainty and delay. As to argument against the proposition of his noble Friend, he had heard none, except it might be that founded upon the time at which it was brought forward. Still there was one point out of which the noble Earl at the head of the Government seemed to make a great deal, namely, his glorification of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the measures he had brought forward. The noble Earl had spoken of the immense success—almost without precedent—which had attended the financial proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But if all that he (the Earl of Derby) had heard was true, he might be excused for expressing some doubt whether those measures had been received by the public with the favour anticipated by Her Majesty's Government. He had heard, for example, that of one of their propositions for a conversion of a portion of the debt—a proposition involving many millions—the sole result had been its acceptance to the comparatively small amount of 1,400,00l., and that, with that exception, the whole of the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been dealt with in the City as so much waste paper. Undoubtedly the right hon. Gentleman was a man of great ability, and it might not be his fault that he had not met with the success to which he was entitled from the apparent elaboration of his designs. He (the Earl of Derby) would not say it was a failure; but he must be permitted to doubt whether it was an exemplification of that immense and overwhelming good fortune which had led the noble Earl in a triumphant tone to say that such a Chancellor of the Exchequer had never before been seen; that such knowledge as he possessed had never hitherto been acquired upon any political proposition; and that, after all, he and the rest of Her Majesty's Government were the only parties able to conduct the financial affairs of the country. It was said that the succession duties were to be imposed in order that the income tax might be taken off in the year 1860. That either the noble Earl or himself would live to see the day when the income tax would be taken off, he did not expect; at all events, the argument was, that, in order to take off the income tax in 1860, if Parliament should at that time think it expedient—for the proposition was accompanied with such a condition—it was essential that these succession duties should be imposed. He should be very sorry to say anything which should create any financial embarrassment to the Government; but he would venture to ask them whether they were quite sure of the accuracy of their calculations as to the amount of the income to be derived from the proposed tax on successions? Were the calculations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer so entirely correct as not to lead to some doubt that, under the operation of the tax, he might not be asking for twice as much money as he required? The right hon. Gentleman said that the tax, upon an average, would accrue, in respect to all the property affected, once in thirty years. Now, the right hon. Gentleman had had the means of judging to a certain extent of the probable operation of the tax by the experience of the tax upon succession to personal property. If he (the Earl of Derby) was not mistaken, the calculations with respect to successions to personal property were, that about one sixteenth of the whole personal property of the country was brought under the tax each year by the operation of the legacy duties. If this was the case, the average duration of successions was a period not of thirty but of sixteen years; and he was at a loss to know what there was in the possession of landed property which rendered successions to it so much more durable than successions to personal property, or how the same person inheriting landed and inheriting personal property could, at his decease, leave the one and not the other—how he could leave an interval between the succession to one and the succession to the other; how in one case the succession could be after sixteen, and in the other thirty years. Why, in his capacity as owner of real property he must positively outlive himself by a period of fourteen years. He was therefore of opinion—at all events there was primâ facie reason to doubt whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not underrated, by very nearly one half, the recurrence of successions; and, consequently, if he had, he had underrated by one-half the amount of the annual income which would accrue by the tax he was about to propose. With reference to the duration of life, he would ask their Lordships to look at cases which must be within their own knowledge or recollection among the Members of that House. He remembered a case which had occurred within the last few years, where a noble Friend of his, one of the youngest Members of their Lordships' House, had succeeded to a large landed property, with regard to which there had been in two years three successions, and there would have been a fourth had it not been for the fact of the son dying within a few months previously. Now, if the son in this case had survived his father in the ordinary course, there would have been, in the space of only two years, four successions, and four inflictions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's tax upon that property. And a noble Friend near him had reminded him of another case which had occurred in his own person. He was the fourth successor to his property in the course of three years. Now, he left their Lordships to say, if that had been property descending, not directly from father to son (and in this case it was not), but succeeded to by one distant relation from another—and their Lordships knew the expense entailed by such a succession—what, after four successions, one after another, there would have been to pay for this tax, upon the calculation that each of them would have sixteen years' possession of the property? He did not propose to take their Lordships again through the cases which had been so forcibly put by his noble Friend, not one of which had been answered by the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government; but he would venture to suggest one or two which appeared to him to demand consideration. His noble Friend had alluded to the case of heirlooms coming into possession of the tenant for life. Those heirlooms might be of immense and enormous value. Suppose it were the case that any of their Lordships were in possession of an hereditary jewel, such as the Koh-i-noor; he did not know the value of the Koh-i-noor—it might be 1,000,000l. or 2,000,000l.—but, whatever its value, the succession tax would have to be paid upon the estimated value of the jewel, measured by the value of the life. The same would occur at the next succession, and the tax would go on being paid on the value of the jewel, though it was producing nothing, and it could not be alienated. You must hold it, and you must pay for it. Why, if you must hold, and could not realise, there was no private property in the world that could stand the succession taxes upon two or three inheritances of the Koh-i-noor. But he would take a much more ordinary case. Take the case of pictures, books, and plate. He did not complain of a tax upon succeeding to that which you had the means of realising, or if the State took a portion of that which devolved upon you; but he did complain that, under the operation of this Act, you would be taxed for that which you could not avoid receiving, for that which you had no means of parting with, and on which you had no means of raising the value for the purpose of defraying the tax itself; but which was, on the contrary, a constant source of expense. At present, if 100,000l. in money were left to you, you were taxed 3,000l., and you had the enjoyment of the remaining 27,000l.; but if you had 100,000l. worth of pictures, you were taxed upon that amount, whilst the pictures were hung upon the walls, and you could not sell them. It might be a hardship to be compelled to part with pictures which had long-been in a family; but at any rate, if you could sell them, there was no positive injustice; but if you could not sell them, as they brought in nothing, but constituted a source of expense, it was a gross injustice to make such property pay the same tax as 100,000l. in the funds or other property which could be converted into money, and on which the tax might be paid the next morning. His noble Friend had mentioned the cases of several other descriptions of property, wherein, as there was a succession to each beneficial interest, there would be a succession tax. Take the case of tontines. There were, say, a hundred subscribers to a tontine, the last survivor of whom was to obtain the benefit. Of course, as the lives dropped, the interest of those which remained would accrue. The beneficial interest of the survivors increased by the lapse of each life: you would, therefore, be taxed on the reversionary beneficial interest as each life fell in, although, by the terms of the tontine, none except the survivor would derive any pecuniary benefit from it at all. His noble Friend had also put the case of annuities; and here he (the Earl of Derby) asked their Lordships to look at the grossly inquisitorial character of a tax levied as each successive annuity fell in. If a man was left with landed property, charged with forty, fifty, or sixty annuities, including jointures to widows, and other charges of that description, he was, under this Bill, as each annuity fell in, to present himself before the taxing officer, to declare the contingent amount of benefit he got by the lapse of each 100l. annuity; a fresh calculation was to be made as to the value of his life, and he was to be taxed upon that value. This process was to be repeated as every annuity fell in. Could any system be devised more calculated to produce vexation and annoyance than such a system of perpetual inquisition into what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been pleased to call the succession to beneficial interests? Again, take the case of trustees. He confessed he had been in some doubt how it was intended, with property under trust, to come at the amount of the property itself; and he had been anxious to see how this would be dealt with by the Bill. In ordinary cases, whatever property was left might be ascertained by the production of the will; but as regarded estates in settlement the will would be silent: it gave no in- formation whatever, and you did not know who were the trustees. There was no end to cases in which there were secret family trusts for the purpose of providing for relations or descendants, with regard to which no human being not in the family itself, was cognisant either of the trust or of the trustees. Many of their Lordships must be in the condition of being trustees for property, and trustees under settlements, with regard to which they knew nothing. The property in such cases was under unknown trustees—trustees not discoverable by the will, or by any means we now possessed. Possibly they might be discovered by the registration of assurances and deeds of settlement, but by no other means; but the discovery involved an immense amount of inquisitorial interference and inquiry into the title deeds of property, which might lead their Lordships, and the owners of landed property, into most serious difficulties and embarrassments. It was only, however, by such means, or by the still more violent measure proposed in the Bill, namely, making it penal on the part of trustees not to do that which they had no means of doing—declaring the value and the amount of property for which they acted—that they could ascertain the property to be taxed. Under those circumstances it was not, he maintained, beside the question to look into the machinery and details of the Bill; for the smaller the amounts to be levied, the more cogent the arguments against them. The smaller the amount to be raised under the operation of this Bill, the weaker was the argument of the noble Earl at the head of the Government relative to the effect upon the financial arrangements of the Exchequer, and the more cogent the argument of his noble Friend that it would be unwise, for a paltry sum of 300,000l. or 400,000l., to enter into a labyrinth from which no human ingenuity might be able to extricate them, and against adopting a Bill which nothing but the most outrageous tyranny, and the most intolerable inquisition into private affairs, would enable the Government to carry into effect. At the same time he did not ask their Lordships to reject the Bill, but to call for advice, assistance, and explanation with regard to its provisions. They had the measure before them which the Government proposed. He wanted their Lordships to hear its probable operation from the most experienced solicitors, and from men conversant with the business of the legal and financial details involved in it. He wanted, from their practical knowledge, to ascertain what would be its result upon the great and small landed properties of the country. He wanted to know what would be the result with regard to settlements, and the succession to property; whether the course of succession to property in this country was to be altogether changed for the purpose of getting 400,000l. revenue, by the assistance of which, if Parliament should think fit, six or seven years hence, they might get rid of the income tax—the Government themselves having laid good grounds already for the continuance of the income tax, by declaring the necessity of taking off other indirect taxation. He wanted the House to inquire into the practical working of the Bill, into its effect upon the great interests of the country, and by what machinery it could be carried into effect with the least possible pressure of taxation and inquisition. He did not exclude from his consideration the alternative that the result of the inquiry might be that the machinery and oppression might be found so intolerable, and the result so injurious in a political and social sense, and so defective in a financial point of view, that rather than impose such a tax another ought to be imposed—even if it fell upon landed and real property—not based upon the uncertain duration of human life, but upon fair and legitimate calculations of that which landed and real property inherited ought, in comparison with other property, to contribute to the exigencies of the national revenue. This was an inquiry which was within their Lordships' competency; nay, more, it was an inquiry from which if they shrunk they would not be doing their duty to their country. If they were tamely to sit down, and, because the House of Commons had sanctioned a measure which might or might not produce gross injustice, and cut up at the very root and foundation those classes of society of which their Lordships were component parts, shut their eyes and bow their heads in tacit obedience, without remark or inquiry, they would be abdicating the high position they ought to hold, and which they had hitherto held, in the Country. He trusted he should always look with deference and respect to the opinions of the House of Commons; but he also trusted that their Lordships would exercise their own independent judgment, and not be content with merely saying whether, upon the whole, the adoption or the rejection of the Bill might be the greater evil. At all events, their Lord- ships would not fear to say that before they legislated they would at least inquire.


said, there was nothing in what had fallen from his noble Friend at the head of the Government to justify the noble Earl in supposing that their Lordships would be called upon to perform an act of passive obedience, and to vote a measure, not yet introduced, without a full and fair discussion. He (Earl Granville) believed, on the contrary, that the observations of his noble Friend had an entirely different meaning, and that the advice he had tendered had the effect of suggesting the part most respectful to the House itself, and most conducive to the future utility of Committees of Inquiry on all subjects of public interest. The noble Earl who proposed this Committee could not expect that the Government would consent to delay the Bill that was to come up from the other House—a Bill forming, not the whole, but a material part of that financial scheme which the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had himself admitted to be, in all but one point, most successful, and which had been most favourably received, not only in the other House of Parliament, but throughout the whole country; and, indeed, when the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) attempted to controvert the success of that Budget, he could only refer to the fact, that that part of it which had been denounced by his friends in the other House as wanton extravagance, had not been accepted in the City so greedily as might have been anticipated. The course taken by the two noble Earls opposite was somewhat puzzling, and quite inconsistent with each other. The noble Earl who made the Motion based it on the provisions of a Bill which not only was not before their Lordships' House, but which had actually not passed through a single stage in the other House. But the noble Earl was still more inconsistent; for, while he saw no injustice in a tax being equally levied on land and other sources, he entered into an elaborate argument to prove the hardship on the landowners. The noble Earl who spoke last was, however, most inconsistent of all; for, though he said he had no bias against the Bill, and only wished to ascertain its practicability by inquiry, he went, nevertheless, into a long and able detail, to show the great extent of his disagreement with it. The noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) had said that the question had not been brought before Parliament for the last half century, whereas it had been constantly agitated and discussed in the House of Commons—


explained. What he had said was, that the question was never brought forward as a formal proposition since 1796, and a succession tax on real property had only been advocated because there was one on personalty.


said, that made no great difference. In all probability, if any proposition had been made by Government, it would now have been law; but the proposition had been almost annually made by independent Members, and full discussions had ensued thereon. The proposition had been met by the same objections by different Chancellors of the Exchequer, but their arguments certainly appeared to him to be by no means conclusive. As to the unfairness of taking thirty years as the average interval of successions, he would remind the House that in the time of Mr. Pitt the average value of life in this country was taken at thirty-three years; and there could be no doubt that value had since improved, particularly among the higher classes. The objections raised by the noble Earl who spoke last were more specious than real. The noble Earl had put the case of a minor succeeding to an estate mortgaged to a certain amount, and said that he might not have the means of paying the tax on the succession. But the noble Earl had entirely overlooked the fact, that the course proposed in the Bill was to reduce the gross to the net income, and then to get rid of the encumbrances, and to levy the tax on that amount, so that no difficulty would arise in the case supposed. The noble Earl then adverted to the hardship on the inheritors of heirlooms, which could not be sold, and which produced nothing; and he alluded to the hardship of paying a sum of money on succession to the Koh-i-Noor; but there was a most satisfactory answer to this objection, for there was a clause in the Bill which exempted such heirlooms from any tax whatever. The question of timber had been referred to. All ornamental timber in the neighbourhood of houses, such as shrubberies, would be exempted from paying the tax. With regard to the sale and valuation of timber, the person succeeding would have this option: he might either pay the tax Upon the average income of a certain number of years, or, if he did not choose to take that alternative, he might have the whole timber valued, and then calculate the tax upon the probable duration of his life at 3 per cent. The same principle would be adopted with regard to mines; and, if there was no value in a mine, no tax would be imposed upon it. As to widows, the case rather broke down. The noble Earl said that the son or heir to the person who left the widow, would have to pay the tax upon succeeding to the jointure when it came to him from the widow. But it should be remembered, that in valuing the estate, the widow's charge would be taken off the valuation; and when it ultimately descended to the heir, he had only to pay the tax upon that which he had not received at an earlier period. The same principle would apply to the case suggested, where an annuity was settled on a servant. When it fell in, and the owner of the estate derived an accession of property to that amount, he would pay pro tanto upon that, not 10 per cent, but according to his degree of consanguinity to the original proprietor. As to trustees, the machinery of the Bill was exactly the same as had existed for more than fifty years with respect to leaseholds, as well as mere money or personal property. During that time there had been exactly the same machinery and the same liability; yet trustees had executed trusts, and, as he was informed, not a single question had arisen in law as to the value of the properties so dealt with. With regard to successions in a short number of years, there would actually be a saving by the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In tontines nobody would pay till they actually received the money and became beneficial successors, and upon that succession the tax would be paid. Small landed proprietors would be taxed in proportion to their interest in the estate, and to those the Bill would be a positive advantage. He hoped that their Lordships would not, after the request of the noble Earl at the head of the Government, insist upon having a Committee on this question. He did not believe it would weaken the Government the least in carrying out the Bill, though it might have an unfortunate effect on public opinion as regarded that House. He entirely agreed with the noble Earl opposite in scouting the idea that their Lordships could be moved by any petty personal motives; but there was no doubt that their prejudices—for everybody had their prejudices—were bound up with the landed interest. He believed that their Lordships' House stood higher in the estimation of the public than it had done almost at any previous time; and this was not so much owing to the individual merit of Peers—for the House had always been remarkable for the splendid abilities of individual Members—but to the general feeling that their interests were the same as those of all other classes, whatever their station and influence in the country. He should regret to see their Lordships adopting any mode of obstructing a measure which was generally approved by the country. If they were to take this course, it could have no practical results beyond throwing discredit upon the inquiries of the Committees.


said, that as he was not one of the persons whose interests were bound up with the land, he could speak with perfect fairness on the subject. What he had seen of Parliamentary practice had been in the House of Commons, and his experience in their Lordships' House was very short; but he was compelled to say that he had never before heard a Minister of the Crown who spoke in so minatory a tone as the noble Earl opposite. It was a tone, not only of satisfaction with the work of his own Government, but one almost of denunciation of everybody who might attempt to impede a measure which he said should be passed, and to which he would not allow the slightest interruption. Such a tone might not be intended, for it did not seem appropriate to a deliberative assembly, and particularly not to a Minister of a Government that had brought in one of the most stringent, if not one of the most odious, measures ever proposed to Parliament. The noble Earl who spoke last had taken great credit for the popularity of the financial scheme of the Government. He (Lord St. Leonards) did not know how popular it might be, but it had been wholly unsuccessful so far as it had been tested. What had become of that important part of the scheme, the Exchequer bonds? Were they popular? Had they become, as we were told they would, a security which every one would be desirous of possessing, as they were so exceedingly handy? He warned the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to attempt—what had been rumoured as his intention—to force upon the suitors in Chancery these bonds, which nobody living would accept who knew the value of money. They were, he repeated, a failure; and he (Lord St. Leonards) had the same means of paying off the holders of the 500,000,000l of the debt, and was as likely to raise the money, as the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer was by these means. With respect to the other parts of the financial proposition, as matters stood at present, the whole had been a failure, and must of necessity be so. He could tell the holders of 3 per cents throughout the country, that if they would but remain quiet with their stock, they were just as safe now as at any time before the Chancellor of the Exchequer threatened to pay them off. He should not have said one word upon this subject, had not the noble Earl taken so much credit for the popularity of a Budget which, so far as it had been tried, had wholly failed. With respect to the proposal of a Committee on the succession tax, he thought that nothing could be more fitting than that the House should adopt such a course. The noble Earl had told the House that the measure was to be pressed—that there was to be no wavering in the matter—and that the whole power of the Government was to be exerted, not only to pass it, but to pass it speedily—that their Lordships would place an obstruction in the way of public business if they were to enter on the inquiry before the measure came up from the House of Commons. But was there ever a question tendered to Parliament which deserved a more serious consideration than this proposal of a succession tax? In 1842 Sir Robert Peel asked the landed interest to submit to a property tax for a few years, in order to enable him to carry a large measure of free trade. That tax had been continued to the present time, and it was now proposed to continue it for a longer period than Sir Robert Peel had ever asked. But what would Parliament and the country have thought if Sir Robert Peel had asked the landed interest to submit not only to an income tax but to a succession tax? Parliament was now asked to renew the income tax for seven years, and, at the same time, to sanction a succession tax, which had never before been placed upon property. The proposed succession tax was to be a permanent one, and it was, therefore, the more necessary to look very carefully into the matter. Let their Lordships consider for a moment the points wherein the present proposal differed from the scheme of Mr. Pitt in 1796. Upon the proposal of Mr. Pitt there were not less than seven divisions in the House of Commons, in each of which the numbers in favour of the measure were gradually smaller, and the Motion for the second reading of the Bill was only carried by the casting vote of the Speaker. That measure, however, did not approach the present by a vast distance in point of rigour; it was a moderate modest scheme indeed compared to this; and on the day appointed for the third reading of the Bill, Mr. Pitt himself came down to the House, and moved that his own Bill should be read a third time that day three months. From that day to this there had never been a serious proposition before the House for the imposition of the tax. It was said that the land ought to pay legacy duty as well as personal property; but as the law at present stood, personal property evaded not only the land tax but poor-rate. The land tax would not have been made perpetual if Mr. Pitt had not failed in carrying his succession tax; failing in doing so, the land tax was carried as a substitute for it. The amount of the land tax was about 2,000,000l., and was made subject to redemption; upwards of 1,100,000l. per annum still remained unredeemed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposed to give greater facilities for the redemption of the land tax, simply for the purpose of leaving the land more open for the imposition of the succession tax. Unless care be taken, the Stock Exchange will rush in and buy the land tax over the owners' heads, and thus obtain a preferment over their estates with Crown remedies. Many a fair farm had been sold and many a mortgage created in order to enable parties to redeem their land tax; and persons who had so redeemed it were now to be called upon to bear the additional burden of the succession tax. When land tax was redeemed, the stock paid for it went so far in redemption of the national debt, and no trace in the public accounts remained of the sacrifices of the landowner, so that his estate would apparently remain a free and fit subject for new taxation. If ever there was a time when land ought to have been charged with a tax of this nature, it was when a tax was put upon personal estate, and when land was not bound beyond an annual land tax. By Mr. Pitt's plan the tax was levied upon real estate only where it came by descent, devise, or by voluntary settlement, and he did not propose to tax lineal descendants, or husbands or wives. Could there be a more enormous difference between the two proposals than this? The children and children's children down to the latest generation would have taken real property under Mr. Pitt's Bill without being liable to any tax. Mr. Pitt began his scale of taxation by collateral descent, and went on increasing till he came to strangers, and his highest tax was 6 per cent upon the most remote class of relatives and strangers. But the present Bill not only taxed lineal descendants as well as collaterals, but struck at the root of every settlement in the country. Let a settlement be made for the highest consideration that the law allowed—that of marriage. Under Mr. Pitt's Bill the property under that settlement would not have been charged one shilling; but under this Bill a heavy tax would be levied upon every succession to property under the settlement. There was no noble Lord who was entitled to property under settlement who would not be liable to pay a heavy tax to-morrow if he came into possession. For, such was the wonderful hurry of the Government to get a revenue under this Bill, that they carried back its operation to the 19th of May; and if any unhappy man—or rather, perhaps, he ought to say if any happy man—should die subsequent to the 19th of May, and before this Bill passed, his property would be liable to the payment of this tax. And let their Lordships observe that this tax was not necessary in order to provide for a deficit. The Chancellor of the Exchequer chose to make a deficiency in order to provide for it by means of this tax. However, the noble Earl {the Earl of Aberdeen) said the Bill was to pass, and pass it must. Their Lordships were powerless after that announcement; but he must express his strong conviction that it was one of the most improper measures that ever passed. It was a measure of positive confiscation. Take any settlement made by any person upon marriage, or upon a son coming of age. Such a settlement was binding both in law and equity; it could not be revoked or recalled; and then came this Bill, which took away a portion of the property so settled, and compelled the heir to raise the money at a time when he was the least able to do so. A young Peer the other day asked him what was to be done under this Bill when a mail came into possession, and how he was to pay the succession tax? His (Lord St. Leonards) reply was, "He must go to the Jews, who no doubt would accommodate him at 17 per cent." As affecting all existing settlements, he looked upon the proposal as positive confiscation, an ex post facto law, which pressed the most severely at the very time it should not press. It was not, however, a question merely of real, but of real and personal estate—one which affected every settlement of property throughout the land. Let the advocates of the new tax bear in mind that no such tax had ever before been imposed in this country, and then defend it as one proper to be imposed at this moment, without any necessity for it, and merely to supply a deficiency capriciously created. If the noble Earl was enabled to pass this Bill, he should certainly consider it as a ground for believing that the Government of which he was the head was really a strong one. There was this great difference between the law as it stood with regard even to personal estate and the succession tax now proposed to be passed, that whereas personal property was charged at present in the case of intestacy or of a bequest, and in those cases only, the proposed tax was to be charged upon every case of succession whatever. In the one instance, the property passed into the hands of persons who never had any title to it, or who might never have expected to receive it; in the other, a tax was imposed upon realised property—property which was yours, which you had enjoyed, of which you had had the fruit, which was yours to sell or to dispose of when you pleased, and as you pleased. Out of such property you calculated settlements for your children and for others allied to you; but here upon every succession the tax-gatherer would step in. Was there no difference, he asked, between these two cases? Let their Lordships look at the absurdity and inconsistency of their legislation if this measure should pass into a law. A short time since, they were pressed in a most extraordinary manner to pass a copyhold enfranchisement Bill; they were told that there must not remain a bit of copyhold in the land, that it was impolitic and unjust to call upon persons to pay fines at uncertain times, and some of their Lordships almost wept at the recital of the excessive grief which relatives felt when they were called upon to pay fines upon death. The Bill passed into law. But what a farce it was to talk of legislation for relieving holders of copyholds from the payment of fines on death, while they were now going to place a tax upon all the property in the kingdom—real and personal, nothing was to escape—what was upon the land, grow from the land, or in the bowels of the land—all were to be subject to a tax which was contingent upon death—and this proposal, too, came from those who had told the House they ought not to allow fines on copyholds. The noble Earl who had opened the case with so much ability, had stated truly that real and personal estate ought to be equally taxed; but he (Lord St. Leonards) would ask their Lordships how the principle was proposed to be carried out. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that he found personal estate was taxed, but that many cases of injustice occurred, and that persons made settlements in order to evade the tax; and it was monstrous that the tax should be evaded, or that it should not be charged upon land the same as upon personal estate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was shocked to see this evasion, and he said, "I will charge the land as well as personal estate, but I will charge you both with what you never had to bear before, namely, a succession tax, and then, however clever you may consider yourselves, there will be no evasion at all." England might rely upon it, that if this Bill passed there would soon be a mortgage upon every inch of landed property throughout the empire, and upon every single portion of personal estate, for the benefit of a succession tax. He fully admitted, supposing the burdens to be equal, that land ought to be charged the same as personal estate—but it should be charged only as personal estate was now charged, namely, when acquired by descent or bequest; but what was proposed was to place an additional burden on both. The proposal of the Government was like the conduct of a person who, seeing one of his mules with a single pannier, sufficiently—poor beast!—burdened, but which he sometimes shifted, and sometimes slipped away from, whilst another mule, who had his own burden to bear, yet carried no pannier—felt shocked at the evasion of the one mule and the exemption of the other, and exclaimed, "I must make their burdens equal, and prevent them from being cast off:" he thereupon clapped an additional pannier, well loaded, on the first mule, and a pair of like panniers on the other; and this he called equality: so because personal estate sometimes evaded the legacy tax, it was to have the pannier of the succession tax placed upon it, and then, because it had two panniers—not because it ought to have them—two panniers were to be placed upon real estate. There had been one singular reason given for this tax, which was, that the blessing we enjoyed in the disposition of our property as allowed by law, was such that we might well afford to pay a tax for it. But there were many other blessings which we enjoyed, and for which, upon the same argument, we ought also to be taxed. He could mention several odious taxes which the Government probably might be ready to adopt. Having now discussed the injustice of the tax, the impropriety' of it, and the want of necessity for it, he next came to the question of how the tax was to be raised, and its machinery. He ventured to say that a more odious tax than this never had been proposed—he would not except even ship-money. Its odiousness necessarily arose from the mode of collecting it. Whenever death came, the taxgatherer would come with it; it was not a question of stopping the money in its course—it was a question of coming to our houses in order to ascertain what our settlements were. Every man's settlement would be ransacked by a public officer, in a public office, in order to see how the succession' tax would attach. Every incumbrance on every man's property would be ascertained, and the rights of property and of privacy would be invaded. He would ask if men's affairs ought to be dealt with in that way? The income tax was nothing to this. It was true enough you would not pay in the first instance for existing encumbrances; but they did not escape—they were portions of the land, were paid for by the persons who took those charges, and when those persons died then they would have to be paid for by the landowner. The taxgatherer would sit constantly looking at your settlements, in regular course, for the time when they became due. As a banker watched his books to see when bills fell due, so would the taxgatherer watch for successions becoming due; and he (Lord St. Leonards) could fancy that functionary occasionally looking down his list and saying to himself, "This has been a very bad week;" and that at other times the business would be so brisk that he would require the assistance of two or three additional hands. Again, all the property of England was to be valued under the provisions of this Bill; those valuations would cost an enormous sum, and they would require to be repeated at the fall of every annuity. Their Lordships must remember that this was a tax on casualties—upon death, no doubt, but still operating upon all the real and personal property in the kingdom. If this tax was to be imposed and collected in the way proposed, he would ask what became of the sanctity of private life and of private concerns? The law of England had gone on from age to age moulding itself to the circumstances of the times and the country until at last it had produced the most per feet mode ever known by which a man might have the complete enjoyment of property which might still be in strict settlement. But this Bill would limit the number of settlements by hundreds, because they would never be made. Then there would be evasions upon which the penal ties would attach which the Bill imposed for the infringement of its provisions. Again, an enormous staff of officers would be required for carrying it into execution, involving not only a great deal of pay to them, but a considerable amount of patronage in the hands of the Government. The Commissioners entrusted with the carrying out of such a measure ought to be men in whom great confidence could be placed, for they would virtually have the disposal of the property of every man in England. Then there was another question. Was Ireland in a condition in which such a tax should be imposed? He thought the Government was justified in imposing a moderate property tax upon her in common with the rest of the empire, and he did not think, with the terms which had been offered, that she ought to object to it. But let them look at the Encumbered Estates Court, where they would see millions of property passing from the hands of respectable families, in whose possession it had been for centuries—a class whom, with all their faults, and he knew them well, it would be very difficult to replace, for nothing was so difficult to create as what was properly termed a "country gentleman." He said, however, that they were now putting a new tax upon Ireland at the time when she could least afford to bear it. Whilst they were by a strong measure enabling or compelling Irish landowners to clear off their encumbrances, they were creating new ones on the land. He earnestly hoped that the Committee would be granted.


said, his noble and learned Friend (Lord St. Leonards) having, with all the weight of his high authority, denounced this intended measure to their Lordships and the country as one not only very impolitic but characterised by the grossest injustice, he felt it incumbent on him to rise immediately to explain to their Lordships why he believed that that notion of impolicy and injustice rested on no foundation whatever. He must, however, in the first instance, be permitted to remark that, professing but very little experience in the course of proceeding in their Lordships' House, and quite agreeing with what had been said, that it was open to them to enter into the consideration of any measure, whether it originated in the House of Commons or their Lordships' House, he still believed that this course, if not absolutely without precedent, was as nearly so as any that could be suggested—namely, the appointment of a Committee of their Lordships' House to inquire into the expediency of a tax now under discussion in the other House of Parliament. There was another objection which he had to take, to the appointment of a Committee. The noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) proposed to refer this Bill to a Select Committee to inquire into the probable consequences of the measure in question. What was to be done by this Select Committee? The noble Earl slurred that point over in a very delicate manner; he talked of the benefit to arise from the examination of eminent conveyancers and others on the point. Now what could conveyancers tell them on the matter more than they knew already? Why, everybody knew that settlements were made both of real and personal estates; everybody knew that wills were made, and everybody knew that persons died intestate; but as to whether this tax was just and politic, and whether it could be carried into execution, were matters upon which they could derive no information from the suggested course. The proof that their Lordships needed no such information was, that every Peer who had spoken that evening, had manifested that he had mastered the brief placed in his hands, and was already furnished with all the information they could supply for dealing with the subject. Their Lordships knew what the measure was in all its great features, and that being so, he would ask for what purpose the inquiry was to take place? It was said the report of such a Committee might influence the other House. He thought that was rather a wild imagination; but if it was true, the noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) had already gained his object by the discussion which had taken place that night in their Lordships' House. He (the Lord Chancellor) would now proceed to state very shortly—for the whole matter lay in a narrow compass—why he conceived this was not only a just but a practicable mea- sure. His noble and learned Friend (Lord St. Leonards) had objected to the measure, on two grounds—first, that it included land in the legacy tax; and, next, that it embraced not only successions coming by death, and derived from wills and intestacies, but also struck at successions coming by settlements, both as to personalty and as to realty. It was extremely important to separate those two considerations; and their Lordships would allow him to deal with them separately. First, he would ask, was there any injustice or inexpediency in subjecting land to the legacy duty, in the same manner as personal property was subjected to it? Risum teneatis? It appeared to him simply ludicrous to propound that it was unjust, when you were imposing that which was a species of property tax to tax all property. The difficulty was not to establish the justice of that equalisation of taxation, but to make out a case for exempting any particular species of property. The primâ facie case was, that any property being taxed, all property should be taxed as equally as might be. And here let them get rid of the whole difficulty attaching to all subjects of this nature; and that was, it was said, that this tax was unjust. If it was meant by that that cases might be suggested in which there would not be an equality of burden on all the persons taxed, he conceded the proposition; but would they tell him to which of their taxes that objection did not apply? Was it in the nature of things to have absolute justice in the imposition of taxes? They could not do it. Nobody could pretend that the income tax was absolutely just, or that any tax on articles of consumption was absolutely just. The man of 10,000l. a year paid a very slight proportion of his income for tea; the man of 100l. a year paid a very considerable proportion of his income for that article; and so on with regard to every article of necessary consumption; whence it might be argued that the tax on tea, &c. was unjust. The point was to approach as near to perfect justice as was practicable; which point, as to a property tax, was to be accomplished by imposing the tax as equally as possible upon all descriptions of property, real or personal. He felt this proposition to be so right in itself that he had no need to rely upon any authorities for its support. Mr. Pitt, a person certainly not of a very revolutionary character; deemed it monstrous, in imposing a property tax in 1796, not to include land; that Mr. Pitt was obliged to yield the point did not at all alter the case, so far as he was concerned. With respect to the land tax, he had been surprised to hear his noble and learned Friend speak of it as though it had been a substitution in 1798, for the proposition of 1796. Why, it had been in operation, as a yearly renewed measure, ever since the time of William III.; and Mr. Pitt's reason for making it a permanent tax in 1798 was precisely that he might, by that means give the option of redeeming it, which could not have been given unless the tax was made perpetual. Of all the arguments that had been adduced in opposition to the Government plan, that based on the land tax was the most unfortunate, for the land tax was a tax, of all others, remarkable for its glaring inequalities, the tax in one parish being, perhaps 2d. in the pound, and in another 2s. His hon. and learned Friend said that Mr. Pitt, in the plenitude of his power, did not venture to propose what was now proposed; that he did not venture to impose on land, or on personal estate, a legacy duty affecting children, but only affecting collateral relations or strangers. He had been surprised to hear this. No doubt, indeed, Mr. Pitt did not propose such a tax at that time; but he did propose it, and carry it too before he died, in 1805. But was that all? No—he did a great deal more. Feeling the extreme injustice of what he had been driven to do in 1796, he endeavoured to obviate it in 1805, not by putting a legacy duty on land, but getting as near to this as he could, by imposing a legacy duty on all money charged on land, and on all estates devised to be sold, and he made them pay exactly the same as if they were personal property, indicating that his opinion on the subject had undergone no change. But it was said, what was to be done in the case of an estate heavily mortgaged? He was surprised that that argument had any weight with those who knew that this novel tax, as it was called, on real estate was at this very moment, and had been for more than half a century, a tax on the real property of the country. All leasehold property paid it; it applied to the property of deans and chapters, and most likely to nine out of ten of their Lordships in respect of the property they had in London; and it applied also to a great proportion of leasehold tithes. To them, therefore, the injustice applied, if injustice it was; and he owned it did appear to him to be a species of injustice, for he did not under- stand why the house he held on lease for sixty years was to pay taxes, whilst his neighbour who held a house in fee simple was not to pay the same taxes. That did appear something of an inequality. One injustice there was in the existing legacy tax which was here removed, and that was that the legacy tax on leaseholds was imposed at too high a rate, namely, on the whole absolute value. The present Bill set that, right, and put leaseholds on the same footing as all other property. He had, therefore, come to the conclusion that there was no injustice whatever in including real estate under the legacy duty. He thought it equally clear that there was not the slightest injustice in extending the legacy tax—that was to say, in making parties buy this specie of property tax, not merely on what came to a man by will or intestacy, but on that which came by settlement. Why should it not be so? His noble and learned Friend, like many persons practising in courts of law, was apt to look at these matters in a very different spirit from that in which they were viewed by the country at large. The lawyers found A. B. subject to a certain course of legislation, but they did not care to inquire why C. D. was not also subject to it; they had simply to administer the law as they found it;—but assuredly the public notion was, that property having to contribute to the taxation of the country, all property should contribute, no matter how it came to the possessor, whether by will, intestacy, or settlement, or howsoever. To exempt from taxation property coming by settlement—settlements being the arrangements of the richer classes—it would as a matter of course appear to the general public an unjust exemption of the richer classes to the detriment of the poorer. ["Hear!"] He knew what was meant by that cheer. The tax was paid by the one class as well as the other; but, as a general proposition, it was the rich who settled their property, and the poor who left it unsettled. This was a property tax, arising at the time a party succeeded to an inheritance; and whether he succeeded by an arrangement with his parents or by will, he (the Lord Chancellor) saw no reason in principle why the tax should not be imposed. His noble Friend said they were now extending this succession tax to personal estate, making that pay which had not paid before. To be sure they were; it would be a hard thing, indeed, to put a succession duty on land which a per- son succeeded to by settlement, and not to impose a similar duty on the succession to personal estate in the same situation. The noble Earl near him (the Earl of Derby) remarked on the hardship as to what were called heirlooms. But there was no duty on heirlooms until they passed into the absolute power of some person who could sell them, and then they were no longer heirlooms. Take the Koh-i-noor, for example; no legacy duty would be payable upon its transmission until it came to some one who had the beneficial ownership, and could sell it. He must advert for a moment to an argument used by the noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury), namely, the hardship there would be in parties succeeding, one after another, in rapid succession. That was perfectly true; but it was a misfortune which already attached to persons succeeding to personal estate. The objection was one which was applicable to the whole system of legacy duties, and not to this particular case; but here the hardship would be to a great degree lessened, by a provision with regard to the duties which would accrue within the four years. He had risen merely for the purpose of explaining why, in his view, there was nothing to object to in the extension of this tax from personal to real estate—why it might be collected on real estate as safely as it was on leasehold estate, which was but a branch of real estate; and that there was no reason why settlement should not come in the same category as wills and inheritances. For the reasons which he had stated he should oppose the Motion of the noble Earl.


said, his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack had asked whether it was not more unjust that that property which had hitherto remained exempt from taxation should have been so exempt, than that it should now be subjected to it; but the objections that he (Earl Fitzwilliam) entertained to the proposed taxation, was, not that it was an imposition on land, but that it was an irregular tax. He was ready to agree with his noble and learned Friend that it might be right that land should not be exempt from taxation any more than personalty; and he would go still further, and concede that that taxation might fairly be extended even to settled property, notwithstanding the elaborate and powerful argument of the noble and learned Lord opposite; but there were some questions to which he had heard no answer from any of Her Majesty's Ministers in the course of the debate, and he could not but express his surprise at it. He would ask whether, in any writer on political economy, any argument had been found in favour of taxation which operated, not gently and regularly, but suddenly and irregularly? [Earl GRANVILLE: John Mill.] He was sorry to differ from that eminent authority, but he must have some argument to show that the same amount of revenue could not be collected regularly and equally upon property which was now attempted to be collected suddenly by fits and starts, and which operated upon persons just at that period when it was perhaps most difficult for them to find the means of complying with the requirements of the taxgatherer. But why did not this tax resolve itself into a regular tax upon land? His noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor) had said that nothing was more absurd than the present land tax; and, if they judged it as it now was, that might be truly said, it being in some places only 2d. in the pound, while in others it amounted to 2s.; but that did not arise from any injustice in the original imposition of the tax—though he knew it was said by some writers that there was injustice in the mode of assessing the tax in different parts of England; but the inequality of the tax arose from the growth of property in some parts of the country having been much greater than in others. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them, that in order to alleviate the pressure on the persons who bad to pay this tax, it was spread over four years, and since then he had prefixed another year; but they ought to be careful, and the other House ought to be careful, how they agreed to this tax, for they were taxing persons who were not represented; they were not taxing themselves, or their Lordships, but their own and their Lordships' successors. At the same time, whatever the House of Commons might determine, it was a duty left to their Lordships' House to do little more on such a question than to register what the House of Commons might send up. He was sure it was not wise that their Lordships' House should enter into any conflict with the other House of Parliament, and it was note wise that the other House of Parliament should enter into a conflict with their Lordships' House. It was most desirable that the proceedings of both Houses should harmonise with one another, and therefore he thought the noble Earl who made this Motion had selected well both the time and the mode of doing it, because he had taken it as early as he could consistently with the knowledge of the measure about to be introduced by Her Majesty's Government. But the machinery of the measure was extremely complicated. In the present case there would be no end of valuations—everything connected with land was to be valued; but who would guarantee that the valuations would be conducted in all parts of England on the same principle? In whatever point of view he looked at the tax, he thought it would be fraught with inconvenience, and he thought their Lordships, and the other House of Parliament, and the country at large, were deeply indebted to the noble Earl for having proposed that an inquiry should be instituted. He trusted there would be no mean and foolish jealousy in the other House of Parliament. He was sure the noble Earl proposed it in no predetermined spirit of hostility to the tax in the event of its being clearly shown that the tax could be levied fairly and without inconvenience. He confessed he had very great doubt whether the tax could be so levied; but he hoped every Member of their Lordships' House who might be upon the Committee would go into it with a determination to listen fairly to the arguments that might be adduced, and to those witnesses who might be called for the purpose of showing that it was a tax that would not be fraught with all the inconveniences which he inclined to think would be found to result from it; and he hoped, on the other hand, his noble Friends on the benches near him would go into it also with a disposition to listen to the arguments and the evidence of those who might be called upon and examined in a different spirit. His noble and learned Friend on the woolsack seemed to think inquiry was not necessary; but he would ask how many of their Lordships, before they received the Bill that morning, were acquainted with its provisions; or how many Members of the House of Commons themselves were acquainted with it, and had studied the fifty-nine clauses. His belief was that a vast number of hon. Members who had sanctioned the measure were as little acquainted with it as their Lordships. For these reasons, though not in conformity with the wish he generally entertained of supporting Her Majesty's Government, he should vote in favour of this inquiry, as he thought it would assist them in coming to a sound conclusion on the merits and demerits of this question.


would not enter into any technical details as to the construction of the Act. Perhaps their Lordships might think that when the Government deprecated inquiry into any question not before the House, they were taking advantage of one of those modes sometimes made use of to get rid of an inconvenient Motion. But such was not the case. The noble Earl who had last spoken took entirely different ground from that asserted by the great hulk of noble Lords opposite; for the noble Earl assented to the principle of the measure, in so far as he was willing to extend the tax to real property and settled personalty in order to countervail the legacy duty on personalty. The noble Earl who moved the appointment of the Committee, said he had proposed it with no party view; and he would do the noble Earl the justice to say that his speech was an extremely moderate one. But it was impossible to deny that the Motion did stand in connexion with those principles held by noble Lords in reference to taxation on real and personal property. The loudest cheer which he had heard during the debate was when his noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) complained that the noble Lords opposite seemed to imply that this was a measure prompted by a hostile spirit towards the land; and the substantial ground on which several speakers had supported the Motion was their objection to the extension of the tax to real property, although they accompanied it also by observations as to the inconvenience of extending it to settled personalty. He thought he was justified in saying, that the objection entertained by the majority of noble Lords opposite was, that it would affect unjustly—for that was the word used—the landed interest. Now, he contended that it was impossible for the House to judge fairly of the effect of this measure, as regarded the landed interest, without looking at it in connexion with the other financial measures of the Government—nay, more, he thought it would be unfair to look at this question without considering the position in which land would have been placed by the propositions of the late Government. The principles upon which the noble Lords opposite, when in opposition, founded their objections to the financial measures of late years was the undue pressure they were calculated to put on the landed interest, and they were accustomed to demand various countervailing measures with a view to its relief; but when they came into office, what was it in reference to land they were able to propose? They threw overboard entirely the idea of a protective duty; but, more than that, they threw overboard entirely what bad been the favourite scheme of his noble Friend opposite—the transference of certain local rates to the Consolidated Fund; and what did they do with the remaining proposal when in opposition—that of getting rid of the income tax? They not only did not do that, but they actually proposed to renew it in a form greatly aggravated as regarded land. There were two great questions for the present Government to consider, when they came into power. They were not under the necessity of producing a financial scheme to reimburse any parties for losses which they might have sustained; but they found it necessary to review the whole financial system of the country, and to produce some great scheme to effect a settlement of the great question of the income tax—to enable Parliament to part with that tax if it should think proper to do so—to effect further reforms in the tariff, and to deal with the legacy duty. Mr. Disraeli, after abandoning all the plans which he had supported in opposition, wound up his Budget by saying that the existing legacy duty constituted a system of injustice which could not possibly long remain unreformed. Noble Lords might say that that sentence had no very definite meaning, and he did not imagine they had come to any determination on the question. But the existing system of the legacy duty having been pronounced to be a system of injustice, did noble Lords opposite imagine they could escape that question? What would the result have been? In addition to the differential duty, they would have had an altered legacy duty—


wished to correct the noble Duke's statement. The difference in the income tax, as proposed by the late Government, was not a difference between land and other descriptions of property, but between realised or fixed property and precarious incomes.


At any rate it was a differential duty against realised property, of which land formed a principal part; and in addition to that differential income tax, there was the distinct announcement of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the legacy duties constituted a system of injustice which must be revised. Now, if they had been revised, in what direction should the change have taken place? It might be said by the exemption of personalty from duty; but it was perfectly clear that the Government of the noble Earl opposite was not prepared to sacrifice so large a portion of revenue, and therefore, the change would have been in the same direction as the change now proposed by the present Government. He wished to put before the House that the proposal of the present Government, in reference to the legacy duties, was the keystone of the whole of their financial policy, and would enable the country to get rid of the income tax; and he maintained that the incidence of the legacy duty on land would be lighter than that of the differential income tax proposed by the late Government, if considered as a permanent tax; in addition to which, he repeated, a change in the legacy duties had been distinctly intimated by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer.

On Question, their Lordships divided:—Content: Present 57, Proxies 69–126; Not-Content: Present 73, Proxies 66–139: Majority 13.

List of the CONTENT.
DUKES. Sheffield
Cleveland Talbot
Montrose Verulam
Northumberland Winchilsea
Bath Combermere
Exeter Gage
Salisbury Hawarden
Beauchamp St. Vincent
Cadogan Strangford
Clancarty BARONS.
Caledon Bateman
Cardigan Bayning
Delawarr Berners
Derby Bolton
Desart Colchester
Eglinton Colville of Culross
Fitzwilliam Dynevor
Glengall De Lisle
Hardwicke De Ros
Harrington Forester
Limerick Feversham
Lonsdale Kilmaine
Mansfield Redesdale
Macclesfield Rayleigh
Malmesbury Southampton
Mayo Sandys
Orkney Sondes
Powis St. Leonards
Stradbroke Willoughby de Broke
Delamere Huntingdon
Beverley Buckingham and Chandos
Londonderry Onslow
Guildford Ranfurley
Sinclair Lauderdale
Selkirk Clinton
Berwick Clarina
Crawford and Balcarres Mountcashell
Warwick Braybrooke
Longford Beaufort
Poulett Shannon
Orford Stamford and Warrington
Drogheda Chesterfield
Dunsandle Rosslyn
Boston Manchester
Cathcart Marlborough
Waterford Downshire
Buckinghamshire Donoughmore
Enniskillen Tankerville
Kinnoull Rodney
Gough Douglas
Manvers Saltoun
Melville Castlemaine
Rutland Erne
Ely Templemore
Middleton Strathmore
De Saumarez Exmouth
Roden Polwarth
Downes Sandwich
Courtown Meath
O'Neill St. John
Stanhope Leeds
Richmond Lorton
Gray of Gray
List of the NOT CONTENT.
The Lord Chancellor VISCOUNTS.
Canterbury Enfield
DUKES. Falmouth
Argyll Sydney
Buccleuch Limerick
Leinster Llandaff
Norfolk Oxford
Roxburgh St. Asaph
Anglesey Worcester
Breadalbane BARONS.
Camden Ashburton
Conyngham Alvanley
Lansdowne Beaumont
Ormond Camoys
Sligo Churchill
EARLS. Colborne
Aberdeen De Mauley
Airlie De Tabley
Albemarle Dufferin
Bessborough Elphinstone
Bruce Foley
Burlington Hatherton
Clarendon Leigh
Clanwilliam Manners
Darnley Milford
Galloway Overstone
Granville Panmure
Haddington Petre
Morton Poltimore
Romney Rivers
Sefton Say and Sele
Somers Stafford
Spencer Stanley of Alderley
Waldegrave Suffield
Vaux Wharncliffe
Vivian Wodehouse
Wenlock Wrottesley
Devonshire Massereene
Grafton Torrington
Somerset BISHOPS.
Sutherland Chester
Wellington Hereford
MARQUESSES. Manchester
Bristol Norwich
Donegal Peterborough
Headfort Ripon
EARLS. St. David's
Cottenham BARONS.
Cowper Auckland
Devon Bellhaven
Durham Blantyre
Ellesmere Carew
Fitzhardinge Cloncurry
Fingall Dacre
Grey Dormer
Glasgow Denman
Home Dorchester
Ilchester Godolphin
Kenmare Howard de Walden
Leitrim Holland
Lindsay Keene
Lovelace Kinnaird
Morley Lovat
Radnor Londesborough
Ripon Lyttelton
St. Germans Methuen
Stair Monson
Strafford Rossmore
Suffolk Ribblesdale
Uxbridge Stourton
Yarborough Truro

The House adjourned to Monday next.