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the course of his speech, in vindication of the bill and the measures of administration, alluded to an interesting letter which had recently appeared in the public prints, from the earl of Moira to colonel M'Mahon, respecting a plan for forming a new administration. The right honourable secretary said on this occasion, that at the very moment when the adherents of Mr. Fox held him out as the only person capable of retrieving the affairs of the nation, the great body of members alluded to, who had attempted to effect a change of ministry, had actually excluded him from any share in it.
At the close of the debate, the question was put, on a motion of Mr. Sheridan's, for postponing the bill,
Majority. 125 Lord Grenville, in the house of lords, on the 5th of January, moved the order of the day for the second reading of the assessed tax bill, and for summoning the house thereon; which being read, he rose and stated, "that by the address of their lordships to his majesty on the 15th of November, they had signified their determination to defend with their lives and properties the government and constitution of the country, and the honour and independence of the British empire, and that they were prepared to make the great exertions necessary for that purpose."-After this address had been read to the house, lord Car
rington declared that the situation of the country required great sacrifices to be made for its salvation; but contended, that if instead of raising the money in this indirect manner, every individual had been called upon to contribute, in direct proportion, to his income, but the higher classes in a larger proportion than the lower, it would have been attended with fewer inconveniences than the present plan. He conceived, that one twentieth of real income would produce a larger contribution than one-tenth in the manner proposed by the bill.
Lord Holland rose and made his first speech upon this occasion; he said, the address of both houses of parliament, cited by the noble secretary of state, as having been voted unanimously, appeared to him to be a mere statement of the exigencies of the times, under the circumstances of the country, but did not warrant any such measure as that which was now before them. He contended, that under the present administration, for the last five years, the condition of this country had grown worse and worse; that when parliament was called upon to vote for a measure which had for its object the raising so large a sum of money as was then proposed, it became necessary to inquire, whether those men to whom millions upon millions of the money of the people had been entrusted, and who had in return for it, heaped upon them distress upon distress, were about to change their system, as the old one had produced such disastrous consequences? When therefore we heard of our present situation being such as required such great exertions, hewished the argument to have a retrospective effect, that the causes of our present calamity might be seen, otherwise
otherwise we should have no chance of avoiding future ruin. But how could it be expected, he asked, that the people would approve of the measure then before their lordships, when it was known that in no one instance had that ministry answered the expectation of the public. He thought that this country ought not to grant any more money without a pledge, not only that ministers should be changed, but that measures should also be changed. He concluded with pointing out several objections to the bill, most of which had been noticed in the debates of the commons upon the same subject.
The duke of Bedford also op posed the bill: he said, there was a great variation in the description of the measure then before their lordships; one noble lord had said it was a tax upon expenditure; another said it was a contribution on property. The first question which occurred to him was, whether it was expedient to raise a part of the supplies within the year? At the commencement of the war, this mode might have been expedient, because it would have inclined the people to reflect whether the objects for which they embarked in the war were worthy of such exertions and expences. But it was not expedient at a time when the public funds were so reduced, when by the laws which prohibited individuals to lend to individuals beyond a certain rate of interest, government had a monopoly of money, and others had no means of procuring it. His grace contended that the measure would occasion a great reduction of expenditure, and consequently a great defalcation of the public revenue. Suppose a person then contributed to the assessed taxes a sixteenth part of his
income, the quintuple assessment would become a tenth part of the whole. It was not only milliners and coach-makers, but, perhaps,one hundred thousand persons in the metropolis supported by manufactories that would suffer. The old taxes were about seventeen millions: if then a tenth part of the income of the country was required by this bill, the reduction of a tenth part of this income would on those seventeen millions create a defalcation of 1,740,0001.
The bill was defended by the ministerial side, upon the same ground of argument as it had been in the commons.
The house divided-contents 50, proxies 23, total 73- non-contents 6.
Mr. Nicholls, in pursuance of notice he had given, moved in the house of commons, on the 8th of December, a resolution for applying certain parts of the emoluments of certain offices for the public service during the war. This was a measure that was adopted in the reign of William and Mary. He pointed out two kinds of places; one that was dependent on the pleasure of the crown, and the other which was independent of it. As to offices which were dependent on the crown, they might be said to be fairly enjoyed, because they were supposed to be dependent on the talents of the persons who enjoyed them; but in time of public emergency, he contended, they might as fairly be diminished as the income of any other person was diminished by taxes. As to the offices in which the grantee had a freehold interest, it was observable, that in the time of William and Mary, there was no difference between them and those that were held at the pleasure of the crown
but he thought there ought to be a distinction: and in the resolution, which he should submit to the committee, that distinction would be regarded for it would only refer to those offices which were held at the pleasure of the crown. Another difference which he intended to make was in the sum on which the resolution should attach instead of 5001. he should propose 20001. With these variations, his proposed resolution would be the same. in every other respect, as that which passed the house of commons in the time of William and Mary, nem ne contradicente; and the reason which was then given for it was, that owing to the great expences of the war, it was necessary to the public service. If he succeeded in this step he should proceed to other regulations respecting pensions and the civil list. He concluded with * motion to the following purport: "That it is the opinion of this committee, that the salaries and fees of all offices under the crown shall be applied to the use of the war, exc pt such as amount to 1 ss than 2000l. per annum, which sum is to be allowed to all officers whose salaries and fees at present exceed 2000l. per annum; and also exc pt that of the lord chancellor, the speaker of the house of commons, the judges, foreign ministers, and commissioned officers of the fleets and armies, or any persons who have a freehold interest in their respective offices."
Upon the resolution of the third of William and Mary being read, the chancellor of the exchequer contended that a more extraordinary misapplication of a precedent never occurred. If such a resolution had actually been agreed to, and ratified by the house in the time of king William to agree to one on that day so directly opposite to it as that proposed would indeed be a very
extraordinary way of showing respect for, and adherence to, precedents. Besides, though the resolu tion was agreed to, it so happ ned that what was so hast ly agreed to without a disser ting vo ce, when it came to be deliberately vestigated, on the bringing up a clause of a bill to carry it into effect, was rejected w thour a division, as imp litic and absurd. He therefore hoed that the house ou of excessive fondness for pre edent.. would not adopt a measure which was never adopte before.
With respect to the resolutions not extending to salaries under 2000. a year, he asked, whether it could be said that there were no qualifying circumstances w ich kept pace with the various gradations of salary, and rendered the higher proportionate to those below? Was there no difference in the importance of trust, in the labour, in the talents, in the qualifications, in the responsibility, and in the class of life in which they stood? Would the honourable gentleman say, in the fulness of his equitable economy, that the same gradati ns ought not to be observed in taxing office as in toxing property? The honourable gentleman had inveighed, in an elevated tone, against the dispoportion of the asse sed taxes to the property of the classes taxed, and yet held out a plan of in liscriminate taxation, sweeping down all to a level-axacting from an office of 25001. a year, one fifth; from an office of four thousand, one hali; and from one of six thous and, two thirds.
Mr. Secretary at War observed, that though the extravagance and absurdity of the motion had been successfully exposed by Mr. Pitt, he thought it necessary to remark, that as the honourable mover had declared that his object was not to raise revenue. but for other purD 4 poses,
poses, those purposes must be to subject ministers to a fine while the war continued! This he thought a whimsical idea, especially when it was considered that the sentiments of the house and of the country had already been expressed upon the subject; and when it was manifest that peace at present could not be obtained.
Mr. Tierney reprobated the invectives which had been thrown out by the ministerial side of the house against his honourable friend the proposer of the resolution. He contended that the resolution which, with a mere error of transcription, formed the model of the present motion, had been passed in times fully as good as the present, and by a parliament fully as much enlightened he could not see, therefore, what reason there was for the sneer which the right honourable gentleman had indulged. After some explanation from Mr. chancellor Pitt, and Mr. Nicholls had explained, the latter withdrew his motion. The next measure relative to finance, discussed by the commons, was a motion of Mr. D. P. Coke, for limiting the fees of the tellers of the exchequer during the present distressed and calamitous situation of the country. The house was then sitting in a committee on some clauses in the triple assessment bill. At the time he made this motion (December 224). he assured the committee that he was prompted by no personal hostility against any of his majesty's ministers; on the contrary, he wished them to retain their places, because he felt extremely averse to the doctrines of the gentlemen who were likely to succeed them, especially to the doctrine of parliamentary reform, which, if attempted, and effected, must, in his
opinion, be productive of much mischief, and must necessarily end in a revolution. But he thought at the same time, that the country must feel surprised, nay, indignant, if the house were to oppose bringing up a clause tending to limit the enormous fees which the measure then under discussion would throw into the hands of the noble lords who held this and other lucrative offices, and that at a moment when the people was groaning under an almost unsupportable weight of taxes.
The chancellor of the exchequer contended, that though the motion might be free from a spirit of hostility to the noble lords in question, it was very far from being free from very great injustice; for it went to deprive those noble lords of what they possessed as the just rewards of the great public services which their fathers had rendered to the country, and which they held as a freehold tenure confirmed to them by an act of parliament; nor was there any thing in the present act to warrant their being thus deprived of two thirds of their income, as it would not make the addition of one shilling to the fees of the tellers of the exchequer.
Sir William Pulteney thought the motion of Mr. Coke had a close connexion with the assessed tax bill, and expressed his surprise that gentlemen appeared averse to a clause which proposed the application of such enormous fees to the exigencies of the country instead of putting them in their pockets when the
people laboured under such general distress. After some animadversions from Mr. secretary Dundas, the house divided on the motion of Mr. Coke-Ayes 6,
Land-Tar Redemption Bill. Debates upon that Subject-In the House of Commons in the Lords. Second Budget, and a Recapitulation of the whole Ways and Means for the Year 1798. Repeal of the Clock and Watch Tiz. Bill for consolidating the several Duties upon Houses and Windows. Bill for imposing new Duties upon Imports and Exports. Resolutions for that Purpose agreed to.
credit. He said that the amount of the land tax was about two millions a year, which had for near a century been annually granted, and according to the same rate for different counties. He proposed by this measure, to reduce so much of the public debt as should leave an
income of two millions four hundred thousand pounds applicable to the public service.
HE favourite measure of finance, of all which were proposed by the chancellor of the exchequer in the course of the session of 1798, was a bill for the redemption, or more properly for the perpetuation and sale, of the land tax. For this purpose he rose on the 2d of April, in pursuance of notice he had given to the house, and stated the outline of his plan, the object of which was to absorb a large quantity of stock, and in the process of transfer a portion of the national debt into a landed security: the quantity of stock thus to be transferred was to equal, at least in its amount, the quantity of land tax which should by these means be extinguished, and should be appliable to the public service. He pointed out to the committee, that this operation would produce a much larger sum than that which was at present produced by the land tax; and that considerable gain, in a pecuniary point of view, would necessarily result to the public-be a considerable gainer, and eighty But this was only a collateral advantage attending the measure, and one upon which he laid the smallest stress. The great and important benefit which he expected to arise to the public, from the adoption of this plan, would be the diminution of the stock, which at that moment pressed so hard upon the public
The pecuniary advantages arising from this measure were obvious from this statement, because the public would dispose of a revenue of 2,000,0001, for which they would clear of public debt to such an amount, that the interest would produce a sum of 2,400,000l. leaving a clear gam of 400,0001. Under these circumstances, the situation of the person who purchased the land tax would be that of having a landed security for his property, and that at a rate so favourable as to render it a very desirable object; the public would
millions of capital would be taken out of the market. He should not only propose to place a sum of 2,000,0001. under the annual controul of parliament; but he should propose, that the sum of 2,400,0001. should be placed in that situation; so that in fact, instead of losing any of the constitutional checks which parliament