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ike coarse of bis speech, in vindication of the. bill and the measures of administration, alluded to in 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 amotion of Mr.
Sheridan's, for postponing the bill,
Ayes .... 75
Noes .... 202
Majority .127 On the question that the bill be now read a third time, there appeared,
Ayes .... 196
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 Irres and properties the government arid 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 porpose."—After this address had been read to the house, lord Car
rington declared that the situation of the country required graat 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 J 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 exigenci-s 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 prople had been entrusted, and who had in return for it, heaped upon them distress upon disress, 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, D 3 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 ihen 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 gr^nt 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 opposed the bill -' he said, there was a great variation in the description of the measure then before their lordships; one noble lord bad 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 tha commencement of the war, this mode-might have been expedient, because it would have inclined the people to reflect whether the objects ibr 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 manu'factories 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;
buf he thought there ought to be a distinction: and in the resolution, which he should 'u'imit to the committee, that distinction would be regarded for it would only refer to those offices which vere held at the pi' asure of the Crown. Another difference which he intended to make was in the sum on which the fesolut'on should attach: instead of 5001. he should propose 2( CM. With these variations, his propos-d resolution would be the same, in every other respect, as that winch passed the bouse of commons in the time of William a-.d Mary, nrm necontradicrntt; and the reason which was then gu*n for it was, that owing to the grea" expences of the war, it was necessary to the public service. If he su' ce.-ded in this step he should proceed to other regulations respecting pensions and the civil list. He concluded with a motion to the following purport: "That it is the opinion of this committee, that tht salaries and fees of ill offices under the crown shall be applied to the use of the war, etc pt such as amou-it to 1 ss tnan 20001. per annum, winch sum is to be allowed to all olliiers whope "salaries and fees at pr sent exceed ::000l. per annum; and al90 exe pt that of the lord chancellor, the speaker of tile house of commons, the judges, foreign ministers, and commissioned officers of the fleets and armies or ao\ persons who have a freehold interest in their respective offices." Upon the resolution of the third of William and Mar, being read, the chancellor of the exchequer contended that a more extraordinary misapplication of a precedent nev< r ocrurreJ. If such a resolution had actually been agreed to, and ratified by the bouse io the time of king ^rec to one on that cayso 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 resolution was agr ted to, it 9 •> happ ned that what was SO hustle a;reed to without a dissei ting vo ce, when it C'me to be deliberately : vesfrgated, on the bringing' up a ciai.rte of a b II to ca'ry it into effect, was rejected w thou' a division, as imp litic and a' -urd He 'heretore ho ed that the house on of excessive fondness for pre edent . would not adopt a measure which was never mfopfe ' before.
With respect to the resolutions not- extending to salaries under 200(';. a year, he asked, whether it could be Sail.that there were no qualifying circumstances w ich kept pace with the various gradations of salary, and rendered tne higher proportionate to those below ? Was there no difference in the itnpirtance of trus', in the labour, in the talents, in the qu dificutions, in the responsibility, and in the class of life in .viiieh they stood? Would the honourable gentleman say, in the fu!nes3.)fhi-.equ;tdblecec uiomy, that the same gradati nS ought not to be observed in taxing office as in t xing proji^fy1? The honourable gentleman had inveighed, in an elevated tone, against the disp oportion of the asse sed ta.Xcs to the property of the c'a3c 'S taxed, and yet held Out a plan of indiscriminate taxation, sweeping down ill to a level—axacting from an once of 25001. a year, one fifth; from an. office of fon i thou«und, one hall ; and from one of six thou? and, two thirds.
Mr. Secretary t War observed, that thougn ihe extravagance and Absurdity of the motion had been successfully exposed by Mr. Pitt, he thought it necessary to re i .rk, that as the honourable mover h id declared that '.'.is object was not to raise revenue, but for other i>urD 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 countryhad already been expressed upon the subject; and when it was manifest that peace at present could not be obtained.
Mr. Tierney reprobated the infectives 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 enlighteaed: 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 22d). he assured the committee that he was prompted by no personal hostility against any of his majesty's ministers; on the contrary, tie 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 feci 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. A fter some animadversions from Mr. secretary Dundas, the house divided on the motion of Mr. Coke — Ayes 6t noes 71,
C H A P. III.
Laad-Tax Redemption Bill. Debates upon that Subject—In the Hovscof" Common*—in the Lords. Second Budget, and a Recapitulation of the zrkole Waits and Means for the Year 1798. Repeal of the Clock and Watch Ttx. Bill for consolidating the several Duties upon Houses and Windows. Bill for imposing ncxo Duties upon Imports and Exports. Resolutions for that Purpose agreed to.