Imatges de pÓgina

fectly groundless; for the present plan was evidently a modification of the former one ; its operation was to have the same object in view ; namely, to impose contributions on the people in proportion to their means; the criterion adopted last year for alcertaining these means, though an excellent one in the conception, turned out in the practice not to be fo accurate as was at first expected; because a confiderable niimber of persons availed themselves of certain provisions in the bill, by which they in a great nieasure, or perhaps altogether, evaded paying their quota of the tax--more effectually to frustrate for the future such attempts at evafion, was the principal object of whatever change there might appear between the plan of last year, and that now submitted to the House. They both aimed at raising a certain portion of the supplies within the year ; and now, it is 'inore particularly desired so to frame the bill, as to make its provilions affe& as equally as poffible all classes of the community. An hon. Baronet (Sir John Sinclair) insisted much upon the propriety of adhering to (what he styled the old system), that of raising the supplies through the medium of the funding fyftem, or by foan. This mode was surely of no old standing ; nor was it one wholly free from inconveniences and objections; it has even been carried farther than perhaps prudence or a cautious regard to the credit of the country fhould bave permitted. It would likewise appear more expedient, as well as more just, to raise a certain proportion of the supplies within the year, than to derive the whole from a loan, and thus throw fo large a portion of the burthen upon the shoulders of our posterity. The general principle of the plan of last year was, ihat every class thould contribute to the fupplies of the year a certain proportion of its means; and certain taxes were therefore imposed upon expenditure with a view to discover the amount of these means, and to call for a tenth part of them. In like manner this year a' tenth part of the individual's income is required; but not till it amounts to, or exceeds the fun of two hundred pounds. Where a greater proportion than a tenth seemed to be required, the bill of laft year contained a provision affording relief in such cases; and in the present bill there was a similar provision. Though a great number of persons' evinced much liberality last year, in voluntarily paying even more than their affeifment would amount to; yet others were far from imitating that liberality, but on the contrary had recourse to improper and fhameful ways in order to avoid paying their just proportion.' This naturally led to


the change now proposed ; and other means liable to less inconveniences are now proposed to be adopted, that will alcertain, with as much exactness as circumstances will admit, the ability of every individual to contribute towards the presa fing exigencies of the state. The present billy therefore, adopts and pursues nearly the same means of execution as that of last year. As to the calculations made by an hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. A. Taylor) respecting the gradation or scale of incoine, they wholly reft upon a mistaken notion; and indeed the principle of last year's plan was acknowledged to be a good principle of taxation; nor would that of the prefent, if duly confidered, be found to be less fo. But it is a tax upon income--agreed; and is not the land tax, are not the poor rates, are pot the expences incurred for bridges, &c. also taxes upon income? Are these, however, complained of as unconstitutional ? A tax upon capital would be liable to inequality, such a tax was proposed in the beginning of the reign of Queen Anne; it was then objected to as now, though it was not objected to as unconstitutional; nothing at least appears from the debates, or the history of that period, to prove that fuch was the ground of objection. The tax on capital was, however, abandoned as ineffećłual; but that no income was considered as effectual. For the land tax, &c. &c. as he had observed before, were in reality taxes upon income. The inequality arising from a tax on capital, might be easily proved from a variety of cases; for its value depended entirely on the mode of employing it, than which nothing was more various, especially in trade. But there was no plan to which objections might not be raised; to tax, and to be popular, was impollible; the unpopularity of the meafure, which, however, he did not believe, was no argument against its being a good one ; but the question now was to hit upon one to which the least number of objections could be urged. In his opinion this was a tax upon income. It would not act as a double tax, as taxes on consumption were known to do when many commodities were liable to subsequent taxation ; besides, a tax upon expenditure, in every calculation, would be found harder than that upon income. It was not voluntary, as some gentlemen would contend, for certain articles of confumption could not be dispensed with, unless the middling classes were to let down their rank in life, and deprive themselves of the comforts they had been used to enjoy; therefore a tax on expenditure would fall more heavily upon that class of the community.


The proposed mode of executing the measure is likewise loudly reprobated; but is not this mode liable to alteration May not cool and dispassionate deliberation tend confiderably to amend it? Fault is also found with the persons to be appointed as commissioners. But was every parish to affemble and choose their commiflioners; whom could they well choose but the very persons whom the bill proposes as the fitteft objects of their choice? But it is said the people cannot beat it ; this affertion seems to be equally unfounded. The fame was said of the measures of last year, yet experience has fully proved the contrary; for many persons are known to have come forward and chearfully paid not only a tenth, but even a larger proportion of their property. Therefore those who last year paid more than their due assessment would ainount to, must find a relief in the measure now proposed ; many ins deed escaped who ought to have paid more: but this is the defect which it is now thought expedient to remedy, and looking upon the bill in that light, it should have his sincere fup. port.

Sir William Young professed himfelf a warm friend to the bill. Its object was to raise a certain proportion of the fupplies within the year, which were neceffary for carrying on ihe arduous contest in which we were now engaged; and as the issue of that contest would equally affect all classes of the cominunity, it was his opinion, that every class should contribute to the means of rendering that issue honourable and fuccessful. He did not like to hear such frequent distinctions drawn between the different classes that composed fociety for the principle of society in this country made it run into fuch a chain, that it was difficult to discriminate between the different links, and it was hard to say where one class ended, and where another begun. No good, in his opinion, could result from attempting to draw such lines of demarcation. I was enough that our real rights and privileges were protečied; he meant those that arose from the exertion of abia kities, and to this there was no government which afforded a more marked protection than our own, or which so powerfully aided the subject in accomplishing the object of his pur. fuit.

The measure now proposed, he looked upon as one that would, at the present moment, add considerable ftrength to Government, and he was besides very unfriendly to the fysa tem of raising the whole of the supplies by loan, as it tended to encrease the difficulty of borrowing money, by raising the interest on it to such a degree as must alter the legal interest of the country. It was therefore expedient to adopf some other mode of raising the supplies. As to inducing persons to emigrate, there was reason for believing, that wherever they may be, whether in Canada, Ainerica, or the West Indies, the amount of iheir property may be ascer: tained, and they may consequently be made liable to taxation; nor could he here omit taking an opportunity of expressing his gratitude for the vigilance of Government, especially in the West Indies, where there now prevailed ihe most profound tranquillity, and a degree of prosperity even beyond that which was enjoyed before the war. Much had been said abou the inquisitorial power with which this bill would arm minifters; for his part he could see no reason for that invidious language ; an inquiry must be inade, otherwise you favour the profligate while you oppress the well minded; nor should this er.quiry be supposed to hurt the feelings or the credit of individuals; for by whom is it to be made, but by those who live in habits of intimacy with us, and who are already acquainted with the amount and the resources of our property. If any thing indeed were to be feared from the proposed commisioners, it would be rather that they wrong the state by favouring, than by wronging individuals


. Indeed, without enquiry, there can be instiiuted no comparison of property, and without this comparison, how would it be poffible to raise contributions upon an equitable plan: upon the whole the plan appeared to him to be the moft unexceptionable that could be devised. The exigencics of the state made it neceffary, and nothing should be refused that could tend to bring the war to what every one wished, an honourable and happy termination.

Mr. Ellison could not help expressing his surprise at having heard it mentioned, that we should dismiss French principles from our recollection, and not introduce them as the reason of our adopring any parliamentary measure. The most eloquent tongue of man, nay, the tongue of an angel, could not prevail upon him ever to dismiss from his heart or mind the mischievous effects of French principles. Were it not for French principles would the House be now debating upon a fubject like the present? Their conftituents had seen and felt these melancholy effects, and to them they had attributed many resolutions to which the House had paffed with reluctance. The present parliament had been called a liberticide parliament; but it was their praise to have laboured to pre


ferve real and secure liberty for better times, a hope which could not now have been indulged, but for the wisdom of parliament, 'atid the vigilance and entergy of ministers. The plan now propofed was nearly the same as that which he had ihe honour of suggesting last year; it might be liable to fòme objections with regard to the inequality of its operation ; but that might be removed, and the plan brought as nearly to perfection as poflible.--All Britain hias teltified its readinefs to adopt the principle of the plan, as the fureft means of baffling the pursuits of the enemy, and finally fecuring all the property of the kingdom. It was alfo objected, thar this was an innovation, this to 'hint appeared an unhappy charge against ministers. It was said we should adhere to the funding system ; this observation was equally unhappy '- "The funding system has been the cause of much evil ro'the country: It was a trite but a true faying, it is better to mend lare than never; minifters were conscious of this, and they began to abandon the funding fyftem, and they thus got in the right way by acknowledging they had been in the wrong. Minifters thould have his most cordial thanks and support. They had encountered uncommon dangers, but they had met them with uncommon fortitude', they advanced half way to meet them, and they had thus gained the 'vantage ground. He was glad they did not put off till to-morrow what they might have done to-day-He was also happy to see that the lowest classes in the kingdom felt they were Englishmen; and that the lowcft and meanest man in the country was ready to pay a falvage for the security he enjoyed. Even the day labourer was called upon, and readily tuok up arms for the general defence. Seeing the general prevalence of this generous and gallant fpirit, he thought now was the time, by adopting the measure under contemplation, to give full vigout to his Majesty's arms, and enable ministers to avail themselves of the high ground upon which the nation' now stood, that they might effe&tually frustrate the perfidious designs of the enciny, and produce a safe and honourable peace. In the present plan there were many things which might casily be let right; there should, therefore, be no delay in going into the committee on the bill, where all might put their fhonlders to the business, and remove the inconveniences that were said to clog it. We were all here the representatives of the people, and appointed to watch over their interests. The present meafure might be a hard one, but the state of the country called for it; it should therefore be enacted as the law of the land, VOL. I. 1798. Ee


« AnteriorContinua »