« AnteriorContinua »
at least, his mind was not sufficiently fresh and prepared to enter upon so important a discussion.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, he could not think that the House was so exhausted with attention to a number of clauses, chiefly of mere form, as to be unfit for the discussion; and it was not yet half past seven o'clock. He did not think, after the full discussion the principle had undergonc, that, on the question for the speaker leaving the chair, it would be thought necessary to deiain the House from the consideration of the details. The committee might now procced as far as they found convenient.
Mr. Tierney said, he knew the House might go into the committce, and might set till four o'clock in the morning if they pleased; he only spoke of what he conceived of general convenience.
Mr. Buxton thought it was of importance that the measure should be immediately taken into consideration, as the Christmas holidays were at hand.
Mr. William Smith said, that he had confiderable doubts whether he ought not again, on the present occasion, to bring the principle of the bill under discussion. He knew that such a proceeding was not exactly usual, though perfectly consistent with form. But he recollećied too that if to bring the principle again into consideration inight be new and unusual, ihe measure itself was likewise new and unusual. If, however, it was intended to hurry on the bill through the House before Christmas holidays, he certainly thould think hiinself jullified in oppoling all the forms of the House to such rapidity in a measure of such consequence. The forms of the House were intended to prevent improper rapidity. He did not mean to say that genilemen on the other side wished any hafte which they might consider improper, but at the same tiine those who considered the haite proposed improper, could not be accused of acting from improper motives in endeavouring to prevent it. It seemed to be considered a ground for rapidity that the sentiments of the country were in favour of the measure. He did not know this to be the case. They certainly could not be acquainted with the details. The bill had been printed only for a week, consequently the country could not have time to express an opinion as to its details, although they might approve of the principle of raising a part of the supplies within the year. He did not think that any bad consequences could arise from postponing the bill till after the holidays. It was not intended to take effect till the
ist of April, and even were the holidays to continue two months, there would be abundance of time to pass the bill, and to let it have its full effe&t.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that as the hon. Gentleman had avowed his intention to oppose every obstacle in his power to the progress of the bill, this was a reason why those who were friendly to it thould wish to bring it on immediatelya; he should, therefore, move that the speaker do now leave the chair.
Mr. Smith said, that certainly no man had a quicker intellect than the right hon. Gentleman ; he could not help being surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman mistake what he had said so soon after it had been uttered. He had said, that if disposed, he should think himself justified, by the import. ance of this measure, in the peculiar circumstances of the case, in opposing every obstacle to prevent it being hurried on with what he must consider as improper hatte. He might, for inftance, in every stage, on every clause, divide the House, or speak so long as he was able. He did not say that he would do so. He knew too well what was owing to the House, and to his own character, to have recourse to such a mode of proceeding:
Mr. William Dundas said, he had understood the last speaker to have made use of expressions that fully justified the conAtruction put upon them by his right hon. Friend.
Mr. Smith repeated his explanation in reply to Mr. Pitt.
Mr. William Dundas said that he was subject to the corredion of the House if he had mistated the hon. Gentleman. And not only had he understood him to have said that he would impede the measure by every poflible means, if it was attempted to pass it before the holidays, but he believed the House had understood him generally in the same manner.
Mr. Smith attempted to explain.
3-Majority 113 The House then went into a committee on the bill.. Mr. John Smith in the chair.
It had been proposed by some of the Gentlemen on the treasury bench to poftpone the preamble of the bill until the blanks should be filled up, and the clauses finally agreed to as it might then be made more accurately to express the heads of the bill. Mr. Tierney obje&ted to this. He thought the preamble a:
libel on the people of England, and could not agree to its making any part of an act of the legislature.
Lord Hawkesbury contended ihat ihe preamble should be poftponed as a matter of course. i Sir William Pulteney said, that he had a variety of objections to the measure now under discution, but he would at present content himself with putting ii to the serious confideration of the committee--ist, Whether it was a measure that could de adopted without considerable danger to the conftitution ? 2dly, Whether the attempt to enforce it was not an insult added to the injury that arose from it to the people of Great Britain ? The principle of the measure adopted last year appeared to him to be far less objectionable ; and it was his opinion that it should not be thus precipitately abandoned, but that, on the contrary, it Mould be fully and fairly tried it is difficult for any man to discover with accuracy what is the real amount of another man's property-it is only from appearances that he can succeed in drawing any thing like a probable conje&ture; and on this ground the bill of laft year proceeded, and on this ground it proceeded properly, because it is optional with a man to make what appearance he pleases, or, in other words, to limit or increase his expenditure as he may think proper. But the nature of the present is altogether of a different complexion. It makes no enquiry into visible appearances ; its obvious principle and final end is an affellment on his income, not upon his expenditure. He is called upon to declare the amount of that income ;'and, if he does not rate it as high as the commillioners may be pleased to rate it, he must produce his books, or other written documents, to prove the real amount of his property: no alternative is left him between either paying too much, or submitting to the disclosure of his private affairs. This was, in the mind of the hon. Baronet, an insurmountable difficulty, and he would earnestly deprecate attempting such strong measures measures that must prove equally harassing to individuals, and dangerous to the conftitution. The alseffcd tax bill of last year was calculated to produce seven million and a half; it is now acknowledged it has brought in above four million. From what this defalcation in that part of the revenue has arifen, no proof has been adduced, For his part he would again infint that the measure of the assessed taxes had not been fairly tried, nor for a sufficient length of time. Another circumstance he wonld allude to was, 'the voluntary contributions; under that denomination
two millions have been paid in. This was a greater sum than they were expected to amount to, and more than six millions were raised by these two modes. There were therefore no very satisfactory reasons for thinking that the measure of the assessed taxes had been evaded to any considerable extent. All taxes, indeed, are evaded more or less; but the fpirit that has manifested itself throughout the country of voluntarily coming forward with aids to government is no small inducement to believe that the evasion of those taxes, was not very considerable; besides the assessment of last year arose in many instances above a tenth per cent. it is not now proposed that it should be raised higher. Those whose dividends were above bol. also contributed last year to the ailessed taxes. There was consequently, in his opinion, no necesfity of relinquishing the former plan, especially as upon the whole it appeared less unconftitutional than the measure now proposed in its room. Besides, the mode of carrying it into execution must be found intolerable and insulting to the pride and feelings of the country. Its principle plainly went to say that ihe people of England were not fit to be trusted, or consulted, with regard to any mode of taxation. Neither their heart, it seems, nor their understanding, was to be appealed to when they are called upon for money. Are whips and lashes then to be applied in order to extort it from them? Surely the adoption of such harsh and oppreslive measures, argues ignorance of their temper and character. The amcunt of the voluntary contributions conveys a very different idea of their difpofition, and abundantly proves that they should experience a very different treatment; they cannot but feel that while the present measure reflects so strongly and so unjustly upon their generosity, it also strikes deeply at the safety of the constitution. In either light he would strenuoully oppose it.
The hon. D. Ryder faid, that he rose only to state, that nothing was more usual than the motion that had been made, and he was only surprifed that there Tould be found any gentleman to oppose it ; in all cases it was proposed to postpone the preamble of a bill, and nothing now was aiked, but what was uniformly pursued on such occasions. The confideration of the preamble could not well be gone into before the clauses had been duly examined, otherwise many of them might afterwards be found to be inconsistent with the preamble. He did not, however, mean to say that this observa, tion was applicable; co the present bill. As to the truth of VOL. I. 1798. Hh
from a per
the statement of the preamble, he thought it fufficiently grounded, as the preamble now stood, and whether the provisions of the bill had been evaded, or not, and precisely to what extent, it was now difficult to prove. The House had already before them all the information they could have on that subject, and it was generally acknowledged that several perfons had not been alleled in a just proportion to their circumstances, which was enough to fubftantiate the latter part of the preamble. Before he sat down he had also to observe, that this was not the moment for discussing the principle of the bill, and especially he could not bear to hear it spoken of in terms so harsh and violent as those made use of by the hon. Baronet. There was nothing in the bill that could justify them ; and they came with an extreme bad grace fon who favoured the principle of raising a part of the supplies within the year, and who acknowledged the danger of the crisis in which the country was now involved. They were words so very violent, indeed, as should never be applied to any measure that had been suffered to be discussed éven for a moment by that House. He would not say that fuch language was intentionally used as inflammatory, but neither could he forbear marking it with that censure which in his opinion it juftly called for.
Sir William Pulteney confessed that the words alluded to were strong ones; but he was also ready to prove that they were not Itronger than what might be deservedly applied to feveral clauses of the bill. This he would prove when they came under difcuffion. He would also object to the power with which it was to arm the executive government; it might easily be carried to dangerous lengths, and these extremes, whoever wished well to the constitution, fhould jealously guard againít. The same jealousy direcled us not to arm civil or criminal magistrates with too strong a power, which might be carried to lengths that would affect the innocent. The same caution was wisely observed when there was question of granting to magistrates the power of taking up reputed thieves. --- An equally vigilant caution should watch over plans of taxation ; because a tax might have been evaded, is surely no reason why a power should be given to oppress a man who never had any intention to evade it, in order to enable Governnient to get at those who may have in reality evaded it. This would be arming the executive government with a very extraordinary and a very dangerous power: but we are told the measure must be resorted to, be