Imatges de pÓgina

borious industry, an income purely contingent, and which before the next year may fink into nothing, with one of a permanent nature and exposed to no viciffitudes; but to tax in equal rate two incomes of such very oppofite conditions, would surely be committing a great, a crying injustice. Nor did he think, that to him or to those who held the same opinions with him on a former occafion respecting the propriety of taxing salaries arising from places and public offices, there could now be imputed any degree of inconsistency;' those salaries were not solely the reward of laborious industry, they were the source also of enjoyment, as well as of emolument. Yet it would be said that they formed part of the income of such perfons, and therefore would be taxed. But other considerations should be here attended to, and on this point he would again avail himfelf of the opinion and authority of an able writer, whom he had already quoted pretty frequently on the present subject, and according to that celebrated author, those who were in the situation of holding public offices, have general means of rewarding their labours, and the remuneration seldom falls short of the services they perform; and therefore such emoluments were not an inproper object to be taxed as income. These salaries were often, besides, but a small part of such income. The power, the patronage, the credit and the confideration that attended them, were valued much higher than the mere salary annexed to them, and they were consequently fought after with more eager avidity than situations of a different defcription that oftenfibly were estimated at comparatively a much higher {um. They were, therefore, by no means on a level with other sorts of income.

He must also object to the measure on account of the manner in which it must affect various classes of the community. Notwithstanding all that had been said of public affairs, and Jespecting the situation of other countries, the operation of this bill might induce many to emigrate, though it was trongly asserted that no one would change this country for another merely to avoid paying 10 per cent. upon his income -for, though the mode of enquiry and of the disclosure of private circumstances might be somewhat changed, yet even in the altered bill there still remained many circumstances which must throw many difficulties on particular branches of trade. The advantages were still counterbalanced by the disadvantages. Indeed where a great revenue was to be collected, there must arise many inconveniences; and they




marked but too strongly our general system of taxation. The Excise laws, for example—the Stamp Duties, &c. &c. in volved in their execution a variety of difficulties and inconveniences. In law suits the particular circumstances respecting famps often gave rise to very unpleasant occura rences; for instance, in a late case, where the decision, he would not say was contrary to law, but where assuredly, it was contrary to equity; he alluded to the case where a stamp of 25. 6d. was made use of, instead of a stamp of 2s. which the law imposed for a particular sum. In that case nothing could be recovered, though no intention of eluding the tax could be alledged, as a ftamp of superior value was made use of. But it was not only from the taxes themselves, but from the caprices of the tax gatherers, that the community had to fuffer these inconveniences; nor were they only inconveniences, but frequently vexations.

But the operation of the present bill must prove far more unjuft, far more vexatious, than that of any of the taxes he had just alluded to: and on this account, and no other, did he continue to oppose it. The tax has indeed been justified by an historical comparison with other taxes. It had been compared with the Poll Tax-this comparison was surely not very happy; for if it bore any relation to that tax, it ought most certainly to convince us that the idea of it should never 'be entertained. For has not that tax been reprobated and placed in the most odious light by our best and most approved writers? It has also been compared with the Poor's Rate'; but this also was far from being a popular tax : and besides, they differed so widely from one another, that no parity of argument should be drawn from them. It is true, the Poor's Rate must be paid either individually or parochially; but it differs from the present tax in many instances, but para ticularly in this, that it is dispensed by the same hands that collect it, and the distribution of it is watched over by those out of whose pocket it comes. This contributes to make it be paid cheerfully. By others the present tax is compared to tythes ; but there is often room for commutation, and there, fore the comparison says nothing in favour of the measure before the House. Moreover, when a person buys a farm, he knows the amount both of the Poor's Rate, and of the tythes, which he shall have to pay; and therefore his case differs from the present, where there is no option. But it is faid the principle of the Assessed Tax Bill left no option neither-granted: it did so in some measure, and so far he had


objected to it. But his objections rose here from a number of grounds :- It was granted that it would operate on inequalities of income. But was it not the object of a good governinent to correct these inequalities ? Surely it was as much the duty of government to correct them, as to make laws to protect the weak against the strong. He saw another objection to it in the discretion which the present measure gave to government. Ministers were left to fix the standard, and he law no reason for their fixing on the standard which they had adopted. But he was told he had no right to object to the plan now proposed, unless he could offer one less objectionable. Undoubtedly the approvers of the bill might Tee it in a different light from him, but though his judgment was not able to correct what was wrong in the measure, yet he was not inconsistent in opposing it, and as long as he felt the full force of his objections to it, so long must he continue that opposition.

Lord Hawkesbury thought it more desirable to make any remarks Gentlemen had to offer on the detail of the bill, as connected with its principle, after receiving the report, than upon the question then before the House. The question was not so much whether the tax was an equal one, as whether it was as equal as possible, whether more so than any other that could be devised either by him or any other member who might approve of or oppose it. He must think that the tax was the most equal, and the fairest in its principle that could be adopted, under all circumstances fully to answer the end for which it was proposed. What had been said by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, that it was no argument to prove the inconsistency of any gentleman, that while he disproved of any measure he yet had not a better to propose, he could perfectly agree in ; but if it was not an argument of this sort, it certainly afforded an argument for the measure. Nothing could more tend to Thew how necessary it was to adopt the present tax, than that after the exertion of much talent in the investigation of its principle and detail, nothing so efficient; in fact nothing at all, had been offered in the way of substitute. This must be so much felt by the House, that he should forbear urging the argument further. If indeed the arguments of the hon. Gentleman amounted to any thing, the objection comprised in them was in its nature to all taxation. Would the hon. Gentleman say that taxation was a grievance ? He could also say it was a grievance, and wished as cordially as any man that no necessity existed for continu,

ing ing to tax any description of people. But in the present state of the world and of society, these were vain wilhes, and as taxes must be levied and imposed, his solicitude must be rather to regulate juftly all plans of taxation, than seek in the abstractions of men of science for arguments against taxes in general. He was certain there was not a member of that House, or the community, who more than himself felt for the claffes most likely to be affected by any tax, and no gentleman could think there was any thing so amiable, pretty, or gentle in taxation, that it was a delightful duty to attend to its pro“gress and detail. But while the people would not expect that taxation was to cease, while government could only be supported by means of taxation, they had a right to expect that the law should lay taxes equally and impartially, and more than this no community could expect. The hon. Gentleman had not contented himself to object to the present tax in particular, but thought proper to go into a laborious enquiry concerning the origin and effect of every kind of tax, begin. ning with the Excise, Poll-tax, &c. He had thought it his duty also to consider the nature of taxes in general, and had no hesitation to say that there was no tax without great objections on all sides. This could not, however, afford any argument against taxation : it merely thewed that it was in the nature of all human institutions, of human laws, and hu. man actions, to be every where imperfect, and that the legiNature and government would sufficiently discharge their united duries, if in framing laws, the one calmly and dispalfionately considers the nature of man and his habits, making laws that embraced their neceilities and did not overlook their wảnts—while the other in inforcing those laws proceeded with tempered firmness, with benevolent and ardent disinterestedness. The bill then under consideration was not oppreffive in any degree that could possibly be avoided, and the tax it sought to impose had for its objewhat was a favourite measure with the House to raise a great part of the supplies within the year. It was clear that the present was the only tax ådequate to this grcat purpose. It was the best that he ever heard of, and in the present state of the country, in the state of our finances and public debt, much better than any optional tax, because no tax of this fort could go so far or so effe&tually to afford that general stability to our credit, and infuse that vigour into our operations, which the crisis eminently required. The hon. Baronet talked of an optional tax being fairer in its principle than one direct in its cha:


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racter. Now what was this doctrine of optional taxes ?what were the advantages to the public from the laws by which they are imposed? Why truly that on one side there is scarce any option at all. The articles of consumption are for the most part of the first neceffity, or luxuries which men cannot disuse; and thus no alternative is in most cases left. No tax could be mentioned to which this remark would not more or less apply. It was true of wine, and true of almost every other taxable article mentioned by the hon.Baronet. So that if from optional taxes men might sometimes derive fome convenience, it also subjected individuals to severities. The trader would have his tax paid him in profit, and the consumer would pay the tax, indeed he could not help it, by pay, ing the insurance or profit of the dealer. He thought it scarce necessary here, to take notice of the argument which had been founded on a comparison of contingent with certain income. This was a subject which he had considered long before the present bill was ever heard of. The hon. Baronet, and the hon. Gentleman on the other side of the Houfe, complained of what they considered the partiality and injuftice of the tax in this respect. Now he thought it would be found, that the advantage is, under all poflible changes of for tune to a country, in favour of the man of increasing income. Such were the trader and the professional man for instance, such in short every class of the community almoft, except the landed man, or the person whose income is permanently fixed. The man of the latter description, who must always with to make an appearance suited to his rank and character, will be obliged to retrench, while yet his income is not at all subje&t to progressive increase: whilft the inan of professional resources may be daily increasing his income, and can therefore afford always to keep his usual establishment. It might not be improper to remark, that here the argument of the hon. Gentleman had changed a little : for on, a former even, ing one argument was the hardship to persons having certain incomes ; that evening it was that persons not having per manent incomes will suffer most by the tax. An hon. Gentleman had on that evening and once before quoted Mr. Adam Smith in several instances to illustrate his argument, that property should not be exposed by any tax. But what was property, and who were the rich Property was the command of the luxuries and necessaries of life; and the rich were the distributors. From this it followed that what. ever tax it might be that affected the poor muft necesarily Vol. I. 1798. 3 B


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