Imatges de pÓgina

DEC. 17.]

stituents, and he was happy in being able to inform the Committee, that his conftituents had no objection whatever to contribute from their mercantile income to the fervice of the State, although they felt, that by this measure they were taxed double the proportion they could have been called upon in any other mode of taxation; or rather, they paid double to that which perfons living upon an inThere come which was not the produce of their induftry paid. were fome parts of the meafure which he thought rather unconftitutional-he meant the mode of enforcing the act-but this and fome other points he hoped would be modified.

Mr. DENT faid it was a tax not only on income, but on property alfo, and was calculated to create very invidious diftinctions with refpect to the funds; for no man, after it paffed, would wifh to be a holder of short annuities.

Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL faid, if there was a diftinction made with refpect to short annuities, it would equally apply to every other fpecies of income not permanent, and the adoption of it would neceffarily bring this measure, inftead of being a tax on inThe diftinction attempted to be made come, to be a tax on capital. between eftates in fee-fimple and for life, could be only productive of effects wholly prejudicial to and deftructive of the measure. The principle on which all taxes had been founded was that of taxing income. Where attempts had been made to tax capital, they had always failed. The original land tax of 4s. in the pound was a tax It was a fifth of the landed on the landed income of the country. income, not only of the tenant in fee-fimple, but of the tenant for life: no diftinction had ever been made between them, nor had he ever heard anv objection made to placing them on the fame footing; the reafon was, it was acknowledged as the ordinary principle of taxation. He conceived what was now propofed as an amendment, a departure from the principle, of the bill, inasmuch as it fought to convert a tax on income into a tax on property.

Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL expreffed himself furprized at the amendment. That in a tax upon income, there should occur a vaft number of difficulties, was obvious; that in a tax on capital, there fhould occur a vast number of difficulties, was obvious; but the circumstance which more particularly furprized him with regard to the amendment was, that it was not a fubftitution of a tax on of a cacapital, in lieu of a tax on income, but a tax on a part It pital fubject to more inconveniences than even a general tax. had, he confeffed, ftruck him forcibly at first, that an equal tax on a tenant in fee tunple, and a teeant for life, whofe eftate was limited, was unjust, but when he reflected on the various modifi



cations of property, and the limitations of which estates were fufceptible, he was perfuaded that a different system would, with refpect to the tenant in fee-fimple, be injurious, and with regard to the tenant for life, inapplicable. He hoped the honourable gentleman would excuse him for saying, that he confidered his first opinion upon the fubject the moft ignorant propofition his mind had ever adopted. Were the tenant for life to be taxed in a lefs proportion, according to his income, than the tenant in fee, the confequence might be, that the former, who might be without any family, and whofe eftate was limited to a ftranger, would pay comparatively trifling to what would be paid by the tenant in fee-fimple, with, perhaps, a large family. Befides, thofe who wifhed to introduce fuch a diftinction did not feem to be aware of such things as beneficial leafes for nine hundred and ninety-nine years, at a pepper-corn rent; they were not aware of executors' devifes; they had forgot there were in the law what were called contingencies and double contingencies, terms which the Committee could not understand, nor he explain, unlefs he had brought his law books down with him. The difference stated to exift with refpect to the income of a man who had 300l. a year in fhort annuities, and one who had 300l. a year on a perpetuity, feemed to him very extraordinary; it brought the argument entirely to this point, whether they would have a tax on income or capital? He had the fame difficulty in perceiving the neceffity for fuch a diftinction, as he had in answering a person who onee applied to him for legal advice, ftating, that an eftate for life had been left him during life, but not to commence till after the death of the widow of the perfon who left the estate. She was, at the time of the death of the teftator, forty; and when the tenant for life came to ask advice, fhe was ninety. He complained heavily of the hardship of being kept fo long out of poffeffion, and asked if there was any equity? He next proceeded to ftate, that perfonal eftate was fubject to fuch infinite diverfity and modifications as brought it within the fame rule as that refpecting eftates for life. Upon the whole, he was of opinion, that attending to the nature of landed eftates, either in fee or for life, perfonal eftate and income, the tax was fo general, that if it were defirable at all, no relief could be given without deftroying the very principle of it. He then referred to what Mr. Alderman Lufhington had obferved. He faid, what the Alderman had stated was an honour to a commercial country. For himfelf, he was proud to have it in his power to affert, that the public mind had at laft become fatisfied the exertions of the Houfe of Commons had fecured public happinefs by fecuring the Conftitution. He happened to hold his high

office in times peculiarly troublesome; but he believed no one had ever held it in times arduous as the prefent, who had been able to state to a Jury what he had lately flated upon a public occafion; nor did he believe there was a country in the world where a perfon, fituated as he was, would have been able to have stated as much after fuch a struggle as we had been engaged in. The great bleffing of the country was, that the people felt their independence, and were fenfible the laws afforded them fhelter, and shed over them a kind of fuftering influence, which, in gratitude, demanded their fupport in favour of that Government and Conftitution by which they were fupported. He agreed with the worthy Alderman, that a bill operating in so increased a proportion as this would, ought to be as little oppreffive as poffible. He was well perfuaded that, in the profeffion to which he had the honour to belong, a great many would pay more than double what the established principles of taxation had ever called on them to pay. He could not express his fentiments of that high profeffion, to which he owed every thing, without reverence and esteem; and fure he was all belonging to it would be ready to contribute to their utmost in support of the Law and the Conftitution. For himself, he repeated, he owed every thing to the fostering principles of the Conftitution; and for its fupport and defence, he was ready and defirous of making every facrifice in his power.

Mr. TIERNEY was fatisfied he could in no better way fhew his zeal towards his country, than by endeavouring to make men contented with it; and it was because the prefent measure was calculated to produce difcontent, that he rofe to oppofe it. He confeffed that all the Members who had fpoken on the oppofite fide had dealt openly, fairly, and with the utmost candour; for they had plainly told the Committee, if the bill was to pafs at all, it muft pafs in its prefent fhape. He did not mean to fay it was not to be fubje& to modifications, but only that the principle of action on which they proceeded was, that every man's income was to be taxed alike. Now there was a wide diftinction between taxing men according to their means, and taxing them alike. He believed there was, as the Attorney General had obferved, a fpirit in the country to defend its Conftitution; that the people loved and would fupport laws which they were convinced were calculated for their happiness. No man was more anxious to fofter that fpirit than himself, but he believed fuch a measure as this now propofed was but ill calculated to give it effect. The worthy Alderman had ftated, that the city of London had arrived at a pitch of patriotifm almoft unexampled.. He should have been pleafed had they evinced their patriotifm

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fooner; but late as it was, he welcomed and was happy to find it. He knew they had been formerly more diftinguished for profeffions than any thing elfe. In one inftance, they had come forward with. what they called the Loyalty Loan; but, perhaps, the Committee would not be able to recollect any circumftance refpecting that meafure which would induce it to pay much attention to their profeffions, for a greater clamour never was raised than was afterwards produced by that very loan which had been fo difinterestedly advanced. The question with him was, whether he could agree to a tax on all income in Great Britain as well as out of it? He feared it would be difficult to prevent thofe perfons who refided out of Great Britain, and felt the effect of this tax, from faying, that it was a tax on the funds. Suppofe (faid Mr. Tierney) I, from the increafing preffure of my affairs, had been unable to continue in this country, and had gone abroad in order to bring my embarraffed circumstances round; what property I might have poffetled I should have placed in the funds, where it would have neither been subject to the risk of bankruptcy, nor the expence of agency, but would have been always forthcoming. After having done fo, should I be told that I was only to have nine-tenths of what I had left upon the faith of receiving the whole, and on which speculation I had made by eftablishment? And is it not a circumstance materially affecting the credit of the country, to put it in the power of any one to fay you have taxed the funds?" He added, take a man who embarks his money in mines and canals, his fpeculation was not fo much for income as to get back his capital; and therefore when his income was taxed, it was equally the fame as taxing his capital. Perfons who expofed their property on hazardous or adventurous enterprifes, did fo with a view of receiving back their capital; how then could the Committee flatter itself, that while a tax was laid on fuch enterprises, it was a tax on income? It was to all intents a tax on capital-a tax calculated to check that spirit of adventure and enterprife, which had been moft productive of the advantages the country enjoyed. With refpect to the farmer, the argument was the fame: a man took a farm, perhaps, with a long leafe and out of repair, he employed his capital in agriculture. By fuch a tax as this, he would be prevented from laying it out, as the progrefs of its return would be impeded. Thus, whether, with regard to commerce or agriculture, the tax would have the effect of putting a flop to that energy which, for the profperity of the country, ought always to be encouraged. He had no wish to interpofe any delay; but in confequence of the broad principles he had laid down, he felt it incumbent on him, in the first inftance, to fet his face

against the measure. He farther stated, that a tax on income never could operate equally; for inftance, take the funds-to be fure it might be replied to what he was about to obferve, that men made their election, whether they would purchafe land, or into the funds, with their money; but fuppofe one man was contented with three per cent. for the fake of having land, another got fix per cent in the funds; under fuch circumftances tax all equally, and there would be no injuftice; but there were perfons who embarked in the funds when they could only get three per cent. In 1792 a man might have bought as much confols. for 10,000l. as would have brought him 300l. a year. War continued to be carried on, and his property became lefs valuable every day; but take the man who made his money by the war, and he would purchase at the rate of 300l. a year for 5,000l.; then he would afk, Whether, on any principle of justice, an equal-tax was right under fuch circumstances! He next referred to the fituation of widows left with jointures, obferving, that there could be no one who must not feel for a pocr infirm old woman, whose pittance was reduced by fuch a tax as this. He next proceeded to confider the hardship of it on officers in the navy and army, particularly the staff officers. He read with a great deal of humour an anonymous letter from one of the latter defcription, ftating, that he had nothing to live on but his pay; but Government did not pay him. They afked for a tenth of his income; his income confifted of his pay, and his pay existed only in the imagination of Minifters. He faid he had ever been a candidate for perfons in high offices having high falaries; but when the prefent bill paffed, he should confider 10,000l. a year too much for any man to poffefs for any fervices he might perform; fevere retrenchment would be abfolutely neceffary. He then referred to the fubject of Corporations; their expences had been termed innocent hofpitality; but he would fay, the inftant the widow's mite was taken away, that innocent hofpitality ought to be termed gluttony. He faid, in our prefent fituation, fome of the greater emoluments of the Church ought to be taxed. With respect to inferior clergy, he believed nothing could be more effectually detrimental to religion than the fituation in which many of them were kept. To break down the refpe&tability and reduce the rank of the minifters of religion, tended more than any one thing to injure the doctrine they were appointed to inculcate; and if the prefent bill, fo injurious to the clafs he was fpeaking of, paffed, we might ftill have the anthem, the organ, and the mace, in our cathedrals; but in our villages, the real piety of the Chriftian religion would be gone. What could 'be more galling than that a man of 500l. a year, who laboured for it,

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