Imatges de pÓgina
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taxes should not have the effect of materially leffening the one or the other; and for this reafon it was neceffary to make deductions in the higher as well as the lower claffes. It was on this general rule the principle of the modification proceeded. It was impoffible to defcend to particulars; and he wished the Committee to confider, whether it would not be rendering the modification altogether impracticable, if they were to load it with diftinctions. The principle of relief ought to be general, and the Committee would do wrong to have recourse to thofe minutia which could never be followed up without entangling the whole of the measure. Though the children of one clafs might not be fo expenfive as thofe of another, yet the difference was to be balanced by future expences. He repeated, that the Committee ought not to make minute diftinctions, but rather to confider the great and general object of relief propofed by the claufe, in which, after all, it was impoffible but there must remain confiderable imperfections.

Mr. SPEAKER again rofe and expreffed his approbation of the claufe, and the mode of relief held out by it; he pointed out the juftice of it, by comparing it with the practice of our ancestors. There were two fpecies of modification recognised in the outfet of the difcuffion of this bill; one referring to the defcription of income, the other to the amount; neither of thefe had ever been adopted by thofe legiflators who had formerly levied taxes in this House. The earlier mode of levying taxes in this country was by tenths and fifteenths. These were levied without distinction, nor was there any reduction made on account of the fituation of those who were to pay them. To this fucceeded Knight's fervice, which was general throughout the country, and commuted for by a tax denominated scutage or taillage. In the mode of levying these taxes, there were none of those beneficial diftinctions which characterised the measure now before the House. This mode of taxation gave place to fubfidies, which was an affeffment of not less than four fhillings in the pound on real property, and two fhillings in the pound on moveables. This was levied without reference to description or domeftic fituation of perfons. During the time of the the Protectorship, when the unhappy difputes exifted between the King and his Parliament, the Parliament levied weekly contributions on the inhabitants, he would not fay the fubjects, because they had no monarch at that time to whom they paid that obedience their duty required. Thefe exactions were made to the enormous amount of 120,000l. a month, according to the arbitrary will of the affeffors, without any modification whatever. When the land tax, which took place of fubfidies, was adopted,, four fhillings in

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the pound was levied indifcriminately, without any regard to the income of the perfon on whom it was raifed, or any reference to the number of their families. Merchants, at all times, continued to pay their poundage on insurance without any deduction. The poors' rates had always been levied without any difcrimination; the number of a man's family never being in contemplation. With refpect to the modification propofed, it appeared to him not only congenial to the feelings of humanity, but perfectly in unifon with the principle of the measure. If he thought it in the leaft operated against the principle on which the bill proceeded, he would implore the Houfe to reject it; but, he was perfuaded, in fuch cafe, there would be no occafion for his arguments, the dictates of their duty and their own feelings would be fufficient to induce them to difapprove of it; and he believed the Houfe beft promoted the happiness of the community, by the frict difcharge of their duty, without regard to other confiderations. Upon every principle of expediency and policy, they were bound, as men and fenators, to provide for the relief of thofe perfons to whom the claufe in queftion particularly referred.

Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL obferved, that the principle of modification, as applied to distinction of persons, was recognised in the reign of the Plantagenets; but he admitted it was abandoned during the reign of the Stuarts.

Mr. SPEAKER replied, that that obfervation only applied to the Poll Tax.

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Mr. Chancellor PITT faid, he had a great variety of claufes to offer; but he believed it would be more for the accommodation of the Committee that they fhould be given in without entering into any detail as to their objects, unless any gentleman wished it otherwife.

After a few more obfervations from Mr. SMITH, Mr. ELLISON, and Sir WILLIAM PULTENEY, the claufes were received.

The report was afterwards brought up and received; the bill, with the amendments, ordered to be printed; and the report to be taken into confideration on Thursday next.

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Wednesday, December 26.

Mr. Chancellor PITT moved the order of the day on the bill for continuing the fufpenfion of the Habeas-Corpus Act; which being read, and it being for the bill going into a Committee,

He moved that the Speaker do now leave the chair.

Mr. COURTENAY rofe and faid, he was now about to adduce additional reasons to fhew there was no neceffity for fufpending the Habeas Corpus A&t any longer; and before he did fo, he begged leave to read the declaration made by His Majefty in April:

"Whereas it appears that the preparation for the embarkation "of troops and warlike ftores are now carried on with considerable "and increasing activity in the ports of France, Flanders, and "Holland, with the avowed defign of attempting the invasion of "His Majefty's dominions; and that in this the enemy is encou"raged by the correfpondence and communications of traitorous "and difaffected perfons and focieties of thefe kingdoms."

Here, he faid, was a plain and candid reafon affigned for the fufpenfion of the Habeas-Corpus Act; but he would follow up this declaration of His Majefty upon that importation occafion, and ask, Whether the cafe was the fame now as it was then? Were His Majesty's enemies making any preparation for the invafion of these kingdoms? If they were, in what place, or in what manner, were they making fuch preparations? And, by whom were they aided and abetted in this country? He would ask one plain general question, were we now in the fame fituation as we were last year when the Habeas-Corpus Sufpenfion Act was agreed to? Had not our enemies been baffled and discomfited in different parts of the world? Was it likely that the French would invade this country when it was scarcely probable that they should retain their prefent conquefts?-The dominion of Britain was extended; the Mediterranean and Adriatic feas were annexed to her empire; and the glorious triumphs of her navy were celebrated in every quarter of the globe. We looked up with pride and gratitude to the renowned names of Nelfon and Jervis, whofe honours, though great, had fcarcely kept pace with their merits. Their unparalleled exploits had even extended the fame and glory of the British navy; the brilliancy of their victories ftood unrivalled in our triumphant annals. Skill and valour were happily united; and the fcience of the British Admirals was as diftinguished as the intrepidity of the British failors. Why then, at this aufpious period, fufpend the Habeas Corpus Act? Why fling this cloud of defpotifm over our eyes to obfcure the glorious profpect? Indeed they had alfo ferved their country, in a moft fingular and unprecedented manner,effentially and conftitutionally-by introducing a fpecies of Parliamentary Reform in this country. Being called by His Majefty into another House-the fresh laurels they had planted there--would

purify the vitiated atmosphere-tainted and corrupted by fome blafts of putrid and azotic air-refeind from

A cry of "Order ! Order !"—" Chair!"]

Mr. SPEAKER reminded Mr. Courtenay, that he was not fpeaking to the queftion before the House.

Mr. COURTENAY proceeded. He thought he might have been permitted to use a metaphorical expreffion, efpecially in praife of fuch diftinguished men as Lords Nelfon and Jervis, but he was corrected. He faid, he fhould not have touched, perhaps, cartainly he should not have dwelt upon, this fubject, had he not imagined that it arofe naturally out of what had been faid on a former debate upon this bill, and of which, in point of fpirit, if not in ftrictness of language, this might be called a continuance. He must now advert to what had been faid by an honourable and learned gentleman on the last debate upon this meafure. That gentleman had stated some points, as if he (Mr. Courtenay) had misreprefented facts relative to the prifoners in Clerkenwell, wherein the State Prifoners are now confined. Gentlemen, in the difcuffion of this matter, had dwelt much on topics of general humanity, on which they thought proper to declaim a great deal, and affert many things -one word of which he did not deny. But he should now repeat what he had formerly afferted upon the fubject. He had faid, that men, committed either for treafon, fufpicion of treafon, or treafonable practices, were confined in Clerkenwell Houfe of Correction, in narrow penitentiary cells; and neither allowed fire, candle, books, or the ufual indulgence to State Prifoners. He had asked able and experienced lawyers, whether this rigour was not unexampled in the administration of juftice in this country? They had answered in the affirmative. Thefe facts he had ftated the other night-he was contradicted indeed-but was a fingle fact difproved? not the cells and miferable truckle beds exift? and was not fire and candle intercicted-One learned gentleman had alfo charged him with arraignin, Lord Kenyon's conduct in the King's Bench. This he denied. If Lord Kenyon had fentenced Smith, the bookfeller, to feven, fourteen, or twenty one years imprisonment for a libel, he would not have prefumed to queftion the legality and juftice of fuch a fentence. But he thought he might, without much impropriety, be permitted to ftate, what he fhould always think, a rigorous mode of carrying this fentence into effect. He had experienced the truth of the late Lord Chatham's obfervation: "Touch but a cobweb in Weitminfter- hall, and the old spider will crawl out." Another honourable gentleman had faid, he had vifited the priton himself, had examined the matter, and that he knew the.

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reports that had gone abroad upon it were unfounded. If that honourable gentleman was now in the Houfe, he would afk him, if he was in this prifon fince the time of paffing judgement on the perfon to whom he alluded? or whether he was there fince the commitment of thofe who are there under the fufpenfion of the Habeas-Corpus Act? Did he visit the prifon? and was it, or was it not, in the fituation which he had defcribed? He asked that queftion. Now, as a corroboration of what he had formerly stated upon this matter, he begged to read, as part of his fpeech, a letter from the wife of Colonel Defpard:

"Some mention having been made in the newfpaper reports of "the House of Commons relative to the treatment of Colonel "Defpard in the New Prifon, I think it neceffary to ftate "that the Colonel was confined near seven months in a damp cell, "not feven feet fquare, without either fire or candle, chair, table, "knife, fork, a glazed window, or even a book to read. I made "feveral applications in perfon to Mr. Wickham, Under Secretary of State, and by letter to the Duke of Portland—all to no purpose. About the 20th of last month he was removed into a room with a fire, but not until his feet were ulcerated by froft. For the truth of this statement, I appeal to the honourable Mr. "Lawless, or John Reeves, Efq. who vitited the Colonel in prifon, "and at whofe interceffion he was removed.

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"Iftate thefe facts without the Colonel's knowledge, as even "his jailer will bear witnets that he never made any complaint "of his treatment, however fevere it was. The Colonel ferved "His Majefty thirty years, and all his family are now in the army. "Berkeley-fquare, CATHARINE DESPARD.

"December 23, 1798."

It was very true that when he faw the Colonel he made no complaint to him. He afked the Colonel, if any diftinction had been used in respect to him, or if he had been confined in the fame manner, and in the fame fituation, as the other State Prifoners committed fince the fufpenfion of the Habis Corpus Act? He answered yes; that they had been all treated alike; and he had been confined to his cell, till removed by the humane interference of Mr. Reeves. If these things were not thus if he was not to believe the letter of Mrs. Defpard, nor to trust to the evidence of his own fenfes, but that both were deceptions upon him, all he could fay upon the matter was, that it was very extraordinary. He knew Colonel Despard thirty years ago; he was then

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