Imatges de pÓgina

traordinary-it was, that much inconvenience might arife from men being proved to be in too good a fituation. Gentlemen would, perhaps, be lefs furprised when they heard what he had to fay upon this fubject. Might not much evil arife from children obtaining information of what their fathers poffeffed, and learning too foon that they were likely to inherit a large fortune? It would alfo doubtless produce very bad effects upon the economy of families, by the whole of their wealth being expofed to the knowledge of a great number of perfons. It, perhaps, would be faid, that this bill fhould be fubmittted to, becaufe no other efficient mode of raifing the fupplies could be devifed. It was fit, however, that the House should confider, whether fome better mode might not be adopted; but the power given by this bill was not the least important confideration attending it. It was not enough to say that this power would not be exercised; it was fufficient that it exifted. Every one knew the effect that the existence of fuch power had upon other countries, where it produced the most flavish habits, and a total depreffion of public fpirit, notwithstanding that it was exercifed in the mildeft manner poffible, or, perhaps, not encouraged at all. There was another very material circumftance: by this act the Government will be let into the fecret of every man's income and property in the country. This was a fecret it would be very improper for Government to know, for it would create a great temptation to take more from the people, and he did not know that that temptation would be refifted. The oath taken by the Commiffioners was not fufficient for fecuring fecrecy.

Mr. Chancellor PITT fpoke to order. He obferved that this was not the stage of the bill in which the honourable Baronet ought to enter into particular details. The nature of the Commiffioners' oath had no connection with the queftion before the Houfe, which was that "the report be taken into farther confideration."

Mr. SPEAKER said, there were two ftages in which it was allowed to comment upon the details of a bill: these were when it was in the Committee, and upon receiving the report. He had always been of opinion, that when the report was taken into confideration, both the principle and particular clauses might be debated.

The honourable Baronet was not, therefore, out of order, as he might call the attention of the Houfe to parts of the bill, in order that it might be recommitted for the purpose of having these parts refcinded or altered.

Sir W. PULTENEY continued; he faid, though the Commiffioners were fworn to fecrecy, yet the Minifters, he fuppofed, would have access to their books, becaufe they were bound to preferve them. He therefore confidered, this as a dangerous measure,

inafmuch as it rendered the property of the country lefs fecure. This mode of raifing taxes had not been used fince the acceffion of the present family to the Throne; but during the Protectorate there was an affeffment upon every man from one end of the kingdom to the other; this had the effect of rendering the people more flavifh, and ultimately led to the Restoration. After that period it was intended to continue that affeffment, but it was found impoffible to extend it to perfonal property; but the land tax remained. The tax did not commence to operate upon incomes of less than 6ol. per annum; and after 200l. all were equal. It appeared to him that it would operate feverely upon the middle class of fociety, and not fo much on the higher claffes. He conceived that the liberty of the people depended upon the middle clafs, and not either upon the higher or the lower claffes. If the middle clafs was deftroyed, then there would remain nothing but nobles and peasants. Country gentlemen approved of this measure, because they thought it would operate upon property that was not taxed before; in this he believed they would be mistaken; but with respect to themfelves, they would certainly be obliged to pay. The lower claffes would also in time be affected by it, because if the farmer or manufacturer was injured, he could not employ fo many perfons. The bill appeared to him, on the whole, to go against the spirit of the Liberty of the Country. This was not a new opinion; he had delivered his opinion to the public upon a queftion of this kind twenty-four years ago. In defence of this measure it was faid, it affected placemen and penfioners, and that they would not for their own fakes confent to a tax which affected themselves, if it was not a juft tax. This was a mode of reafoning upon which he did not lay much stress, because Government had it always in their power to compenfate thofe gentlemen for what they might pay. He wifhed to know why the commercial part of the community were entitled to fuch exclufive privileges, and why the reft of society were not entitled to the fame advantages. With refpect to the duration of the bill, he wished to obferve that it must continue three years, and if the war lafted another year, it must continue four years. But there was nothing stated in the bill which would prevent its being adopted in future. It was not stated that it was merely a war tax, nor was it ftated when it would ceafe, but merely that it should not cease before a certain period. Upon these grounds he thought there would be great danger in paffing the bill, and therefore should oppose it.

Right Honourable D. RYDER ftated, that he fhould not now enter into the details of the bill; and he fhould feel, he faid, that

it would be prefumption in him to offer an answer to the fundamental arguments, if he had not great authority on his fide, no lefs an authority than that of the honourable Baronet himself. As far as it was regular to advert to what had occurred on a former debate, he conceived that the oppofition of the honourable Member was, that the measure tended to establish a species of inquifition in the country. That certainly was totally feparate from what was advanced as the main objection now to the bill. Every objection against this still, as to its not being optional, was applicable to the bill paffed last year. The only point upon which a difference was entertained was, that it did not go far enough; that it only tended to raise seven millions, whereas a much larger fum might be raised. He had alfo the farther authority of the honourable Baronet, that it - might be expedient to raise the whole fum wanted within the year. Whether the honourable Member had stated his ideas then clearly or not, he knew not; but he had a right to say that it was the honourable Baronet's opinion, that at one time the raising of the whole fupply within the year, and at another time the raifing of a confiderable part within the year, was effential to the interefts of the country. But the honourable Member had now found an objection that would be fatal to the measure altogether. The objection. was, that the fum wanted was taken by a tax that was not optional -that it was not impofed upon articles that were optional-and that the measure was unknown in the financial history of the country. He certainly did not pretend to be deeply read in the financial hiftory of the country; but it must occur to gentlemen that poll taxes, the tenths, fifteenths, and fubfidies, were levied in former times, and that the fame objection would apply to all those taxes; but this might be faid to refer to a period when the fcience of finance was not properly understood. Look at the tythes, which produced from three to five millions: they were not optional. Look at the taxes impofed fince the prefent century. The land tax was not optional; it made no diftinction of claffes; it made no difference between the pooreft and the richest landholders. The whole fyftem of taxation which related to the levies for the maintenance of the poor was another material inftance of a tax not being optional. The fame obfervation would apply to the county rates, and the bridge rates. When he was ftating this as being hiftorically an objection, he was aware that he was not stating it fairly for himself. For when, in a country acknowledged to have been the beft adminiftered with refpect to its finances of any nation in the world, he was reprefenting what had been done in former times, he was ftating what was the best defence of that fyftem. There

but it was impoffible for But upon the whole quef

were many other taxes which were also not optional. A tax which had been adopted after the example of Holland, which, next to this country, had been the best governed in its finances; the tax upon collateral fucceffions was not optional. The whole of the Affeffed-Tax Bill was not optional. Many perfons, indeed, might live in houses of lefs rent than they did, them to live in houses that paid no tax. tion, would the House be doing any thing but a foolish mockery by afferting, that in taxes upon confumption perfons might make use of the particular articles or not, as they pleased? The honourable Baronet, therefore, having stated himself to be a friend to the levying a confiderable part of the fupply within the year, and not having ftated any other mode of raifing it, he was bound to fuppose, that if he was a friend to the raising at one time ten, or at another twenty millions in the year, he either must fee this idea of a compulfory tax in a different light from what he did, or must argue that it ought to be levied upon articles of confumption. Upon this point he would afk, could the Houfe conceive it poffible to levy ten millions upon what were confidered as luxuries? been found that when they had been taxed beyond a certain point, the luxury fhifted and the tax failed? How far it would be safe to levy it upon fuch taxes as the powder tax, he would leave for the Houfe to judge. If then it was admitted that to raise the tax upon the luxuries was impoffible, jt followed of courfe that it could only be levied upon the neceffaries of life. the neceffaries of life. Was that the mode by which the honourable Baronet meant to provide for the middle or the poorest claffes ? Was that the mode to accumulate the load upon the higher ranks?

wages of labour.

Had it not

A tax on the neceffaries of life must raise the If this was the mode which the honourable Baronet meant to fuggeft, it was perfectly evident that any tax, if levied upon articles of confumption, must be heavier than the prefent one. Upon the whole, the confideration of this queftion had impreffed upon his mind that this was the only mode that could be adopted with perfect equity, and with a probable hope of reaching that great end which all had in view. And he was the more ftrongly impreffed with this, because those persons who had no apparent difpofition to avoid finding all the faults they could, had yet not been able to ftate any thing which could afford a hope of attaining the fame object. It was on thefe grounds that he supported the present bill.

Mr. JONES faid, we were placed between two evils: we had to dread, on the one hand, the horrible evils of the French Revolution; and, on the other, the evils that muft neceffarily arife from

any measure entrenching on the Conftitution.

When he voted for

the triple-affeffment bill of laft feffion, he expreffed his anxiety about its nature, and declared it to be a ftrong measure; but the fituation of the country at that period and now was very different. We were then threatened with invafion; that storm was blown over. The French navy, instead of being in a state capable of carrying the defigns of the enemy into effect, was deftroyed, and we were glutted with our victories. The cafes were, therefore, different, and confequently the grounds of opinion materially changed. For his part, he was willing to fupport the mode proposed of raising the fupplies within the year, but he was alfo determined to defend the bleffings of the Conftitution, which the prefent bill, he really conceived, would tend to move from its centre. For this reafon, therefore, he muft oppofe its farther progrefs; for it would erect an inquifitorial power in the country, not only unknown to the fpirit of our Conftitution, but totally fubverfive of it.

Mr. DENT fupported the bill, and obferved, he wished the report should be followed up on the very ground on which the honourable gentleman who spoke laft objected to its farther progrefs, being convinced that, instead of injuring the Conftitution, it would, on the contrary, have the effect of preserving it.

Mr. I. H. BROWNE rofe to exprefs his approbation of the measure. There were two obfervations that had fallen from the honourable gentleman who spoke laft, but one which he would take the liberty to notice: first, an abhorrence of French principles, whose fatal influence had done fo much mischief in the world; and, fecondly, the danger of an abufe of liberty; and that we fhould not be led to extend the privileges beyond the bounds which abfolute neceffity preferibed. To both thefe he heartily acquiefced, but he did not fee any danger to the conftitution from the adoption of the present meafure. He did not confider it as an invasion of property, in which light it was by fome represented. Nobody could state it more clearly than the honourable Baronet (Sir William Pulteney), both with regard to its principles and effects; yet nothing in his ftatement juftified him in confidering the measure an invafion of property that a difclofure of property might follow, notwithstanding every poflible care to guard against that inconvenience, was no reafon for confidering it in that point of view, and yet it was the principal one offered. Such a circumftance, no doubt, was an objection, but we were not in a fituation now to yield to trivial inconveniences; when a great and alarming evil threatened, we were not to confider every poflible and remote particular inftance of hardship that may ultimately arife from the means neceffary to infure our

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