Imatges de pÓgina

fafety. These means, it was agreed, confifted in raising the fupplies within the year. This mode was practised before the Revolution. If then we were to recur to it, we must have recourse to the means used before that period; means exercised in the reigns of the Plantagenets, and other antient times, without ever being charged as new or dangerous to the Conftitution. He therefore thought it our duty to adopt the fame fyftem now, when fo much benefit must be derived from it, and when, by the ftrength of our navy, we had the means not only of providing for our own safety, but alfo of effecting the deliverance of Europe. Mr. Browne concluded with apologizing for troubling the House fo long on a queftion fo obvious, and which had been already fo fully difcuffed.

He was

Mr. Wm. SMITH faid, that though he rofe again to offer fome objections to the bill, yet he was very ready to confess, that it now appeared to him in a much more improved light, and very different indeed from the crude, imperfect ftate in which it was first ushered into the House; he was happy in particular to see that much of its oppreffive and inquifitorial tendency had been obviated and removed. He was ftill, however, justified in afferting, that the objections urged against it by himself and by many of his honourable friends, had been either misunderstood or misreprefented; at least, they had never been fairly met or fatisfactorily anfwered. There was one great error into which the fupporters of the bill had fallen. They charge the oppofers of it with inconfiftency, because they have acknowledged the propriety and neceffity of raifing a great portion of the supplies within the year. But on what principle do they rest this neceffity, or of what nature do they suppose it to be? but little inclined to indulge in minute metaphyfical distinctions; but fome diftinction was neceffary on the prefent occafion. The neceffity so much infifted on must be either a physical or political neceffity; if it were a phyfical neceffity, or if no other poffible mode could be devifed of accomplishing the fame end, then he would unreluctantly yield to that neceffity, and no longer make any oppofition to the adoption of it. But if upon due examination of the nature of the measure, it did not appear to involve any thing of a physical necessity, but only proceeded on the ground of a political neceffity, then the nature of that political neceflity fhould be duly inquired into-in his opinion political neceffity should be guided by a nice balance of the conveniencies and inconveniencies to which the measure might give rife. If the conveniencies were proved to preponderate over the inconveniencies, then, he would confefs, the neceffity might be fairly pleaded. But if, on the contrary, however it might be attended with many inconveniencies, yet it plainly apVOL. VII.

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peared that in its principle it was unjust, that in its exécution it was oppreffive, and that in its operation it must prove hurtful both to the feelings and the fortunes of individuals, he was at a loss to fee how he should be justified in admitting the plea of fuch a political neceffity. To thefe, his objections, he was well aware that the approvers of the bill would oppofe a directly contrary affertion. They, he knew, afferted, and would affert, that the principle and provifions of the bill were equitable and juft. He, however, muft perfift in ftyling them unjust and unequitable, and in this affertion he perfifted, not from the fuggeftion of any private intereft, but merely from public motives and upon public grounds; for he was ready to confess that the tax, as far as it regarded himself individually, he fhould feel to be a very beneficial one. But he had heard it afferted that a large majority of the citizens of London had declared in favour of the tax, and were he permitted to be fo far irregular as to allude to what had dropped in a former debate, he would be glad to offer a few obfervations on the arguments that were then employed. It was faid that the body of merchants were both able and willing to pay the tax, though they contend at the fame time that this very tax must fall with double weight on perfons embarked in commercial purfuits. They were ftill, however, well prepared and well difpofed to pay it. That merchants of the firft order and under particular circumftances might be able and willing to pay the tax he was not inclined to deny, without attempting to dive into the motives or the means from which this will and ability might be supposed to flow. There was, however, another class of commercial men, of whom the fame could not be faid with equal truth; the clafs he alluded to was of a much lower order, and poffeffed of far inferior refources. On them, he contended, the proposed tax must bear with very oppreffive weight indeed. But this, perhaps, would be denied. And why? Because it is afferted that the object of the measure is to lay equal burdens on all fpecies of income, though the income may be of an unequal nature, and to affect every fituation in life in which property was to be found. He would grant that the operation of the tax began, as in the Affeffed-tax Bill of last year, with a property of 60l. but two perfons poffeffing that amount of income were no longer in the fame relative fitua tion; one part of that income may, for example, be laid out in an infurance for life; that part employed in infurance on life is now supposed to be exempted. He could not fee in what that exemption confifted; for if a man poffeffes an income of 5ool. he may employ one half of it in infurance for life, and the other in providing for his family; but that income must be doubly affeffed, for the

tax is to take away one portion, and insure another of it. Suppose in making provifion for his family, he lays up one part, and that he pays 50l. per annum for insurance, in what fituation fhall fuch a man be if any accident, even the payment of the now proposed tax, should disable him from infuring; where then would be the benefit which you fuppofe him to derive from the exemption? He could derive none. For you now take 50l. per annum from him, and thus prevent him from benefit of infurance, while insurance would be more valuable to him.

In the next place he might contend, that the measure in question would draw down other hardships on commercial men; for the proposed mode of taxation partakes of the nature of a pofitive tax upon capital. The capital may be supposed to grow and become income; but the profits of trade do not constitute a disposable furplus; out of them the merchant muft provide for his family; to tax those profits, would not therefore be taxing income, but taxing capital. The measure went alfo to confound an income arifing from laborious induftry, an income purely contingent, and which, before the next year may fink into nothing, with one of a permanent nature and expofed to no viciffitudes; but to tax in equal rate two incomes of fuch very oppofite conditions, would furely be commit. ting a great, a crying injuftice. Nor did he think, that to him or to those who held the fame opinions with him on a former occafion respecting the propriety of taxing falaries arifing from places and public offices, there could now be imputed any degree of inconfiftency; those falaries were not folely 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 fuch persons, and therefore would be taxed. But other confiderations fhould be here attended to, and on this point he would again avail himself of the opinion and authority of an able writer, whom he had already quoted pretty frequently on the prefent subject, and according to that celebrated author, those who were in the fituation of holding public offices, have general means of rewarding their labours, and the remumeration feldom falls fhort of the fervices. they perform; and therefore fuch emoluments were not an improper object to be taxed as income. These falaries were often, befides,

but a small part of fuch income. The power, the patronage, the credit and the confideration that attended them, were valued much higher than the mere falary annexed to them, and they were confequently fought after with more eager avidity than fituations of a different defcription that oftenfibly were estimated at comparatively)

They were, therefore, by no means on a

a much higher fum.
level with other forts of income.

He must alfo object to the measure on account of the manner in which it must affect various claffes of the community. Notwithstanding all that had been faid of public affairs, and respecting the fituation of other countries, the operation of this bill might induce many to emigrate, though it was strongly afferted that no one would change this country for another merely to avoid paying ten per cent. upon his income-for, though the mode of inquiry and of the difclosure of private circumstances might be fomewhat changed, yet even in the altered bill there ftill remained many circumstances which must throw many difficulties on particular branches of trade. The advantages were ftill counterbalanced by the disadvantages. Indeed where a great revenue was to be collected, there must arise many inconveniences; and they marked but too ftrongly our general fyftem of taxation. The excife laws, for example-the stamp duties, &c. &c. involved in their exccution a variety of difficulties and inconveniences. In lawsuits the particular circumftances respecting ftamps often gave rife to very unpleasant occurrences; for instance, in a late cafe, where the decifion, he would not fay was contrary to law, but where affuredly it was contrary to equity; he alluded to the cafe where a stamp of 2s. 6d. was made use of, instead of a stamp of 2s. which the law impofed for a particular fum. In that cafe nothing could be recovered, though no intention of eluding the tax could be alledged, as a stamp of fuperior value was made ufe of. But it was not only from the taxes themselves, but from the caprices of the tax gatherers, that the community had to fuffer thefe inconveniences; nor were they only inconveniences, but frequently vexations.

But the operation of the prefent bill muft 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 juftified by an hiftorical comparison with other taxes-it had been compared with the poll tax-this comparifon was furely not very happy; for if it bure any relation to that tax, it ought moft 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 beft and moft approved writers ? It has also been compared with the poor's rate; but this alfo was far from being a popular tax: and befides, they differed fo widely from one another, that no parity of argument fhould 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 inftances, but particularly in this, that it is difpenfed by the fame hands that collect it, and the diftribution of it is watched over by those out of whose pocket it comes. This contributes to make it be paid cheerfully. By others the prefent tax is compared to tithes; but there there is often room for commutation, and therefore the comparison fays nothing in favour of the measure before the House. Moreover, when a perfon buys a farm, he knows the amount both of the poor's rates, and of the tithes, which he shall have to pay; and therefore his cafe differs from the prefent, where there is no option. But it is faid the principle of the Affeffed-tax Bill left no option neither-Granted: it did fo in fome measure, and fo 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 Government to correct thofe 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 faw another objection to it in the difcretion which the prefent measure gave to Government. Minifters were left to fix the standard, and he saw 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 propofed, unless he could offer one lefs objectionable. Undoubtedly the approvers of the bill might fee it in a different light from him; but though his judgement was not able to correct what was wrong in the measure, yet he was not inconfiftent in oppofing it; and as long as he felt the full force of his objection to it, fo long muft he continue that oppofition.

Lord HAWKESBURY thought it more defirable 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 Houfe. The queftion was not so much whether the tax was an equal one, as whether it was as equal as poffible, whether more fo than any other that could be devised either by him, or any other Member who might approve of or oppose it. He muit think the tax was the most equal, and the fairest in its principle, that could be adopted, under all circumftances, fully to anfwer the end for which it was propofed. What had been faid by the honourable gentlemen who spoke laft, that it was no argument to prove the inconfiftency of any gentleman, that while he difapproved of any meafure he yet had not a better to propofe, he could perfectly agree in; but if it was not an argument of this fort, it certainly afforded an argument for the measure. Nothing could more tend to fhew how neceffary it was to adopt the prefent tax,

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