Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

clause, divide this Houfe, or fpeak fo long as he was able. He did not fay that he would do fo. He knew too well what was owing to the Houfe, and to his own character, to have recourse to such a mode of proceeding.

1

Mr. W. DUNDAS thought, that the explanation was not confiftent with what the honourable gentleman had firft faid.

Mr. W. SMITH repeated his explanation.

" ?

On the question for the Speaker leaving the chair, the Houfe divided :

Againft it, 3; For it, 116.

Majority, 113.

Mr. TIERNEY oppofed the motion for poftponing the preamble of the bill.

1

Lord HAWKESBURY contended that the preamble should be poftponed as a matter of course.

Sir WILLIAM PULTENEY had a variety of objections to the measure now under difcuffion, but he would at prefent content himself with putting it to the serious confideration of the Committee -1ft, Whether it was a measure that could be adopted without confiderable danger to the conftitution? 2dly Whether the attempt to enforce it was not an infult added to the injury that arofe from it to the people of Great Britain? The principle of the meafure adopted last year appeared to him to be far less objectionable; and it was his opinion that it should not be thus precipitately abandoned, but that, on the contrary, it should be fully and fairly tried —it is difficult for any man to discover with accuracy what is the real amount of another man's property-it is only from appearances that he can fucceed in drawing any thing like a probable conjecture; and on this ground the bill cf last year proceeded, and on this ground it proceeded properly, because it is optional with a man to make, what appearance he pleafes, or, in other words, to limit or increase his expenditure as he may think proper. But the nature of the prefent is altogether of a different complexion. It makes no inquiry into visible appearances: its obvious principle and final end is an affeffment on his income, not upon his expenditure. He is called upon to declare the amount of that income; and, if he does not rate it as high as the Commiffioners may be pleafed to rate it, he muft produce his books, or other written documents, to prove the real amount of his property. No alternative is left him between either paying too much, or fubmitting to the disclosure of his pri vate affairs. This was, in the mind of the honourable Baronet, an infurmountable difficulty, and he would earnestly deprecate attempting fuch strong measures-measures that must prove equally haraffing to individuals, and dangerous to the Conftitution. The

Affeffed-tax bill of last year was calculated to produce feven millions and a half; it is now acknowledged it has brought in above four millions. From what this defalcation in that part of the revenue has arisen, no proof has been adduced. For his part he would again infift that the measure of the affeffed taxes had not been fairly tried, nor for a fufficient length of time. Another circumflance he would allude to was, the voluntary contributions; under that denomination two millions have been paid in. This was a greater fum than they were expected to amount to, and more than fix millions were raised by these two modes. There were therefore no very fatisfactory reafons for thinking that the measure of the affeffed taxes had been evaded to any confiderable extent. All taxes, indeed, are evaded more or lefs; but the fpirit that has manifefted itself throughout the country of voluntarily coming forward with aids to Government is no fmall inducement to believe that the evafion of those taxes was not very confiderable; befides the assessment of last year arose in many inftances above a tenth per cent. it is not now proposed that it should be raised higher. Thofe whofe dividends were above 6ol. also contributed last year to the affeffed taxes. There was confequently, in his opinion, no neceffity of relinquishing the former plan, efpecially as upon the whole it appeared lefs unconstitutional than the meafure now propofed in its room. Befides, the mode of carrying it into execution must be found intolerable and infulting to the pride and feelings of the country. Its principle plainly went to fay that the people of England were not fit to be trufted, or confulted, with regard to any mode of taxation. Neither their heart, it fecms, nor their understanding, was to be apppealed to when they are called upon for money. Are whips and lashes then to be applied in order to extort it from them? Surely the adoption of fuch harsh and oppressive measures, argues ignorance of their temper and character. The amount of the voluntary contributions conveys a very different idea of their difpofition, and abundantly proves that they fhould experience a very different treatment; they cannot but feel that while the prefent measure reflects fo ftrongly and fo unjustly upon their generosity, it also strikes deeply at the fafety of the Conftitution. In either light he would ftrenuously oppofe it.

The Right Honourable D. RYDER ftated, that nothing was more ufual than the motion that had been made, and he was only furprized that there fhould be found any gentleman to oppofe it; in all cafes it was propofed to poftpone the preamble of a bill, and nothing now was afked, but what was uniformly purfued on fuch eccafions. The confideration of the preamble could not well be

gone into before the claufes had been duly examined, otherwise many of them might afterwards be found to be inconfiftent with the preamble. He did not, however, mean to say that this obfervation was applicable to the prefent bill. As to the truth of the ftatement of the preamble, he thought it fufficiently grounded, as the preamble now stood, and whether the provifions of the bill had been evaded, or not, and precifely to what extent, it was now difficult to prove. The House had already before them all the information they could have on that fubject, and it was generally acknowledged that several perfons had not been affeffed in a just proportion to their circumstances, which was enough to fubftantiate the latter part of the preamble. Before he fat down he had also to obferve, that this was not the moment for difcuffing the principle of the bill, and especially he could not bear to hear it spoken of in terms fo harth and violent as thofe made ufe of by the honourable Baronet. There was nothing in the bill that could justify them; and they came with an extreme bad grace from a person who favoured the principle of raifing a part of the fupplies within the year, and who acknowledged the danger of the crifis in which the country was now involved. They were words fo very violent, indeed, as should never be applied to any measure that had been fuffered to be difcuffed even for a moment by that House. He would not say that fuch language was intentionally used as inflammatory, but neither could he forbear marking it with that censure which in his opinion it juftly called for.

Sir WILLIAM PULTENEY confeffed that the words alluded to were ftrong ones; but he was also ready to prove that they were not ftronger than what might be deservedly applied to feveral claufes of the bill. This he would prove when they came under difcuffion. He would also object to the power with which it was to arm the Executive Government; it might eafily be carried to dangerous lengths, and these extremes, whoever wifhed well to the Conftitution, should jealously guard against. The fame jealousy directed us not to arm civil or criminal magiftrates with too ftrong a power, which might be carried to lengths that would affect the innocent. The fame caution was wifely obferved when there was queftion of granting to magiftrates the power of taking up reputed thieves. An equally vigilant caution should watch over plans of taxation; because a tax may have been evaded, is furely no reason why a power fhould be given to opprefs a man who never had any intention to evade it, in order to enable Government to get at thofe who may have in reality evaded it. This would be arming the Executive Government with a very extraordinary and a very dangerous power: VOL. VII. Oo

but we are told the measure must be reforted to, because, by the failure of the former one, the revenue lost two millions. But two millions were well loft, in his opinion, fooner than we should lose the integrity of the Conftitution. But he denied that the revenue could fuftain any lofs; on the contrary, it would gain more by placing more confidence in the good will and liberality of the people. By gentle means every thing may be had from them; by force, nothing. The character of the people fhould not be miftaken if they are taken by the generous hold, there would be no end to their generofity: we should therefore be watchful to prevent their good difpofition from being infulted and abused.

Mr. WIGLEY confeffed that it was the ufual practice of the House to poftpone the preamble of moft bills, but he did not fee why that practice fhould be perfifted in if the fact contained in the preamble was afferted to be falfe, which was the cafe on the present occafion.

Mr. Secretary DUNDAS affured the Committee that he had never before heard a debate upon this ftage of a bill, and it was his wish to close it in a fair manner. To poftpone the preamble of a bill was furely as much a matter of course as almost any of the forms of the House; but to prevent the procrastination and delay of the business, which feemed to be the object of fome gentlemen, he was willing to humour them in the present inftance. He would, however, appeal to the feelings, to the honour, to the candor, and to the information of every gentleman who had a knowledge of the country, whether profiting by that information which they derived from their local fituation, and putting their hand upon their hearts, they were not ready to agree that the affeffed taxes had been fhamcfully evaded. They were confequently convinced that the preamble of the bill ftated nothing but the truth; indeed, there could be scarcely found any one that entertained a doubt of it. On this he would move that the fenfe of the House be now taken, waving the ufual cuftom of poftponing the preamble.

Mr. LLOYD profeffed himself a firm friend to the present meafure; and he had often, he faid, heard the conduct of the right honourable gentleman, (Mr. Pitt) arraigned for not having brought forward a fimilar plan fooner, when every fubject in the kingdom was ready and willing to contribute towards the exigencies of the State. He would beg his pardon; but he muft fay that the right honourable gentleman had hitherto been mistaken in his plan, for the plan the country withed for was one that should tax all equally. The plan of last year did not answer their wishes in that refpect; the prefent une does, for all descriptions are defirous to fee the taxes

fall equally upon all-induftry had hitherto been heavily taxed, while those who poffeffed immenfe fums from mortgages, and in the funds, were left untouched, and without ever having been called upon to bring in their mite towards the public exigencies of their country. He hoped every gentleman would atteft that this was the general with of the nation. He felt it his duty to do so, and that duty he was ready to perform.

The queftion was then put, that the preamble do ftand part of

the bill.

Mr. TIERNEY objected to the preamble's ftanding part of the bill he agreed with an honourable gentleman, that harsh words should not be ufed--harfh words were always impolitic; but words which were applicable to the measure, which defcribed it, and by which it would be recognifed and known, were furely proper to be ufed. Now in his mind the preamble was a direct and grofs charge upon all the gentry of England, and if the honourable gentleman complains of harsh words, he will find them in the text of his preamble. The right honourable gentleman (Mr. Dundas) says let every man lay his hand upon his heart, and fay, whether he does not know that the affeffed taxes were evaded. Let us firft know what he means by evafion. If he means that under this tax, gentlemen kept fewer horfes, fewer carriages, fewer houses, and abridged the luxuries in which they formerly indulged, and if he calls this evafion, they may have evaded; but was not this diminution of luxury rendered neceffary by the circumftances of the times? If the accumulated weight of the burdens of the war had obliged men to retrench, was this to be called evafion? Mr. Tierney had not in his own inftance, kept a horfe lefs, but was there any blame imputable to the man who had from prudence or from neceffity leffened his expence? For all evafions which could be conceived, this new bill had provided remedies, and furely there was no argument for setting out with a harsh imputation on the nobility and gentry of England; the words could admit of no other conftruction. When gentlemen fwore off on the fcore of income from the affeffed taxes, to call this evafion was to fay that they had been guilty of direct, wilful and grofs perjury. But he would now beg leave to afk, at what particular period, and under what circumstances was it that the country was to be thus branded as not being fit to be trusted upon their oath? Was it not after the right honourable gentleman. had estimated the rental of the nation at one hundred millions fterling, and after the fum raised for the exigencies of the laft year had amounted to 30 millions? Was it not then after the country has willingly given one third of their property for the public fervice?

« AnteriorContinua »