Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

proper degree of care was taken. An oath of fecrefy was required from thofe perfons who were to adminifter that part of the bill; and what more folemn obligation could be impofed? Befide, this principle of disclosure was by no means anomalous to the British law. Were gentlemen aware of the widely-extended fyftem of disclosure which prevailed in Scotland for more than two centuries past, and in Ireland for, at least, one century, where every defcription of landed property was registered, with all its various circumstances, and open to the inspection of every individual? To come nearer-Was it not known that the like fyftem prevailed in the two richeft and most populous counties in England, Yorkshire and Middlefex, where mortgages, and the various incumbrances upon landed property, were registered, and which any man might fee every day? Did not this principle of difclofure prevail generally in the West Indies, and throughout the United States of America? Why then was fuch a limited contingent and eventual expofition of property, as was ordained by the bill, fo loudly complained of? He certainly was not partial to a Republican form of Government, but one of the prevailing traits of that fyftem was, a jealousy of the Executive Power in the leaft degree interpofing in the concerns of private individuals. Notwithstanding this, the Americans thought proper, after two years deliberation, to establish a general registry of property throughout their entire states. It was partially adopted in England in the prefent day, and had formerly more generally obtained in England; and he faw no reafon why the practice of our ancestors, and of neighbouring countries, fhould be cavilled at in the present inftance. With respect to commercial concerns, a degree of delicacy fhould obtain; and in this view the trading and manufacturing interefts were entitled to fome favour. However, in Ireland, by act of Parliament, perfons of thofe defcriptions were not exempt from registering their fecurities. It was the cuftom of perfons in the most ordinary concerns to look to the right and left for the beft fecurities, and to caufe every poffible difclofure to be made. Why then, he would again afk, fhould fuck. violent objections be made to difclofure in the prefent inftance, and in a cafe where every poffible guard and fhield was made ufe of againft its being injurious to individuals? Upon a general view of the meafure, he faid, he was rejoiced, and congratulated the country upon the arrival of the period, at which a measure fo replete with benefit to the public, was propofed to Parliament; it was calculated to produce the happiest effects, and to involve a progreffive degree of financial benefit, fimilar to the operations of a finking fund, which acts in an accelerated ratio; it would prevent the increase of per3 R

Vol. VII.

manent taxation, and in that way aid the operations of the plan which was laid down to counteract, beyond a certain amount, the extension of the public debt. The mode of carrying the measure into effect would neceffarily be improved on experiment. As a war tax he regarded the meafure in the moft favourable point of view; and its domestic effects must tend to increase the national energy, in bringing the war to a fpecdy and honourable conclufion.

Mr. TIERNEY obferved, that he agreed with an honourable gentleman who had fpoken early in the debate, (Mr. Nichols), that the measure of raifing the fupplics within the year was defirable, as an abstract principle, inafmuch as it would tend to prevent the people from being easily led into expenfive wars; the question however at prefent, he confidered to be a very different one-It was merely whether the bill prefented the best mode of railing part of the fupplies within the year or not? He had no hefitation in deciding in the negative. He fhould prefer the funding fyftem; and thought it his duty to proteft against the prefent measure. He was aware of the effect a loan muft have on the funds; but he did not regard that as a ferious objection-He knew that the national credit could be affected but very flightly by artificial means. Nothing could materially raife it but public confidence, and increafing profperity; but the mifchiefs to be apprehended by a depreciation of the funds of 6 or 7 per cent. could not be put into con petition with the evils to be dreaded from a incafure fo pregnant with mifchief as that under difcuffion: that material confideration was not now the prefent question, but whether or not the mode propofed was the best poffible practicable one of raifing part of the fupplies within the

year.

With refpect to the honourable gentleman's idea that the mode of taxation in queftion did not proceed upon a new principle; he would contend the principle, ftrictly fpeaking, was new. He believed no precedent could be found, where men were compellable to ftate upon oath what they were able to pay. Something like it, however, had occurred during the Adminiftration of Cardinal Wolfey; but the meafure was regarded by hiflorians as a violent ftretch of arbitrary power. With regard to the Pell Tax, the fimilitude did not hold good; in that cafe a perfon had a certain given fum to pay, and no more-the account was arbitrarily levied, but then the fum was clearly defined, and no difclosure was neceffary. Speaking of difclofure, he faid, he knew an inftance in the affair of the affeffed taxes laft year, where a man paid upwards of 2001. more than perhaps he would be obliged, fooner than fwear to his income-and he apprehended that many cafes of the kind would

arife under the propofed measure. He quoted Lord Coke's fentiments upon new-invented modes of taxation, or, in the language of that venerable lawyer, "New inventions of Subfidies." However, it appeared that these new modes of taxation gave rise to four rebellions in the country, and in one of thofe the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the First Lord of the Treafury, were deftroyed. The attempt to extort revenue by a disclosure of property upon oath was never made but by Wolfey. In the preceding reign, that of Henry VIIth, a measure not diffimilar was reforted to. It was commonly called "Lord Chancellor Morton's dilemma." The direction given for the levying of the tax generally ran to this effect-if a man lives on a faving plan, you are to confider him as poffeffed of property in confequence of his economy. If he lives extravagantly-why then that is certainly a proof of his having fomething-[Much laughing] a confiderable degree of difficulty would arife in eftimating with accuracy the income of thofe called mifers. He would fuppofe there were 3,000 of these in the kingdom; it would be almoft impoffible to fatisfy the furveyor of the income of these perfons on account of their reputation for wealth. Another difficulty would arise, derivable from the plan of laft year, many cafes obtained where a man of not more than 2,000l. per ann. paid between 4 and 500l. affeffed taxes; this would afford a plaufible reafon to the Commiffioners for confidering fuch perfon's annual income to be confiderably greater. It might be alledged against him, that he would not have paid fomuch if he could not afford it, when it was in his power to have paid lefs; these were but a few among the ferious and weighty objections which applied to the bill. He was convinced that a less objectionable mode could easily be found. It was little to say in favour of the meafure, that precedents could be found for it, and the worst of times reforted to as the periods; but he averred that no direct precedent could be found for the disclosure of income upon oath. There was a particular mode of levying money, which obtained in the early part of our hiftory, and which mode he would recommend to the confideration of the Manfion-houfe Committee, a fet of gentlemen, who were fo forward in recommending the prefent plan. The mode he alluded to was called the Jews' Ranfom; it was that a Tooth was drawn every day from certain perfons of that persuasion, until they paid the tax impofed upon them. One Jew at Bristol, was fo obftinate as to have fix or feven teeth drawn before he paid; at laft his refolution failed, and the required fum was paid by him. This procefs, he rather imagined, would ill agree with fome gentle

men of the Manfion-houfe Committee-they would feel the effects of it, perhaps with peculiar feverity.

With regard to the queftion of a general tax upon income, he feriously objected to it, and on the ground chiefly that all income was not disposable property. The principle that every man should contribute according to his means, he approved; but income was a very inadequate criterion of thofe. The difference between incomes was too obvious to need contending for. A perfon poffefling permanent and independent income might spend what portion of it he chofe, without injury to his heirs; but that refulting from perfonal industry, or from profeffions, was very different; it was neceffary a part of the incomes of these descriptions should be laid by to guard against the evil day, as a provifion for old age, and to obviate the confequence of perfonal accidents or infirmity. It was on this broad and obvious principle that he objected to a general tax upon income.

It was faid, that perfons embarked in trade should be favourably confidered, and yet, perhaps more than any other, fuch perfons could beft reimburse themfelves. The neceffaries of life muft be had. What could restrain an advance in price upon thofe, to a degree by which the dealer could repay himself? By fuch practices the dealer would pay his tythe of income out of the remaining 9 10ths of the confumer-fuch would precifely be the effect. It was repeatedly faid, that a gentleman should not clamoroufly object against a tax, unless he was provided with a better to fubftitute in its room. If this principle were pushed to the full extent, very little objection could be made to the majority of fchemes. However he thought that any gentleman might properly fuggeft an idea or throw out a hint on thofe points. In this view he would fay, that the plan of laft year of increafing the affeffed taxes, might be a better expedient than the prefent. That meafure had hardly a fair trial. It might be very poffible to improve upon the plan, fo as to make it produce the expected fum; then why not try it, modified and improved, for another year? He never defpaired of the refources of the country -It fill poffeffed abundance. The deficiency to which the affeffed taxes might be liable, below the ten millions required, in the prefent year, could, he thought, be eafily provided-A tax upon certain commodities might be levied, particularly upon fugar, from which a large revenue might be derived, and with the additional advantage (now that we generally fupplied the Continent with the article) of drawing it from the purfes of other nations; there were alfo a variety of articles of luxury which might properly be taxed—

In short, many modes might be reforted to, free from the great and crying objections to which a general tax upon income was liable.

It was not only to the general principle of the measure that he was opposed, several of the provifions of the bill were equally objectionable the mode of collecting was one of its worst features. The particular direction with which the merchants of a particular place were treated was objectionable. Should not Minifters endeavour to put thofe of other parts of the kingdom upon the fame footing The cafe of gentlemen of landed properties was, in many inftances, peculiarly hard. Let their fituations with refpect to mortgages be confidered, and the various evils which might befet them therefrom, in the event of a difclofure. Many gentlemen of that description, in confequence of youthful errors and extravagancies, were deeply involved, the effects of a difclofure on fuch perfons were obvious. On the fpur of the moment, all their creditors might come upon them. To all this it might be objected, that a general difclosure was only neceffary, and not a detailed expofition-but even against disclosure of any kind, high prejudices obtained, and he would fay, that popular prejudices should be refpected where they were not injurious to the community-and at any rate, another mode fhould be tried to render difclofure unneceffary-that confideration alone he thought fhould delay the progress of the bill; and even the feelings of a large class of men should not be hurt in confequence of a hurry in carrying the bill through the Houfe. He requested the right honourable gentleman to turn his attention to a lefs objectionable mode of proceeding with respect to that description of gentlemen.

When he confidered how perfons in trade were favoured beyond gentlemen of landed property, his anxiety was the greater: their disclosures were to be chiefly made to perfons who might be faid to be elected by themfelves, and who, of courfe, muft be fuppofed to poffefs a kind of fellow feeling with them. Yet even these perfons who were to decide on the cafes of men in trade, would be found to lie under fome difficulties. Some of them, for inftance, (Bank Directors,) would have a double duty: they were to investigate the affairs of certain commercial perfons, in the one cafe, and immediately after might be called upon to advife with their brother Directors as to the propriety of discounting fuch perfons' bills; they might have a derangement of the circumstances of an individual to witnefs, and almoft at the fame moment to pronounce in another quarter, whether or not it was proper to lend money to fuch a

« AnteriorContinua »