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PROPERTY TAX.] The order of the day being read for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means, the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved, "That the Act 46 Geo. 3, c. 65, for granting to his Majesty during the present war, and until the 6th day of April next after the ratification of a Definitive Treaty of Peace, further additional rates and duties in Great Britain on the rates and duties on profits arising from property, professions, trades and offices; and for repealing an Act passed in the 45th year of his present Majesty, for repealing certain parts of an Act made in the 43d year of his present Majesty, for granting a contribution on the profits arising from property, professsions, trades, and offices; and to consolidate and render more effectual the provisions for collecting the said duties, might be referred to the said Committee."
Mr. Whitbread rose and observed, that it was but a very short time since the table of that House was covered with Petitions, praying that the Property Tax might not be renewed; and the right hon. gentleman took an early opportunity forestalling the public, as it were, from coming before Parliament with their petitions of declaring his intention to abandon that most obnoxious measure. He afterwards brought forward various financial plans, and several new taxes, which were adopted by the House in the shape in which they were proposed by him. Every one of these was, it now ap
peared, thrown aside, except the Assessed Taxes: and this part of his system the right hon. gentleman kept alive, until he ascertained whether he could effect the resuscitation of the Property Tax. If he failed in that, he would, of course, render the increased Assessed Taxes subservient to his purpose. From his plans, abortive as they had been, at different times, it was obvious, either that the right hon. gentleman was an unskilful and incompetent financier, or that the capability of the country to bear a heavy weight of taxation had come to a conclusion-and that there was no way of keeping up taxes to the immense extent which was formerly the case. When the right hon. gentleman abandoned the Property Tax-when he made the celebrated funeral oration over it, and commended it so highly and energetically-he stated, that there was a probability of its revival, but that such an event could only take place in time of war. He explicitly declared to the House
and this was at a time when the circumstances which now exist could not be contemplated, although there might be a feeling in his mind, that war was likely, from other causes, to break out-that in no other state of affairs, except that of absolute hostilities, would this tax be resorted to. He also gave the House to understand-the Bourbons then being on the throne of France-that the peace establishment of this country was likely to call for 19 million per annum; but that, under these circumstances, he was able to furnish a scheme of taxation, that was fully adequate to meet this expense. The right hon. gentleman had now, however, moved that the Property Tax should be taken into consideration by the committee
and here, on the question preliminary to the Speaker's leaving the Chair, he wished to understand from him and his colleagues, what the true situation of the country was? Are we at peace, or at war? Is there any alternative? Or are we so situated that we must proceed to hostilities? He asked of the noble lord, was it true that a Treaty had been signed at Vienna, by ministers, authorized or unauthorized, on the part of this country? Authorized or unauthorized-for, be it recollected, we were now accustomed to a state of affairs, in which ministers acted without instructions from the country whose foreign relations they were called upon to watch over. Hereafter, he supposed, it would be seen whether they
were authorized or not-hereafter, he supposed, the instructions under which the noble lord opposite had acted, would be produced. They would also, he trusted, be put in possession of the instructions by which the duke of Wellington was autho rised to sign the Declaration published at Vienna on the 13th of last month. Or, perhaps, the House would be boldly informed by the noble lord, that both he and the duke of Wellington had acted without any authority whatever. He wished to know, whether the Government of this country was committed in a war against France? This, it was said, was the fact; and that a subsidy was to be paid by this country to the Allied Sove-law. reigns, the whole agreement being founded on the Treaty of Chaumont; with this deplorable feature, that the Allied Sovereigns bound themselves, in no event to treat with the present ruler of France. A decisive answer on this point, would, he was convinced, be satisfactory, not merely to him, but to the House, and the public in general. Farther, he should be glad to know, whether in consequence of some indolence, or supineness, or neglect, or whatever else it ght be called, on the part of the noble lord who, when his day of trial arrived, would have to explain the circumstance, an engagement had taken place between the troops of the King of Naples and the Austrian forces, in which the latter were defeated; and whether the King of Naples had not in consequence taken possession of the city of Rome, while the Pope had fled to the North of Italy? It would seem as if the port-folio of the noble lord had a rent in it so large, that it let out many very important papers, which had passed between him and various individuals connected with the late negociations at Vienna. No person could read those papers without deeply considering them. He did not ask the noble lord to avow the document, but whether he disavowed it-because he did not expect that the noble lord would be so bold and decisive as openly to give an avowal-it was a letter addressed to lord Castlereagh by the plenipotentiaries of
* The following is a Copy of the Document here alluded to: Note from the Plenipotentiaries of his Majesty the King of Naples, to lord Castlereagh, dated Vienna, 11th February, 1815. "The undersigned Ministers, Plenipo
that individual whom the noble lord had called marshal Murat,' but whom he (Mr. Whitbread) would have thought the noble lord would have been the first to call 'king of Naples.' Upon the answer that might be given to several of these questions, would depend the propriety of going into a committee on the Property Tax, which could only be excusable in the event of war, into which, he feared, we were about to be plunged headlong: the issue of it, at all events, must be extremely doubtful; and (if the Treaty to which he had alluded, had in fact been executed) the object of it was unjustifiable on every ground of common sense, humanity, and national
Lord Castlereagh said, that the questions of the hon. gentleman had in view one of two objects-he wished either to learn whether the notice of his right hon. friend was one which the House ought to entertain; or he was desirous of calling on them to discuss subjects not then before them, and to give some opinion on various topics connected with the foreign relations of the country. With respect to the first object, it was a matter of discretion with the Ho whether the committee should go into an investigation of the necessity of resorting to the Property-tax, with reference to the general state of the country, and to the question of war or preparation for war. It was here to be considered, whether a case was to be laid before Parliament sufficient to justify the adoption of the measure which his right hon. friend intended to propose to them. Now, as to the first difficulty which the hon. gentleman appeared to feel, with reference to the conduct of his right hon. friend, it might very easily be removed. His right hon. friend, in stating the reasons which induced him to abandon the Property-tax, namely, that, in the then state of Europe, he did not think the country called for the continuance of that measure, although it would be necessary to devise some efficient taxes, did not go to the length the hon. gentleman had described. The hon. gentleman passed over this very rapidly. He argued, because his right hon. friend tentiaries of his Majesty the King of Naples, have had the honour of addressing to his excellency my lord viscount Castlereagh, principal Secretary of State of his Britannic Majesty, for Foreign Affairs, an official Note, dated the 29th of December last, soliciting the conclusion of the defi
had abandoned his new taxes, and, under, an alteration of circumstances, sought to raise a considerable sum within the year, which could now only be done by the measure about to be proposed, that, therefore, all the ordinary sources of taxation were destroyed. Was this, he would ask, logical reasoning? Was it the reasoning of a man of information? Or was it fit to be put forward in the present state of Europe? Such assertions were calculated to have an effect disadvantageous to the character and welfare of the country. Some time ago
nitive peace between the Crowns of Naples and Great Britain.
"His excellency my lord Castlereagh was so good as to assure the undersigned first plenipotentiary of his Neapolitan Majesty, that he would occupy himself with the object of that note. It has nevertheless remained to this day without any result.
the engagements which he contracted by his Treaty of Alliance of the 11th January, 1814, the undersigned having declared by the note which they have had the honour of addressing to his excellency my lord Castlereagh, under date of the 29th December last, that they were ready to concur in the arrangements which might be proposed for that effect.
Although the King cannot but be "Thus, under whatever point of view keenly affected by this silence, from the the Britannic Government wishes to view eagerness with which he is desirous of its position with regard to the King of entering into more intimate relations with Naples, it can only consider as just and England, he has too much dependence on reasonable the demand which the underthe sincerity and justice of the English signed are charged with reiterating to his Government, to allow him to doubt for a excellency, my lord Castlereagh, of promoment of its fidelity in fulfilling the en-ceeding to the prompt conclusion of a defigagements which it has contracted to- nitive Treaty of Peace between the two wards him. Crowns.
his right hon. friend declared it was his intention, in the then state of Europe, to give up the property tax; but he said he would resort to it in the event of war. In making this declaration, he did not preclude himself from looking to it as a grand resource, in that mixed state, where, if we were not absolutely at war, great preparations were evidently necessary. The hon. gentleman had inquired whether he was prepared to avow or disavow particular publications that had appeared in the daily prints. He should be perfectly
"It belonged next to the Powers, in whose hands were all the disposable countries conquered from the enemy, to find and to proportion the indemnity to be given to the King of Sicily.
"His Neapolitan Majesty could concur no otherwise in this than by his good offices, and he has fulfilled on this point (VOL. XXX.)
"No person can be better qualified than my lord Castlereagh to enlighten the English Government with respect to the affairs of Naples. Having concurred in the negociation which preceded and which followed the accession of his Neapolitan Majesty to the coalition, he was the organ of the engagements entered into by the English Government towards the Court of Naples, and his character for justice and probity is too well known to allow the undersigned to suppose that his political conduct will vary in any manner; and they are certain that he will support in London the engagements which he contracted in the name of his Government towards the King of Naples, as well as the promises and verbal declarations made by him during the last campaign of the coalesced armies, and principally at Chau mont and Dijon.
"The undersigned beseech his excellency my lord Castlereagh to accept the assurances of their very high conside
(Signed) "The Duke de CAMPOCHIARO "The Prince de CARIATI."
the inspection of instructions, Mr. Fox would have hesitated in moving for their production? Suppose it was the case of Genoa, the papers regarding which would be laid upon the table in consequence of a motion he (Mr. Ponsonby) had made upon the subject; would Mr. Fox have thought it improper to have demanded that Parliament should be made acquainted with all the circumstances, that it might be ascertained whether the envoy had not, in fact, been deceived by the Government at home? If such, as the noble lord had stated it, were in truth the sentiment of Mr. Fox, it ought not to be taken without some limitation. He (Mr. P.) thanked the noble lord for the negative information he had given to the House upon a matter of the highest moment; he was happy to infer from what had been said by the noble lord, that Government had not yet taken any warlike measure. What state secret would have been divulged if the noble lord had condescended in plain terms to aver that we were not yet in a state of actual hostility? What important state secret would have been divulged, if the noble lord had ventured to answer the question regarding an engagement in Italy? The noble lord had declined saying any thing also upon the document which had appeared in one of the public journals. He had not avowed it, nor had he disavowed it. What, then, was the fair and only inference? That the letter was genuine and undeniable.
prepared to answer this question, when the subject to which those documents referred was ready to be discussed. The hon. gentleman had triumphantly observed, that his (lord Castlereagh's) day of trial was near. He was not afraid to meet that day-he would not shrink from that trial-he would not fly from any charge the hon. gentleman might think proper to bring forward:-but he would not, from personal motives, when he was accused of having sacrificed the public interest, give up a sound parliamentary discretion; and because the hon. gentleman called for information on subjects not yet fit for discussion, let loose all the public documents which came under his cognizance, and disclose the instructions under which his Majesty's Government had acted. This was a principle never acted on by any person who could lay claim to the mind of a statesman. He was sure, Mr. Fox never called on his Majesty's servants to give up the instructions under which they acted. If any proceeding of ministers was culpable in itself, Parliament had a right to investigate it. But he could never consent to give up instructions, in which the various views of Government were disclosed, merely that the hon. gentleman might exercise his ingenaity on them, and pick a hole here and there in the proceedings; by marking what had failed, censuring what had been accomplished, and regretting that which was not, and perhaps could not be accomplished. Acting on these principles, he was not prepared to give the hon. gen. tleman the information he required. As soon as the Executive was ready to lay it before Parliament, in an intelligible shape, they would do so; but to answer questions, for the purpose of giving the hon. gentleman an opportunity of expressing doubts that might be detrimental to the interests of the country, would, he conceived, be a dereliction of his duty.
Mr. Ponsonby expressed his surprise at hearing the noble lord quote the authority of a distinguished individual whose memory was cherished, and whose opinions were venerated by many of the oldest members of the House. It might be true, that Mr. Fox would have objected to premature disclosures by the Executive Government; but did the noble lord mean to assert that where no injury to the public service was apparent, and where erroneous and derogatory opinions might be formed of the conduct of an individual, without
Lord Castlereagh did not mean to assert that in no case ought the instructions of Government to be produced to Parliament; what he had protested against was, the doctrine that they ought to be published whenever a member thought it necessary to call for them. Mr. Fox had contended for the general principle, that Government ought not without important reasons to be called upon to make disclosures that might be injurious to the public interest. His lordship was ready to allow that cases might arise where it appeared that ministers had acted criminally or improperly, when it would be fit that instructions should be laid before Parliament; but in this case the cause assigned was to be balanced against the positive inconvenience and impolicy.
Mr. Whitbread hoped, that the same latitude of explanation would he allowed to him that had been given to the noble lord. It was not correct to assert that he had drawn a desponding view of the finances
of the country; all he had said was, either that our resources were greatly diminished, or that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was an unskilful financier. Those who, with the noble lord, maintained that our means remained uuimpaired, must admit that in the hands of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer they did not bear a very promising appearance. The noble lord was mistaken if he supposed that he had been asked now to produce his instructions, or the authority under which he had acted at Vienna; a fit time for such an explanation would arrive hereafter, when the noble lord would have to justify his conduct in transporting the Executive Government from this country to Vienna. What he (Mr. W.) required was, that the House should know on what authority the duke of Wellington had signed the Declaration of the 13th of March? The question did not respect the noble lord, whose trial was not yet come; he had not yet had his day; that day which, however, the rest of his Majesty's ministers had promised on the return of the noble lord from Vienna; a day of exultation in his achievements and triumph over his enemies, when the noble lord was to enter the House crowned with splendour. Not with that personal splendour which he had received as a reward-but with the splendour arising from the dignified consciousness of being able to free himself from imputations cast upon him by public documents day after day appearing-chasing each other before the public, beginning with the Proclamation of Prince Repnin and terminating with the offspring of the last six hours, the letter of the duke of Campochiaro. When was this glorious day of triumph to arrive? How long would the noble lord defer bis honours on the plea of injury to the public service? When would he descend from his high station to give a plain and distinct statement to the House and to the Country? Why would not the noble lord avow the document alluded to, and state whether in truth there had been any engagement in Italy? What injury to the public service could arise from the information, whether the league of extermination against Buonaparté had been formed and signed? Would not explanations have come with a much better grace from him than from the documents, that one after another seemed to have been picked up on the road that his lordship had travelled, and which appeared most unac
countably to have made their escape through a hole in the noble lord's portmanteau. Appeals had been made from time to time to ministers to acknowledge some of those papers, in which the noble lord's hand was evident to every man who had had the pleasure of hearing him speak. They had refused to give any information, but the style spoke for itself; for, however people might dispute upon the meaning of what was written, or whether it had any meaning at all, no man would deny that the documents were the undoubted productions of the noble lord's luminous mind -The noble lord had mentioned the hallowed name of Fox. Would to God, said Mr. Whitbread, that Mr. Fox could have been present to have listened to the noble lord this night-to have heard that man who refused his advice and rejected his prophetic warnings, who scorned the wisdom which ever flowed from his lips when he spoke, now taking advantage of his judgment-as it were, quoting scripture to answer his purpose-and pretending to cite his authority, by throwing an aspersion on his memory. But neither Mr. Fox, nor any man, not even I myself, with all my
irrationality' (as the noble lord terms it,) would think of arguing, that all instructions were at all times to be disclosed. Sure I am of this, however, that by the side of Mr. Fox I have contended with him for the production of instructions when it was intended either to make them the foundation of an impeachment or a censure. The practice, doubtless, is now much improved, when the censure is universally pronounced by the nation, aud the documents afterwards laid before Parliament, to prove that it was just. Thus the noble lord misquotes and misapplies the authority he adduces; and if any thing possessed the power to call that great and lamented statesman from the grave, it would be to hear the noble lord, of all men in the world, citing his opinion, to screen himself from merited condemnation. If any thing could raise the angry spirit of Mr. Fox from the tomb, it would be the application of his name and authority, not to expose and punish misdeeds and mal-practices, but to shield the noble lord from the heavy censure of the House and of the country. The noble lord, in the perversion of his mind upon these subjects, may perhaps also persuade himself that in the negociations in which he has been recently engaged, he should have received even the approbation of