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should continue on the throne of France ? If this were the case, the time of its cessation would be very equivocal. We had been told that a great peace establishment was necessary, even at the time that the Bourbons were on the throne, to provide against any unforeseen breach of any part of the Treaty; but were we to be told, because Buonaparté had regained the throne of France, that the difference between the peace establishment now and in the time of the Bourbons was so great as to require the difference between that establishment as it now stood, and the amount of the Property tax? If this were the case, ministers must have a very high opinion of the situation of the country, to suppose it could bear such an expenditure. Unless it was made to appear that war was absolutely necessary, or that it must be looked for at no distant period, he could see no reason for the resumption of the tax. But for his own part he could not believe that war was necessary. It was of very little importance whether the people of France were quiescent or not; Buonaparte had re-seated himself on the throne; and if we were to go to war for the purpose of dethroning him, this was a purpose so totally hopeless, that unless the gentlemen opposite would convince him that such was their intention, he must dissent from the re-enactment of a tax which was not justified by any prospect now before the House or the country.
Mr. Calcraft observed, that the return of Buonaparté to France undoubtedly rendered it necessary to have the peace establishment of this country higher than when we were looking to an establishment of peace for a series of years. Even in that happy time, if it had occurred, he was of opinion that a modified Property-tax would have been better to meet the exigencies of the period than the taxes proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But yet, if it was now to be revived, he would endeavour to get many parts of it modified, as he had ever thought it in some points to be the most unjust, most cruel, and inquisitorial measure that ever was imposed on the greater portion of the people. He would cordially agree as to the necessity of putting the country into a state of the most effective defence; but every man must know that the sums that were necessary could not be produced except by the Property-tax. On voting, however, for the motion, he was not bound to support the measure as it now stood. (VOL. XXX. )
Mr. H. Martin said, the Property-tax had been found so universally oppressive, that there was not a person to be found out of that House who did not object to its revival; and the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was very little calculated to change their opinion. The right hon. gentleman had not dealt fairly by the House or the public, if when he asked for the votes of the army extraordinaries, he had it in contemplation to meet them with the Property-tax. If a strict and regular economy had been introduced into every branch of the public expenditure, this shocking scourge might have been avoided. He should not content himself with voting against the tax as it was now proposed; but in all its future stages he should deem it his duty to oppose it, and throw every possible impediment in its way.
Mr. Alderman C. Smith said, he considered the Property-tax, under certain modifications, the best that could be devised to provide for the exigencies of the country: and that while it would be much more productive, it would be less vexatious than the proposed addition to the assessed taxes. But under any other plan of taxation than that under discussion, it appeared to him impossible to make men contribute according to their means, to the wants of the state. He himself knew a fund-holder, whose stock was worth 300,000l. while his expense scarcely amounted to 100l. a year. How, then, was such a person, and numerous others under similar circumstances, to be reached by any tax upon consumption, or by any other than the Property-tax? He could venture to say that his view of the subject had now become so general out of doors, that nine persons out of ten were in favour of the Property-tax, especially in the city, where a considerable change of sentiment had taken place since a petition for the repeal of this tax was presented to that House.
Mr. Charles Grant, jun. thought it was evident that a great change had taken place in the public opinion respecting this tax. He had heard a great deal of protesting that night on the subject, and he would also enter his protest, which would be against the injustice of making a motion for referring the Property-tax to a committee of ways and means into the medium of a personal attack upon the noble lord. Was it decent to anticipate the day of his trial, as it was called, and (2 Y)
go on to his condemnation? They might at least have delayed their invectives till the day of trial. He would appeal to every man whether an emergency did not exist, which required an unusual expenditure, and that as far as possible this should be met by the supplies of the year? In spite of all that had been said against the tax, he would assert that it had been the most productive and the least objectionable of any that had ever been devised.
Mr. Marryat contended, that the tax would fall with unusual severity on the commercial members of the country. He strongly deprecated the conduct of the assessors, who had nothing else to do than to pry into every man's affairs to find where they could make surcharges. Hoping, however, that some modifications would be adopted, he should support the motion; but he also hoped that the public would not in future be left without some mode of appeal. He trusted that ministers would use every endeavour to preserve peace that was consistent with the honour and safety of the country, other wise they would take upon themselves a most awful responsibility. But while the question remained undecided, he would agree that the country ought to be put in the most complete state of defence; and on this ground he should vote for the motion.
property which was worth only three years purchase as upon one which was worth thirty years. The name, but not the nature of the tax had been changed since its origin; and until it was modified it could not possibly become either just or satisfactory.
Mr. Alderman Atkins said, that he should not oppose the renewal of this tax, if adequate measures were taken to provide against the vexation so justly com, plained of in the mode of collection.
Mr. Harvey thought, that if it was ne cessary to bring forward this tax again, the House, in its wisdom, should so modify it, as to render it quite different from what it was at present, By due alterations he had no doubt of its becoming the most agreeable as well as beneficial measure of taxation that had ever been proposed. It ought not to be tolerated that people with large estates that were to descend to their heirs, should pay no more than those whose income was derived from their talents and industry. The profits of trade and annuities ought not to be taxed in the manner they had been.
Mr. Western took the opportunity then offered of giving his most decided opposition to the Property-tax in any shape. He would at all times refuse his assent to a measure founded on such unjust principles. It was a tax that ought never to be resorted to again. If we took onetenth from the productiveness of the commercial, the manufacturing, and the agricultural interests, we took one-tenth from the general productiveness of the country itself. He should, therefore, oppose the motion.
Mr. Dickenson declared his conviction, that the condition of property in this country had undergone such a change, that the people had not now the same power to pay the Property-tax as they possessed some time since, and this clearly appeared from the evidence adduced before the Corn Committee. How, indeed, could the people be supposed so capable of paying taxes now that prices had fallen, as when those prices were high and the country generally prosperous? It must have been from this consideration that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had abandoned the proposition for laying additional taxes on windows and on wine, because, in fact, there was no surplus property to pay such taxes. Still the hon. member expressed his intention to vote for the motion; but he hoped the
Mr. W. Smith said, he fully agreed with that great majority of his constituents, who had instructed him to vote against this Property-tax, in whatever shape its renewal might be proposed. Under whatever modifications that were likely to be imposed, the Property-tax would be highly objectionable. Yet he was firmly of opinion, that such alterations might be adopted as would render it the most just and profitable of any that ever was suggested. A mode ought to be devised of levying it free from those inquisitions under which the public had so long laboured. But he had never heard that there existed in the minds of the gentlemen who had proposed the tax, the smallest idea of adopting such modifications; because they said, that they would militate against its productiveness. The present mode of collecting it, however, was not only inquisitorial but unconstitutional. All classes of property ought not to be equally pressed upon, as was now This, which was called a property tax, was in fact, no property tax, because it fell with equal weight upon a
which he had not received a shilling of rent for the last two years, in consequence of the distress of the farmers, and therefore that gentleman was obliged to subsist upon his property in the funds. He had no doubt that several similar cases were to be found; but the fact was, that property in general was in such a state that no one could calculate upon the value of it from one month to another.
Chancellor of the Exchequer would introduce some new distinction into his proposed measure for settling the criteria of property. Rent was not, in fact, under existing circumstances, to be fairly deemed a criterion of property to regulate the levy of this tax. For he knew a gentleman who had 6,000 acres of land, fromnally operated upon the price of Stockthe 3 per cents. which were in 1793 so low as 45, being soon raised to 65: and if the funds had been allowed to fallwhich without this tax they must have done-what would have been the fate of every description of property in the country? Besides, what an accumulation of public debt did the produce of the Property-tax guard against!
Mr. Brand thought any discussion of the merits of the Property-tax as premature at present as the proposition itself. This proposition he considered as premature because no necessity was made out for the re-enactment of such an inquisitorial measure. Such necessity, then, not appearing, and in the absence of every information, there was nothing to satisfy the House that the present exigency of affairs might not be temporary and therefore he could not at once vote for the imposition of a tax upon the country to meet such an exigency; he should rather have the necessities of the occasion provided for by a Vote of Credit. At present it was problematical whether we should engage in war or remain at peace, and until that problem was solved he could not accede to this tax; which, however, he was ready to acknowledge, was the best system of taxation (under certain modifications) that could be devised for a state of war, if war should be unavoidable. But until matters should be more matured than they were at present-until ministers should be able to lay some information before the House, to show that necessity called for such an extraordinary supply; and that we must engage in war for the maintenance of our honour, or for the attainment of a secure peace, he could not consistently vote for this motion; and therefore he should propose an amendment, viz. "That this debate be adjourned till this day fortnight, the 3rd of May next."
duced a great change in the public mind upon this subject; the value of the Property-tax was now felt as it ought by the country, and this must naturally be the case when the good effects of that tax were taken into consideration. For it must be remembered how that tax origi
Mr. Rose agreed, that in voting for the late Address to the Prince Regent, the House was not pledged to this or to any specific measure of finance; but this appeared to him, as he had uniformly said, the best tax that could be devised-better by far than any tax upon consumption; for the public always paid more to the latter, and the Treasury received less; while all the produce of the former came into the Treasury. As to the capacity of the people to pay the tax, he declared his surprise at the statement of the hon. gentleman who spoke last upon the subject of property; and the House must participate in that surprise, when it was recollected, that all the surveyors examined before the Corn Committee unanimously stated, that the value of property had doubled within the last twenty years, sixteen years of which the Property-tax had been enacted. But the obligations conferred upon the country by this tax were most important: and he was persuaded, that had the nature of this tax been explained to the people at their meetings some time ago, they would have come to a very different resolution than to petition for its repeal, especially if it had been impressed upon their minds, that the repeal of that tax must be followed by the imposition of other taxes perhaps more grievous, while certainly not by any means so productive; for instance, the additional assessed taxes would be much more vexatious to nine out of ten than the Property-tax, while many who paid from 500l. to 1,000l. a year to the latter, were, to his own knowledge, already contriving to escape from the former. He lamented that this explanation had not been offered in due time; but reflexion had notoriously pro
Mr. T. Foley seconded this proposition, and strongly contended, that without any information to show the necessity of the case, the House should not consent to impose a tax of 13 or 14 millions a year upon this already overburthened country.
Mr. Whitbread observed, that although the value of property had advanced within twenty years, as stated by the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Rose), that value had notoriously fallen of late years, and that fall had been assigned as a main argument for the Corn Bill. Therefore the condition of property had been truly described by the hon. member for Somersetshire. It had been stated, that war might not take place; but if it even should not, he had no doubt that his tax once imposed, would be saddled upon the country for ever-[No, no! from the Ministerial side]. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, had said, that he should find it difficult, if not impossible, to propose a less exceptionable tax; but this was telling people, that if they desired the removal of a blister, they should have a caustic; and if the right hon. gentleman could so succeed in reconciling the public to the Property-tax, he would evince a degree of cunning from which he might flatter himself with being placed by posterity upon the same shelf with the noble lord near him. The hon. member contended that there was no necessity for war; that, on the contrary, we might remain at peace, and should soon, at least in two or three years, see that the country could preserve peace without an expensive armament to defend it; for he ridiculed the disgraceful alarm which appeared to be excited in ministers and their allies by the intellect of one man. The Incometax, he said, would produce 14 millions at the utmost; and in the first instance, according to the Treaty of Chaumont, we were to pay five millions to the Allies for one year's subsidy; and it was even rumoured that we were to give nine millions to the coalesced Powers, to stimulate
their nerves to that degree of energy which should impel them to go to war. It was clear that the whole depended on this country; and he firmly believed, that if ministers could stimulate the Continent to war against France they would do it. He denied that the Property-tax could be modified so as to be rendered palatable, and condemned the severity with which it had hitherto been enforced.
Lord Castlereagh, rose and replied to Mr. Whitbread in a tone of considerable animation. He observed that the hon. member had found it more convenient to discuss the question on an assumption of his own, than upon any rational foundation. If, instead of opposing the Speaker's leaving the Chair, he had permitted him to leave it, he would have found that his right hon. friend, instead of intending to propose the renewal of the Property-tax in perpetuity, whether in the alternative of war or peace, would only have proposed it for one year. If we were to make preparations of defence, he trusted that there was no gentleman in the House who would not feel that it was necessary to show to Europe, that Parliament was ready to arm the Executive Government with all requisite power. If they felt that we could live on such terms with the person at the head of the French Government as should not place us within the reach of the strong arm which he possessed, then it might be said that our preparations were superfluous; but if they were of a contrary opinion, then they would use their own discretion in enabling the Executive to provide proper means of security. Alluding to certain pointed sarcasms of the hon. gentleman, which he had thrown out in the course of the evening, the noble lord observed, that if he was only to be taunted by the hon. member respecting information, he trusted the House would feel that he should best consult their and his own dignity by remaining silent, and not suffering himself to be provoked. In spite of all the taunts and prophecies of the hon. gentleman, ministers had carried the country triumphantly through a war, of which the hon. member had professed his despair of ever being brought to a successful issue, and had even feared lest the liberties of this country might be laid at the feet of the great man' who ruled the destinies of the Continent. It was a proud thing to say, while the people of England were making such vast sacrifices, that the result of the
Income-tax had been to double the value of the whole property of the country; and if there had been a temporary reduction of late in the value of this property, let not the hon. member endeavour to make an impression on the country that its value would not augment, if the presiding wisdom and firmness of Parliament was only exercised as it hitherto had been, and if the House was but true to itself. Let them only pursue the same course which had already produced such glorious results, and he would venture to predict that they would soon have to congratulate themselves on successes, as great as those which had so lately crowned their firm ness and perseverance.
Mr. Whitbread denied that he had ever called Buonaparté a great man in the sense conveyed by the noble lord; but if a man were to shine by comparison[cries of Spoke! spoke!]
cause the Bourbons happened to be restored to the throne of France, and were nearly connected, by ties of blood, with Ferdinand IV. who sat on the throne of Sicily. If, too, the king of Naples had really commenced hostilities, what could be more natural than for him to do so, at the moment when the Allies had refused to secure to him his throne, which he thought he had purchased with his services? He was driven into an alliance with Buonaparté, because the proceedings of Congress showed that no reliance could be placed upon it; whereas, if the agreements entered into with him had been fairly and honourably performed, he could have had no temptation for such a step. Whether, however, the facts were as he had them or not, he could not say [Hear, hear! from lord Castlereagh]; but he believed they were; because if not, the noble lord could have had no difficulty in denying the documents upon which he (Mr. Ponsonby) had argued as authentic; and if they were true, so far as they related to Saxony and Naples, (they knew what the noble lord's conduct had been towards Genoa) he was fully justified in saying that the noble lord and the Con gress at Vienna had re-placed Buonaparté on his throne. With regard to the Property-tax he had given his reasons for voting against it, nor did he believe that he could ever be brought to view that tax in such a light as to induce him to support it.
Mr. Ponsonby expressed his conviction that if the Property-tax was revived, there would be few persons in that House or out of it, who would live to see it taken off. It would be a part of the peace system, the same as the Bank Restriction Act had become, and which was likely to continue for some generations. He would defy any man to propose such modifications in the Property-tax as could make it acceptable. It never could be collected without giving persons powers that were incompatible with a free constitution. It was an encouragement and provocative to war; and it would not produce a sum any thing The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, he equal to what the House would soon be should not follow the right hon. gentleman called upon to vote. Would not the mi-in the various topics upon which he had nister have to call on Parliament for a touched, but confine himself merely to the large loan? Then why not take, for any question then before the House; and in temporary emergency, a portion of that order to show the right hon. gentleman loan, and wait till events were known that that his fears of the Property-tax being would prove whether the Property-tax was imposed for ever, if it should be now necessary or not? He thought the noble agreed to, were groundless, he would read lord had complained of what had been one sentence from the motion, which he said in the present and former debates intended to submit to the committee. without reason. For himself, he would [This sentence was, that the several duties not wait for that day when the noble lord on the profits of all property, professions, should think proper to afford his own jus- trades, and offices, be revived and granted tification. The right hon. gentleman then for the term of one year, to commence animadverted upon the documents which from the 5th of April 1815.] As to the lately appeared in the Morning Chronicle, insinuation that ministers would never with respect to the proceedings of Con- want a pretext for continuing the tax, gress. If those letters were to be consi-unless the right hon. gentleman could dered as authentic instruments, he should point out in the history of this country, have no hesitation in saying of the one circumstances that were analogous to those from Prince Talleyrand, that it was a Je- which now existed, he did not think he suitical contrivance to get rid of engage- was justified in that assertion. The House ments which had been entered into, be- and the country, however, were in a