Page images

its inquisitorial operation being equally vexatious whatever sums are levied, the facility of increasing its amount, according to the real or supposed exigencies of the public service, offers a constant temptation to extravagance on the part of the Government; removing the most effectual check upon improvident expenditure, and dispensing with the necessity of seeking a revenue in retrench


"3. That although the actual deficiency in the revenue to meet the expenditure, amounting to about seven millions and a half in five years, and the estimated deficiency for the next year, amounting to above two millions and a half, besides probable demands arising from the state of affairs in the East, may render the temporary recourse to an Income-tax necessary, after an attempt to increase by one-twentieth the duties of Excise and Customs had ended in obtaining a two-hundredth part only, thereby proving the impossibility of drawing any further revenue from increased taxes on consumption, while the relief which may justly be expected to commerce and to finance from lowering those taxes cannot be made immediately available,-yet it behoves the Parliament, as faithful guardians of the people's rights and interests, to take care that during the temporary existence of this tax, its pressure shall be distributed in such a manner as shall make it most easily, most patiently be borne.

"4. That, with this view, it is first of all necessary to satisfy the people that there shall be no invidious exemptions, but that the highest personages in the State shall be permitted to have their

due share of a burthen which abso lute necessity alone could warrant the Parliament to impose.

"5. That with the same view, it is expedient to make a distinction between income arising from capital of every description, and income arising from labour merely; levying a smaller proportion of the latter income than the former.

"6. That with the same view, it is expedient to make a distinction between income possessed by persons who have only an interest in the same for their lives, or for some lesser term, and income possessed by persons who have an interest in the capital from whence the income arises; levying a larger proportion of the latter income than of the former.

"7. That with the same view, it is expedient to make no distinction in favour of persons in the civil service of the State, or of persons receiving pensions from the State.

"8. That it is neither consistent with justice nor with sound policy, to levy a greater proportion of tax upon larger incomes than upon smaller; and that an exemption of even the smallest incomes from the operation of the tax can only be justified upon the supposition that their owners are wholly unable to pay it.

[ocr errors]

9. That while it is the duty of the people to bear those burhens which are necessary for supporting the credit of the country, and maintaining the security of its widely-extended dominions, it is equally the duty of Parliament to afford them every procurable relief, by enforcing the most rigorous economy in all the departments of public service, by discouraging all proceedings which may endanger

the continuance of peace, and by adopting whatever measures may best conduce to the improvement of our commercial resources; and that it is in an especial manner incumbent without any delay to remove any income-tax, whatever be imposed, as soon as it shall appear that the ordinary branches of the revenue have recovered from their temporary depression."

The Earl of Ripon, speaking in a merely financial point of view, thought that Lord Brougham's success in opposing the continuance of the Income-tax in 1816, might have increased the subsequent financial difficulties of the country; though he agreed that such a

[ocr errors]

splendid resource" should be reserved for times of immediate necessity. Admitting many obvious truths in the resolutions and the mover's speech, Lord Ripon thought it would be very inconvenient to prejudge the mode in which a bill to come from the other House should be framed; for it might reduce them to the ridiculous alternative of relinquishing their re corded opinion, or of rejecting the bill. He contended that Lord Brougham's precedents did not justify his present course; but refrained from entering upon the topics of his speech. He moved "the previous question," which was carried, with only a few dis

sentient voices.

A few nights afterwards in the House of Commons, Sir Robert Peel entered into an explanation of the details of the measures previously announced, especially with respect to the machinery by which the Income-tax was to be collected. The debate was commenced by Mr. T. Baring, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the mo

tion to go into Committee of Ways and Means.


Mr. Baring began by finding fault with Sir Robert Peel's calculations. He did not consider him warranted in supposing that the falling-off in the revenue was likely to be permanent. He entered into some arithmetical statements on the subject of the deficiency, and contended that it was owing to casualties, such as the Canadian insurrection, and other extraordinary and unforeseen events, for which the late Government ought not to be deemed responsible. He held it a mistake to suppose that taxation upon consumable articles had reached its limits. He entered into some defence of the financial measures proposed by himself and his colleagues the year before. sources to which he had then looked were not exhausted now; and it was therefore unallowable as yet to resort to that extreme tax which this Government was seeking to levy. The new plan was to raise 4,300,000l.; of which only 3,000,000l. was required to meet deficiencies, the remainder being intended to effect alterations in the Tariff, and afford a surplus for other objects. He objected to the protection accorded to imports from the colonies; and, especially, to a differential duty of 100 per cent. on colonial asses and colonial eau de Cologne. Had taxes of any other kind been proposed, those Members who had belonged to the late Government would, indeed, have taken the choice of the House as between the late plan and the present; but, if beaten on that comparative question, they would not further have opposed the taxes of the Government. But this was a tax they must oppose.

country; and only last year it had been forbidden. The supply of Britain depended on the tranquil lity of the countries lying on the banks of two or three streams that run into the Baltic. It remained to be proved that the Corn-laws produced drains of gold from the Bank in payment for sudden imports of grain. Those inconveniences were produced by other circumstances. Certainly, if large sums were required to be sent abroad at once for the payment of corn, the deficiency of bullion must be aggravated; but he believed it was found that corn, `under ordinary circumstances, was constantly in the course of being imported, and that a demand for the introduction of a supply into the home market, arising from any failure in the harvest, did not require the transmission abroad of large sums of specie. Corn was brought into the market only by opening the doors of the public storehouses, and it was paid for by the money circulating in the interior of the country. It was true that the replacement of the corn so consumed would require the transmission of large sums; but that was done by degrees.

Lord Lansdowne followed up Lord Melbourne's arguments, and ridiculed the successive attempts to amend the Corn-laws six times within a few years, and each time with confidence as to its being a final settlement; yet foreign corn was not excluded, and no remunerating price" was secured.


Lord Fitzgerald followed, combating the doctrine of the mutual dependance of foreign countries; pointing to Russia, who sends us

large exports and refuses to import our products in return; and then he enlarged on the advantages of the sliding-scale.

On a division, Lord Melbourne's motion was negatived by 117 to 49: majority, 68.

Lord Brougham then moved these resolutions :-

"1. That no duty ought to be imposed upon the importation of foreign corn, for the purpose of protecting the agriculturist, by taxing the introduction of food.

"2. That no duty ought to be imposed upon the importation of foreign corn, for the purpose of regulating trade, by taxing the introduction of food.

"3. That no duty ought to be imposed upon the importation of foreign corn, for the purpose of raising the revenue, by taxing the introduction of food."

The resolutions were rejected by 87 to 6.

Upon the House going into Committee, Earl Stanhope moved the omission of clauses 12 and 13, which related to the appointment of inspectors in the City of London; objecting to exclude London from the list of towns returning averages. The clauses, however, were affirmed without a division.

Lord Beaumont moved to omit clause 17, under which dealers in corn were to make returns to the inspectors; proposing that the return should be made by the growers, and not by the dealers.

The original clause was affirmed; other amendments moved by Earl Stanhope, Lord Beaumont, and Lord Mountcashel, were rejected in a manner equally unequivocal, and so the bill passed.


Financial Measures--Embarrassing Circumstances of the Country-Sir Robert Peel's bold and comprehensive Plans of Reform-His Speech on introducing his Budget-Its Reception by the House Remarks of Lord John Russell-In the House of Lords Lord Brougham moves a String of Resolutions respecting the Income-taxThe Earl of Ripon moves the previous question, which is carriedDebate in the House of Commons on Finance-Speeches of Mr. F. T. Baring, Mr. Goulburn, Lord Howick, and Lord John RussellSir Robert Peel vindicates his Measures, and explains the Machinery of the Income Tax Bill-Reception of the Measure by the Opposition in the House of Commons-Notice given by Lord John RussellFirst Debate on the Subject-Objections against the Tax urged by different Members-Some of the Liberal Party support it-Speeches of Mr. Smith O'Brien and Mr. Roebuck-Sir Robert Peel defends his Measures against the Objections urged-Speech of Lord John Russell-Attempt to postpone the Decision of the House by Motions of Adjournment-They are negatived, but, ultimately, it is deferred till after the Easter Recess-The Subject resumed-State of Public Feeling respecting it- Mr. Blewitt moves an Amendment on Sir Robert Peel's Resolution, but afterwards withdraws it-The First Resolution carried without a Division-Debate on the Second Resolution-The Second and Third Resolutions carried-Lord John Russell moves an Amendment condemnatory of the proposed TaxSpeeches of Mr. Goulburn, Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Macaulay, Lord Stanley, Mr. Labouchere, Sir R. H. Inglis, Viscount Sandon, Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Hawes, Sir James Graham, Mr. F. Baring, Mr. Ferrand, and other Members-The Debate continued for Four Nights, after which the Amendment is rejected by 308 to 202-On the First Reading, Lord John Russell moves the Rejection of the Bill-Speeches of Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Raikes Currie, and Mr. Roebuck-The Amendment is negatived on a Division by 286 to 188-Progress of the Bill in Committee-Amendment of Mr. Ricardo for exempting Terminable Annuities is rejected-Discussion on Schedule D-Mr. Roebuck moves an Amendment to reduce the Amount payable on Profits of Trades and Professions-It is opposed by the Government, and rejected Rapid Progress of the Committee with the Clauses of the Bill-Mr. F. Baring's Proposal to exempt Foreign Fundholders, and various other Amendments, are defeated by large Majorities, and the Bill passes through Committee

[ocr errors]

-On the Third Reading Mr. S. Crawford moves an Amendment which is negatived-Mr. Hume, and Mr. F. Baring oppose the Measure-Speech of Mr. Goulburn-The Third Reading is carried by 199 to 69.

[ocr errors]


HE difficulties which Sir Robert Peel had to encounter in framing a measure of finance, adapted to the exigencies of the country, were of a more than usually formidable nature. had not, like many other financiers, as Mr. Goulburn in 1830, or Lord Althorp on more than one occasion, a considerable surplus revenue at his disposal. Sir Robert Peel was embarrassed by a certain deficiency for the ensuing year of 2,570,000l., with contingencies in China and India of uncertain amount. And even this deficiency was not the mere temporary result of a sudden pressure, but a decline in the receipts of some years standing, in despite of an increase both of duties and of population. Under these circumstances, it was obvious that mere temporary expedients, and such petty devices of financial dexterity as had served the turn of Chancellors of the Exchequer in easier times, would now but aggravate the evil. The present juncture demanded a remedial measure of a bold, comprehensive, and substantial character, going to the root of the mischief, and applied rather to the basis than the details of our financial economy. In this respect, the measure produced by Sir Robert Peel and his colleagues showed no disproportion to the emergency. On the contrary, the breadth and boldness of the scheme took the House of Commons, and the country by surprise. Whatever other objections might be alleged against it, and many were urged from various quarters, it was safe, at least, against those of

feebleness and inadequacy to the occasion. The reasons and policy on which this great fiscal reformation was founded, the principles on which it was framed, and the calculations on which its details were adjusted, were set forth in a speech which, for luminous statement and thorough mastery of the complicated subjects involved in it, has seldom been surpassed in Parliament. Though the great importance and ability of this oration well entitle it to be perpetuated in its entire shape, the limits of this work render it necessary to confine ourselves to such a condensed summary of its principal features as can be presented within a narrow compass. On the 11th of March, pursuant to previous notice, the long-expected development of the Ministerial plans was made in a Committee of Ways and Means, before a full and anxiously attentive House. Sir Robert Peel commenced with a short preliminary appeal to his audience for a patient and impartial hearing of the whole measure that he was about to propose, avowing at once his own unfailing confidence and composure of mind in proceeding with a full consciousness of the integrity of his motives to the discharge of a great public duty, and his conviction that a full and unreserved disclosure of all the difficulties in which the nation was placed, and a manful resolution to look all its embarrassments boldly in the face, was the course which wisdom and duty alike dictated, and the first step towards improvement and recovery. He then at once pro

« PreviousContinue »