§ Mr. Shaw
, of Dublin, rose and said:—Sir, when I 127 had last year the honour of making the motion which I am now about to submit to the House, that the petition presented by me to this House, from the householders of the city of Dublin, for the repeal of the window tax, together with the other petitions from Ireland on the same subject, be referred to a committee, I stated that I had never known a question excite greater interest among the citizens of Dublin, or respecting which there was less diversity of opinion. If I was right in that opinion then, I cannot be in error now, when I assure the House, that that interest has, if possible, increased, and that the unanimous conviction of my constituents at present is, that upon every principle of sound policy and good faith, the people of Ireland have a right to claim a total repeal of the window tax. I mention this, not in order to interfere with the full discussion of this question, for discussion and inquiry is what we call for, but to submit to the House, whether any subject upon which the second city in the empire has taken such an active part, and pronounced so decisive an opinion, is not well entitled to a calm and serious investigation in parliament. This, Sir, is all I now ask, and which, I am sure, the candour and good sense of this House will not refuse to concede to me. When I say that a cool and temperate inquiry is all I now ask, I must at the same time confess, that I say so in the consciousness that if the House will but give the subject their fair and full attention, I have little doubt that the result will be favourable to the wishes of the petitioners. I have certainly every reason to be grateful to the House for their indulgence on a former occasion, but I hope I may add, without presumption, my sincere wishes that, in debating this question, Ireland will not now, as on the last occasion, be upbraided with not having supported her share of the public burthens—that she will not now be taunted for not having done that which it it has been long since ascertained it was impossible for her to have done; at the same time I would respectfully suggest, that it by no means follows that because Ireland may (no matter from what causes) have been deficient in her contribution to the public exigencies, a tax so unequal in its pressure, and so injurious in its consequences to the health of the community, should be obstinately persevered in. Were I to admit, therefore, what I certainly am very far from admit- 128 ting, that Ireland had not since the union done all that could be reasonably expected of her, still this would be no argument for the tax. If the tax itself be oppressive and unequal, or if for any other reasons it be a tax that ought to be repealed, the supposed deficiency on the part of Ireland can be no argument in favour of the continuance of it. If the tax be in itself radically objectionable, this House will do its duty and abolish it; and if the abolition create a serious deficiency in the public revenue, it will be then the duty of the chancellor of the exchequer to suggest the best means of supplying that deficiency. As I am anxious that this question should be met in the most direct manner, I shall not recapitulate the arguments which I used on introducing it to their notice. I shall, however, remind the House of one or two of the leading objections to the principles of the motion. One objection was, that the repeal of this tax would be breaking faith with the public creditor, as having a tendency to lessen the security on the strength of which he lent his money: this argument would prove too much, because in that case no tax ought ever to be repealed, and every tax, when once imposed, ought to be perpetual; the consequence of which would be, that if any one parliament could be found sufficiently complying to vote indefinite taxation, it would be unnecessary to call another. Besides, the right hon. gentleman gave up this principle when he consented to the reduction of 25 per cent. But, to give the objection all its force, I would put it to the candour of the right hon. gentleman, whether he had any apprehensions that the abolition of the Irish window tax would shake the confidence of the public credit. It is quite ludicrous to suppose that the loss of a tax, now amounting only to 200,000l. and every year falling off, will injure the security of the national debt. But if gentlemen are so anxious to keep faith with the public creditor, I trust they will be at least as anxious that government should keep faith with the Irish people.—And this brings me to another objection, which, I think, is equally untenable—namely, this is not a war tax; or, at least, that parliamentary faith has not been pledged that it should cease with the war.—As to whether the act of the 29th of the king was or was not a war tax, the simplest mode of deciding that question would be by reference to the act itself. By the 4th chap. 129 of the 40th of the king, it is expressly stated, that the tax on windows was granted for the sole purpose of keeping up an effective force, little short of 50,000 men; Did not that mean that it was a tax for maintaining a war establishment; and if so, could it be any thing else than a war tax? But it is not only stated to be a tax for raising an effective force, but, in a subsequent statute, in 1800, certain regulations were introduced respecting this tax, which regulations were to be in force for three years, provided the war should so long continue. Did not this convey an understanding, that the tax was not to continue beyond the war? But it has been gravely said, that this clause respecting the three years referred to the regulations only, and not to the tax itself. Is it possible that the legislature could have contemplated the possibility of the tax surviving the regulations by which that tax was to be rated and controlled, that is to say, that parliament could have said, "Let the tax be perpetual, but be it enacted, that all the regulations for rating and levying the tax shall not continue in force longer than three years?" I put it to the candour and good sense of the House, whether it was possible for the Irish parliament to have any such double meaning. What they said of the mode of rating the tax, they must have meant of the tax itself. The parliament expressly said, that the rating should continue during the war only, and therefore they evidently meant that the tax should not continue for a longer period. I trust that this quibble will not now be seriously resorted to as a grave argument to justify an alleged breach of faith. Give me leave to say, that it is not seemly in the government to special plead with the people upon a charge that the faith of parliament was pledged to them, and that it has not been kept sacred. I would even go farther and say, that although the precise terms of the contract, or the exact circumstances of the case, did not strictly and formally pledge the faith of parliament, yet if, from the spirit of the acts themselves, and the language and conduct of the government at the time of passing them, the people acted upon an implied understanding of such a pledge, and cheerfully discharged their part of the covenant by paying the tax during the war, the government and the parliament were bound on the return of peace to remit that tax. Now, be the causes what they may, it is indisputable 130 that at the time of introducing this tax, and from that time down to the present day, there has been one uniform impression, that the window tax was a war tax, and that the faith of the Irish parliament was pledged that such tax should not continue in force longer than the war. Now, Sir, I submit, that an impression so strong and general is in itself evidence of the truth of that impression; but admitting for a moment that it was not warranted to the extent in which it has been entertained, yet, is a feeling of this kind on the part of the people to be answered by quibbling on the words of an act of parliament? Is that the way in which the legislature ought to justify themselves against the imputation of a breach of faith? In my humble opinion, ten times the amount of this tax would be but a poor price for the forfeiture of that confidence which the best interests of the empire require should ever exist between this House and the Irish people. But, Sir, who was the person with whom this tax originated? The then Irish chancellor of the exchequer, the late Mr. Corry—the representative, and, in this instance, the deputed organ of the Irish government. What was his language on that occasion? When last this question was before the House, I cited a most material extract from the speech of Mr. Corry, in proposing this tax to the Irish House of Commons. I read that extract from the most authentic report I could find; and with the leave of the House I will read it again; it is as follows:—"Mr. Corry stated, that when the window tax was first proposed, it was on the footing of a mere war tax to meet the exigencies of the moment, and that in order to render it efficient, it became necessary to give it a retrospective operation: he had already, every time that the subject had been brought before the House, advanced that the tax was not intended to be permanent, but as a mere war provision. On the footing, then, that it was merely a war tax, he hoped to do away every objection to the bill." The authenticity of this debate, as given in the Dublin Journal of the 26th June, 1800, a paper strongly in the interests of the then government, has never been questioned. If, then, this language was used by the accredited organ of the Irish government, in order to induce the Irish parliament to vote that tax, there should be an end to the question. Either the government and the 131 Irish parliament were then pledged, or, if they were not, the people were deceived. If the pledge was bona fide made, this House should redeem it; if it was delusively made, far be it from this House to countenance any such deception! If, then, I am right in what I have contended for, this tax ought to be abolished, upon the great principle of good faith, though it were in every other point of view unobjectionable. But is this tax in every other point of view unobjectionable? Is it not, comparatively speaking, unproductive? Is it not universally looked upon by the Irish people as a most obnoxious, unequable, and severe tax? And is not that another argument for inquiry? I may be told, perhaps, that no tax. is popular. Why, Sir, no man wishes to be in debt, but every honest man will be as anxious to pay his just debts as he will be discontented in suffering under what he may think an extortion. I am far from insinuating that this tax, until repealed, cannot be as justly levied on the king's subjects in Ireland as any other; but surely it is a serious question for this House, whether they will persevere in making the law instrumental in levying any tax in violation of the public faith.—I said that this tax was odious in Ireland. Will gentlemen wonder that it is so when they learn in what manner the law allows it to be levied upon every house in Ireland-subject to the tax? The words of the act are, that the collectors can demand an entrance into every room in every house in Ireland, from day-light until sunset, and insist upon admission, under a penalty of 20l. I leave it to the House to reflect to what gross abuses an inquisitorial power of this kind might eventually lead. Is not this one provision in itself sufficient to make the tax odious to a people jealous of their liberties? But, Is there no other reason why this tax should be odious to the Irish people? Sir, it is a fact ascertained beyond a doubt, that the health of the poorer classes has materially suffered in consequence of this tax. When this question was last before the House, some gentlemen argued, that as houses with windows less than a certain: number were free from the tax, and as the poorer orders universally occupied such houses, and they were most subject to the fever, the tax could not have at all contributed to the fever. But, Sir, the fact unfortunately is, that that part of Dublin which is known by 132 the name of the liberty, contains a vast number of large houses, all of which must have been originally liable to the tax, and are exclusively occupied by the roost miserable poor in the empire; and so strongly was this felt, to be in imminent danger by the government of that country, that orders were given in all cases where the terror of contagion had. forced the wretched inhabitants to restore the windows, and admit the light and air, the tax so incurred should be remitted. It was objected by my right hon. friend, who was then secretary for. Ireland, that so few had availed themselves of this indulgence, that that circumstance was conclusive evidence, that the tax could not have been the general cause of the contagion. Why, Sir, in the first place, I greatly fear, that the poorer classes had not that confidence in the government in this particular, which I acknowledge they ought to have had, the continuance of the window tax being considered as a breach of faith, the people are too apt to look upon every measure respecting it in the same point of view. They might have suspected that this very indulgence, so sincerely meant, was nothing more than a trick, affecting to give them temporary relief, but in reality imposing on them permanent taxation; and that this artifice had been resorted to for the purpose of counteracting their own miserable evasions. Such distrust on the part of the people is always to be deplored, and parliament can never be too cautious in preserving the public faith inviolable. But, Sir, there were other difficulties in the way besides mere distrust, for when once fever attacks these miserable habitations, the inhabitants are in general so poor, that, far from being able to go to the expense of opening a window, they can scarcely procure sufficient nourishment to sustain existence. Dr. Parker, in his report on the Epidemic Fever for last year, has the following passage:—"I have observed the back windows of houses where fever prevailed, closed up, to avoid the window tax, as I was informed by the inhabitants. In vain was it represented that they would be indulged with exemption from the tax on making application to the commissioners of the revenue; it was evident, they alleged, they could not afford the expense of a new window sash." Upon every principle, then, of good faith and sound policy, I once more submit this question 133 to the candid consideration of the House. The impression throughout Ireland is, that if she had now a resident legislature, this tax would have been long ago repealed. They ask you to remit a war tax, which they believed you are pledged to remit to them; they know this tax to be dangerous in its consequences to the public health; they have found it to be most severe and unequable in its pressure; and they feel it for every reason to be odious, It appears by the returns which I hold in my hand, that the notices' served on the collectors for closing up windows for the three years, ending 5th Jan. next, amount to 32,424, and that the tax is regularly falling off every year. The net amount of the window tax, in Ireland, for the years ending 5th Jan. 1816, was 381,539l. 7s. 6d.; for 1817, 344,770l. 9s. 8d. a falling off of 36,768l. 17s. 10d. for 1818, 301,557l. 2s. 8d., a falling off of 43,21 3l. 6s. 7d.; and for the year ending 5th Jan. 1819, only 223,636l. 6s. 9d., a falling off of 77,920l. 15s. 11d. Will you, then, refuse to repeal this tax, at present producing so small a sum; after you have remitted fourteen millions of taxes to the people of England? For all these reasons, I entreat the House to pause before they turn the people of Ireland from their bar, while they are humbly and respectfully praying to be relieved from this most unproductive, odious, and oppressive tax. I now move, "That a select committee be appointed to consider the expediency of repealing the 26th of the king, as far as respects the Tax upon Windows in Ireland.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that if the ground for repealing this tax was so clear, and its necessity so urgent, as was stated by the hon. member, there could be no necessity for a committee upon it; the best way would have been to bring in a bill at once to that effect. When this subject was before the House last year, he thought he-had gone far enough to prevent the necessity of the present motion. A considerable reduction was then made in this tax; not from a feeling that its continuance was a breach of faith to Ireland; but because the situation of that country was such as to make it necessary. He was fully aware, that the good faith of government ought to be tenaciously preserved, and that the amount of the tax in question ought not to be put in competition with it.—But he was happy to find, that the entry of this 134 tax on the Statute Books was so clear, as to prevent the possibility of its continuance being so considered. He admitted it was a war tax; bat then it had been pledged to the public creditor, and therefore it was to be continued until some other security to that creditor was provided. When the Income tax was imposed in this country during the war, it was merely a war tax: but when it was given as a security for the advances made to the public, it was necessarily continued until the public creditor was otherwise satisfied. If any less objectionable mode of raising an equal sum could be devised, he could have no objection to adopting it; otherwsie the present tax must be continued. The amount of the debt of Ireland to England was at present 104,000,000l.; and if England was not charged with four millions and a half annually on this debt, Ireland would be involved to the whole amount of her revenue. He begged to remind the hon. member, that England had not been relieved from any tax which had not been also taken off in Ireland. It was true, the property tax had been taken off in this country, but then that tax had never been levied in Ireland; if it had, it would have been taken off also. Ireland had not been called upon to defray the charge of the countless millions which had been expended during the war; they had been borne almost entirely by England. This view of the case was the more material, as it showed that Ireland had no just cause of complaint. Since the peace in 1815, several reductions had taken place in the malt and spirit taxes, and in the assessed taxes of Ireland, to the amount of 183,000l. Irish currency. In 1817, no reduction took place, but in 1818 the taxes were reduced to the amount of 270,000l. In the last three quarters of a year the assessed taxes were reduced, from 480,000l. to 375,000l. He wished to know how he could justify himself to England and Scotland, if after these reductions, he were to take off the window tax. The House must know that no houses in Ireland having less, than seven windows were taxed, while in England houses having six windows were liable. The whole number of Houses taxed in England was a million, those not liable accounted to between 800,000 and 900,000; so that in England more than one half of the houses were taxed, while not more than one-fourth of the houses in Ireland were 135 so. Many of the larger houses in Ireland were occupied by the lower classes, who could not afford to pay the tax, but the wisdom of the Irish government interfered to prevent their closing up their windows, by not charging those opened, to prevent contagion. But it was urged that this had not had the desired effect, He would ask what more could be done? If the tax were repealed, it would be the same thing. In the one case, as in the other, it was saying that the windows so opened, would not be charged. In the schedule of the tax, it was said that lodging-houses inhabited by the poor, were only to be charged 1s. per window, and when the House considered that it was the owner of the House who paid this tax, and that those Houses produced large rents, they would perceive that the tax did not fall heavily. Under these circumstances, he felt himself bound to protest, against the repeal of this tax.
§ Mr. Vereker
stated the grievances felt in Limerick by the oppressive operation of the window tax. He trusted that the wisdom and humanity of the House would suggest some remedy for such an evil, and, give a favourable consideration to the petitions which had poured in from all parts of Ireland on this subject.
§ Sir G. Hill
said, that he had last night presented a petition from Londonderry, praying for a repeal of the tax; and certainly, if any portion of the inhabitants of Ireland were entitled to an alleviation from, or an abolition of this tax, his constituents had that claim, who had, during the prevalence of disease and distress, been foremost in setting a salutary example of providing asylums for the sick and naked, and provision for the hungry and distressed. He regretted that his duty as a representative in parliament, upon a general view of the exigencies and relative interests of the united kingdom, obliged him to support the tax. It seemed, that an opinion strongly prevailed, that Mr. Corry had given, in 1799, a pledge that this tax was to be continued only during the war. It is quite true, that at the period when the tax was first laid on, 136 Mr. Corry did announce it as a tax which the pressure of war rendered it necessary for him to have recourse to, and he proposed it as indispensable from the difficulties of the moment, and no doubt it was, like many other taxes, since made permanent, termed a war tax; but Mr. Corry gave no pledge as to the time of its termination—none whatsoever. He (sir G. Hill) heard Mr. Corry propose it without such pledge; and subsequently in the parliament of the united kingdom, when peace did arrive, and the same Mr. Corry remained chancellor of the exchequer for Ireland, he was present when Mr. Corry was charged with the obligation of abandoning the tax, as having been proposed only for the continuance of the war, and to cease with the war, which Mr. Corry denied, and on appeal to what had passed in the Irish House of Commons, and on full discusssion in the united parliament, of pledge or no pledge, it was decided that no such pledge had been given, and the tax, in consequence, was continued during the peace of 1803. This appeal and discussion, it is material to observe, took place within four years of the time when the pledge was alledged to have been given, and if it was then decided in the negative, under what pretence are we now, at the distance of sixteen years from the time of that decision, to receive it? But, for argument sake, let us suppose that Mr. Corry had made the pledge, and that at the peace of 1803, he ought to have given it up; yet surely when a new and a fresh war broke out, and another chancellor of the exchequer, the right hon. baronet opposite (sir J. Newport), and under another administration, tried, adopt-ed, and augmented even the rate of this tax, without reference to, or notice of, such pledge, nay, without even stating it to be a war tax, with what justice or consistency can this House now be asked to forget this proceeding, to pass by this conduct, and refer back to the terms on which Mr. Corry availed himself of the tax? But how gross the absurdity would be to insist, that the chancellor of the exchequer of the day could bind by his mere declaration, not only all his successors in office, but all future parliaments. Such a pledge, if given, could only be binding upon that minister, administration, and parliament who gave it; however, as no such pledge existed, let us argue the propriety of continuing a window tax in Ireland upon other reasoning,—But first—he must re- 137 mind his hon. friend, (Mr. Shaw) that when he and a deputation from the different parishes in Dublin, waited on the chancellor of the exchequer in September 1817, he and they would have rested contented with the continuance of the tax, if, upon that occasion, the reduction of 25 per cent. which was made in the subsequent session, had then been promised to them; and again, during the last session, it was a matter of notoriety, that a reduction of 50 per cent upon the tax instead of 25, was asked for, and if it had been then granted, the right hon. baronet (sir J. Newport) and all those who pretended to rely on Mr. Carry's pledge, would have been satisfied and silent on it—therefore the question is a struggle for terms. Now, gratitude should induce the advocates of farther reduction to admit that the regulations and exemptions, particularly with respect to lodging houses, have reduced the tax in reality 50 per cent. He lamented that his duty would not allow him to concur in the motion without doing violent injustice to other parts of the empire. With Scotland, surely, Ireland might fairly be compared; and would it be just to the inhabitants of that country, who paid all the assessed taxes, the same as in England, including window tax, to insist on the exemption of Ireland from it altogether? As an honest statesman, he could not urge it, nor could he withhold the statement of the burthens transferred from Ireland to Great Britain, for the discharge of which the people of England and Scotland were taxed, and annually paying 4,648,977l. The entire farming or agricultural classes were in Ireland quite exempt from assessed taxes, a farmer might have three hearths and six windows without charge, and few, in consequence, contributed any thing to the state. He was quite aware of the inability of Ireland to fulfil her union compact, and therefore the treasuries had been consolidated before the expiration of the twenty years; but á fortiori—Ireland ought not to expect the abrogation of a tax so productive as the present—in four years, to January 1818, it had produced nett into the exchequer above 350,000l. per annum. Instead of farther reduction of the window tax, he strongly recommended that his countrymen might look for such extension of aid, as might advance useful internal works and improvements in Ireland, and encourage her progress in industry and acquirement of 138 wealth. He must say that there was a kind disposition, on the part of England to consider the situation of Ireland, upon all occasions with liberal views; this disposition we ought to cultivate and cherish, and not press too strongly upon it, which he felt he should be doing, if he called upon the English members to join him in voting away the remainder of this tax.
§ Mr. Knox
complained, that the hopes of the people of Ireland were greatly disappointed in the way that this question was met. He referred to the words of the original bill to show, that it was a measure solely intended for a war expenditure. The people of the country never complained during the war of the burthen of this tax, nor was it until they could no longer bear its operation, that their complaints were heard against it. The hon. member contended, that the operation of the law was most unfavourable to the health of the community; and that, from the report of the physicians in Dublin, it was evident the fever had greatly increased, owing to the bad ventillation, so many of the windows being shut up. Where a tax affected the health or industry of a people, nothing but the most painful emergency should cause its enactment or continuance. The right hon. gentleman conceived that he granted a great boon to Ireland last year, when he reduced the tax 25 per cent. But that it was not a boon generally felt was evident from the circumstance, that there-were three or four thousand notices of discontinuance in that year, and, in the three last years, no less than 33,000. The right hon. gentleman also stated, that a great many people in Ireland were not affected by the tax; for instance, the small farmers, and the minor manufacturers. It was true they did not feel the weight of this tax; but if it were to be a permanent measure, it must operate against the improvement of the situation of those persons.
said, he considered it a mistake to suppose that the members of the united parliament were not disposed to attend to the concerns of the sister kingdom. He thought that the interests of Ireland were listened to by British members with the kindest attention. It was to the representatives of England, that in this case he should chiefly address himself; and in the first, place, he should endeavour to show, that 139 in demanding the repeal of this tax, Ireland had a claim on the good faith and justice of parliament. Much discussion had arisen whether the tax had been imposed as a war tax, The hon. mover had quoted the words of Mr. Corry, at the time of the imposition of the tax, but a right hon. baronet seemed to think, that if the pledge was given by Mr. Corry, it was not binding on the good faith of parliament. If this was his argument, it would be for him to state, how the country could at any time know whether a pledge was given respecting any tax, unless from the words of the accredited and responsible minister? How could a pledge be given or accepted but in such a manner? It was said, that at the peace of Amiens this tax had not been discontinued; but if Ireland had originally justice on her side—if faith had been pledged to her that it should be repealed, this breach of promise might be a reason for her to complain, but no reason for a repetition of the same injustice. The question now was, had the pledge been given? Besides the declaration of Mr. Corry, there were two acts of parliament since the original imposition of the tax; the acts of the 40lh of the king, chap. 4—the next the 40th, chap. 52. The first of these acts stated that the tax was to be raised to keep up 50,000 men in Ireland, a war establishment. The second was passed to regulate the collection. It was asserted, that because in these acts other taxes were included, his argument proved too much, and that either parliament was not pledged to repeal the window tax, or that it was pledged to repeal the other taxes also. But this was a misconception. There were other taxes indeed mentioned in the 52nd chap, but, what strengthened his case more than if they had not been mentioned, the words limiting duration was confined to the window tax alone. It was enacted, that windows were to be rated to the tax in a certain manner, provided the war so long continued. Could it be contended that this was any thing but a war tax? It had been said, that the tax had been re-imposed by the parliament of the united kingdom, and that thus the pledge had been annulled. But the act referred to could be considered as nothing more than a parliamentary regulation. The war taxes had in Ireland been re-imposed from year to year, and in 1807 the practice respecting Irish was assimilated to that respecting English taxes; the tax was 140 made permanent, but liable to the original condition annexed to it, that on the arrival of certain events it should cease. But did he say, that because this was a war tax, parliament could not, in case of necessity, renew it? He meant to say no such thing; but this only, that the question should be now considered, not as an application to repeal an old tax, but as a resistance to the imposition of a new one. We had then to consider the power of Ireland to support taxation. Ireland, it was said, owed a large debt—her revenue would barely meet the annual charges, a sum equal to the whole interest of the debt was therefore a deficit? But this argument went too far. Did the chancellor of the exchequer mean to say that Ireland was to make up all this deficit? If so, the question would be, not to raise 200,000l. but four millions. Every one who knew any thing about the matter, knew that this debt had been contracted in a course of madness and folly; thus Ireland had been pledged to pay an extravagant share of the general expenditure of the empire, and hopes had been held out that she would do so, till she was absolutely a bankrupt. But this bubble was now burst, and the expenditure was to be provided for, not by a debtor and creditor account between the two countries, but by providing a common fund for common exigencies, and if it could be shown that Ireland could pay more than she did, he should be willing to agree to a tax, and the people of Ireland would not complain. The people of Ireland were not a complaining or repining people. They had bled as freely from their financial veins as from their purses; and the cries they now raised were not the work of artifice or combination, but wrung from the distresses of a suffering nation. If this tax was to be enforced for the first time, on what ground could the chancellor of the exchequer appeal to the House in its favour? It was a tax on civilization—an act to restrain those improvements in which Ireland would find prosperity, and England security. Every house, of a certain description, built in Ireland, was a hostage for its connexion with this country. It gave the inhabitants something to be protected by the law, and tended to put down incivility, and that excess of population, in which all thoughts are turned to the necessaries of life, while its comforts are disregarded. Towards the city of Dublin in particular this tax 141 was most unjust. By that city one-fourth of the whole sum was paid; and certainly if we were to look for objects of taxation, it was not to that part of Ireland that we should turn. No part of the empire had suffered so heavily by that act, the merits of which he should not then discuss. Before that act, that city had a resident parliament, a resident nobility. One hundred noble families made it their abode, not one of whom now resided, but had gone to lay out their incomes elsewhere, to encourage other industry and other manufactures. We had daily melancholy experience of the forlorn state of that people, to a degree of which many gentlemen could not have an idea. In every corner were to be seen instances of the most abject misery. He appealed to that right hon. gentleman (Mr. Grant) for whom, it was no affectation to say, he entertained the highest respect, whether he was fully borne out in this account of the condition of Dublin? But this tax was continually becoming less productive. In 1816, the diminution was 32,000l. beyond the foregoing year; in 1817, it was 43,113l.; and in 1818, 77,911l.; though he was aware, that in this last year, the defalcation was in a measure owing to the reduction of the duty 25 per cent. Without pretending to have any knowledge of futurity, he would predict, that it would daily become less productive. Within the three years he had mentioned, 32,424 notices of discontinuance had been served, of which 3,501 were in Dublin alone; in each notice, it was probable several windows were included; and as 10 or 15 wretched persons lived, on an average, in a house, it was probable that 30,000 persons were thus driven to deprive themselves of light and air. He appealed, in behalf of his countrymen, to the justice of the House, and he hoped he should not appeal in vain. When they were told by the chancellor of the exchequer, that they must find equivalents for the taxes they proposed to take off, he must beg leave to tell him that he a little forgot his duty. He felt for the exigencies of the country, he felt for the difficulties of the chancellor of the exchequer, he had felt for him when he saw him the last night compelled under, no doubt, a sense of duty, to press the House to adopt a measure which must have been repugnant to his feelings. When the right hon. gentleman had not been persuaded to spare the virtue of his 142 own country, he could not hope to appeal to him with success in favour of the poverty of Ireland. But when his financial situation was such, that he Could find no expedient to maintain it, but by manufacturing crime in one country, and by a-breach of faith in the other, it became his duty to resign his office [Hear! hear!].
Mr. C. Grant
thought the right hon. gentleman who had last spoken, had deviated from his usual candour, in representing that the chancellor of the exchequer had acknowledged the continuance of this tax to be a breach of faith. Though he had looked into the case rather with a disposition to find a pledge, he could not persuade himself that it had been given. There was no record of any kind, that Mr. Corry had given any pledge; and if there had been a solemn pledge, was there a probability that it would now be a matter of dispute? In 1800 by chap. 2, 40 George 3rd, the tax was continued, not only for the support of 49,000 men, but for other puposes; and many other taxes were included under the same enactment. By the act of union, all the revenues of Ireland were formed into a consolidated fund, for the payment of the interest of debt and sinking fund, yet there was not a word that this tax should not be continued. The 52nd chap, of 40th of the king contained regulations respecting the collection of the tax. To prevent evasion, houses had been originally taxed according to the number of their windows. By this act, the houses were to be rated according to this enumeration for three years, if the war so long should continue. That this limitation of time applied to the mode of rating only, and not to the tax itself, was manifested from this; the war did not last three years; the mode of rating ceased; but the tax continued. In 1807 also, this tax (with many others which it was not even pretended parliament was pledged to put and end to), was made permanent; and previously, when Mr. Corry, who had first proposed it, had moved its renewal, he had denied that he had ever given any pledge respecting it, and his assertion was supported by several members of the House. He could not thus find the slightest proof that any particular pledge had been given respecting it. He acknowledged that if he regarded his feelings only, he should go much farther than the right hon. gentleman proposed in the repeal of taxes, but it was to be re- 143 collected, that this tax did not fall on houses with less than seven windows and four hearths. The severest pressure certainly was on the lodging-houses in towns, but the tax on them had virtually been reduced 50 per cent. In the last year, the whole tax had been reduced professedly 25, but really 50 per cent. the produce being in 1817, 440,000l. in the last year 235,000l.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, the debt of Ireland had been created by her having undertaken to pay a most unreasonable share of the expenses of the empire by the act of union. It was unfair to visit this rash undertaking on the part of Ireland upon her in every debate on her financial situation. The only reasonable argument would be to show, that she had not paid as much as her means enabled her. But could this be proved? Was not the contrary manifest by the failure of all the budgets of all the ministers who had attempted to increase the revenue? It was a fact which should be generally known, that the estimated increase of the revenue to be effected by the several new taxes imposed in Ireland from 1808 to 1817, was rated by the several ministers at 3,500,000l. yet the revenue of 1817 only exceeded that of 1808 by 50,000l. As it was utterly impossible to suppose that this had arisen from want of ability in all the ministers, it could only have been caused by the inability of the people to bear taxation. The mass of the Irish people were poor beyond the idea of English legislators, and many of those who could bear taxes, had by the union been called away to this island to increase its riches and to add to the disproportion between the wealth of the two countries. The chief objection to this tax was, its effect in promoting disease. This effect was proved by the report of the medical board. The exclusion of light and air, by the endeavour of the poor to escape the pressure of the window tax, was evident from this fact, that while the landlords of houses in Dublin, who kept their windows open on the lower floor, were free from the contagion, the poor lodgers above stairs, who closed their windows in order to escape the tax, were most severely afflicted by it.
argued, that as parliament was always found generous in its consideration of the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, it would ill become the advocates of that country to trespass upon 144 such generosity. It must be recollected, that 50 per cent. had been on a late occasion deducted from the assessed taxes of Ireland, while a discretionary power was left to the government still farther to mitigate those taxes. But the operation of the tax under discussion had also been most materially mitigated in certain cases, through the discretion of the government which discretion was sanctioned by parliament; and he was confident of the readiness of his right hon. friend, the chancellor of the exchequer, to accede to any mitigation that might be suggested. To the motion, however, before the House, neither his right hon. friend nor himself could consistently agree; for according to that motion, it was proposed to repeal the tax altogether. But upon what rational ground could it be contended that Ireland should not pay any window tax, while every other part of the empire was subject to that tax? The right hon. baronet had dwelt much upon the contributions of Ireland since the union. But it should be recollected that that country had by no means for several years paid its fair proportion towards the expenses of the empire. It was, indeed, the peculiar advantage of Ireland, that it was enabled to fight against the common enemy, as well as against internal rebellion, from the purse of the empire, whilst its own contribution was hardly sufficient to defray the expenses attending the contest against its own domestic foes. This advantage Ireland enjoyed for nearly 18 years, and was it not then too much to say, that that country, for which he felt every due solicitude, should be exempt from a tax that was paid by Scotland? As to the arguments drawn from the assertion, that the tax under consideration was originally imposed as a war tax, and ought not to be continued in peace, he begged gentlemen to consider, that it did not follow, because a chancellor of the exchequer expressed a hope upon the imposition of a tax, that it would be only required during war, that such tax must necessarily be discontinued upon the conclusion of a peace, the war continuing much longer than the chancellor of the exchequer could have calculated. This hope being consequently disappointed, such an inference was indeed by no means fair, and therefore it had not been insisted upon in that House; for it was known that between four and five millions of what were originally denominated war taxes, were still continued in England, 145 while the present tax, bearing that denomination, amounting to only 200,000l., was continued in Ireland. In England also, it must be remembered the property tax, originally a war tax, had been continued for several years in peace, while Ireland was altogether exempt from its operation. But it was said, that Ireland was too poor to pay the tax under discussion. Was she not, however, as competent to pay that tax as Scotland, and was it not too much to maintain, that while Scotland paid this tax Ireland should be relieved from its pressure in perpetuity? He lamented the endeavours which had been made to swell the existence of this tax into a great national grievance, especially considering the pressure of taxation in England, which had paid 200 millions of that property tax from which Ireland was altogether exempt. There had been quite a mistaken conception upon this subject in Ireland. But he was glad to perceive that this misconception was in a great measure removed. This indeed he was led to conclude from the conduct of his own constituents, to whom he had addressed a letter last year, in reply to a remonstrance from them respecting this tax, and he had since received no such communication upon the subject; whence he inferred that their opinion was altered.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
said, that he had attended upon this occasion with the most favourable disposition towards Ireland, to which he thought this country owed a long arrear of kindness and justice, especially for the system pursued respecting her government previous to the union; but still he must declare that he felt it his duty to oppose the motion. He felt as an Englishman the highest regard and obligation towards Ireland, not from her pecuniary supplies for the common object of the empire, but from her contribution of men—from her having furnished the gallant soldiers and the great captain through whom the deliverance of Europe was mainly achieved.
ably supported the motion, which, from the language of the noble lord, would, he apprehended, be met by a decided negative. But it was too much, he thought, on the part of the noble lord, to aggravate the mortification of that negative, by the lecture which he had read to the representatives, and to the people of Ireland. The noble lord had endeavoured to show, that Ireland had reason to be satisfied with the conduct of 146 England since the enactment of that diabolical measure, the Union. But how had the noble lord's endeavour succeeded? He had asserted, that the internal expenses of Ireland had been enormous; but whence that expense? Why, in erecting barracks, and in maintaining an extraordinary number of soldiers and policemen, to prevent the expression, or guard against the consequences, of that discontent which a notorious system of misrule had engendered. Yet, to defray the expense of such a system, it was determined to uphold the tax under discussion, which was, perhaps, the most noxious that the ingenuity of taxation could devise.
, of Galway, declared his resolution to resist the motion, notwithstanding the opinion of the great body of his colleagues from Ireland, and the communication which he had received from the capital of the county which he had the honour to represent. But he would act from his own conviction; and in so acting, he had the satisfaction to think that he should return to his country completely sheltered from censure by the universal popularity of the right hon. secretary for Ireland.
§ Mr. Grattan
said, that as on the one hand he should be sorry to abandon the post of strength of his country, so on the other he should be sorry to make an invidious contrast of the state of England with that of Ireland. Such a contrast, might lead to a competition of strength between the two countries, which ought always to be avoided, and still more so alter a marriage had taken place between them, which it was the interest of every loyal patriot to make as indissoluble as possible. The chancellor of the exchequer, in diminishing the window-tax as he had diminished it, had done himself the greatest honour, and his constituents were grateful for the mitigation which he had effected of the burthens which were imposed upon them. The right hon. gentleman had addressed to the churchwardens of the different parishes in Dublin, queries: 1st, as to the number of houses in each parish; 2dly, as to the number of houses inhabited; 3dly, as to the number to be let, occupied or not: and 4thly, as to the number of insolvencies. What did the House think was the answer to these inquiries? He would tell them. In the parish of St. Mark there were 85 houses shut-up, 50 to let, and 120 insolvent. In that of St. Andrew there were 400 houses, 147 of which 147 were in arrear to the collector, and 95 insolvent. In that of St. James there were 700 houses, of which 50 were uninhabited, 150 to let, and half insolvent for the grand jury cess. In the parish of St. Michael within, there were 184 houses, of which 70 were inhabited, 14 uninhabited, and 30 or 40 insolvent. In St. Mary's were 1,500 houses, of these 271 were shut up, and 291 were returned insolvent. In St. Thomas's were 1,458 houses, of which 146 were insolvent, and 450 waste. In St. Catherine's were 1,887 houses, of which 105 were insolvent, 110 in ruins, and 90 waste. In St. Bridget's 680 houses, of which 103 were shut up, and 57 open, though insolvent. In St. Michael's were 111 houses, of which 42 were insolvent, and 11 shut up. In St. Andrew's, 650 houses, of which 129 were insolvent; and in Werburgh's,267 houses, of which 37 were insolvent. Such was the plain statement of facts; and after it, he did not think it requisite to trouble the House with any farther remarks.
§ Sir N. Colthurst
said, that though he in 'common with his fellow countrymen did not wish to shrink from the exigencies of the state, still he must condemn the tax as being the origin of disease and distemper in Ireland.
§ Mr. Colclough
said, that this tax had not merely increased the typhus, but had also entailed upon posterity a chronic malady called the scrofula. He could assure gentlemen, that this disorder had increased to a ten-fold degree since the institution of the window-tax.
said, that the hon. gentleman opposite reminded him of the old man who married two young wives, one of whom pulled all the black hairs from his head, and the other all the white, till at last none at all were left to the old dotard. So it was with the hon. gentleman and the present taxes; they wished to pull one way in the name of morality, another in the name of humanity, and another in the name of philanthropy. If they were allowed to do so, the country would be left without any resources. Morality, humanity, and philanthropy were more flourishing than the revenue. If it were not for the taxes there would have been a revolution, and in that case morality, humanity, and philanthropy, would have been buried under that hideous mass of crime which the civilized world had seen in France. As a friend, 148 therefore, of all these high-sounding words, he must oppose the repeal of the tax in question.
§ Mr. Callaghan
supported the motion, first, because the tax was so unpopular in Ireland, that its receipts were not worth the sacrifice, next because Ireland had not had a proportionate remission of taxation since the arrival of the peace. It would be wise to commute such a tax, when the popular odium was so expressed.
spoke in favour of the repeal. The faith of the Irish parliament was pledged to its repeal, and, in his opinion, no financial arrangement could justify a breach of faith.
§ The House then divided:—For the motion, 73—Against it 150—Majority, 77.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Mills, George|
|Archdall, gen.||Madocks, W. A.|
|Burroughs, sir W.||Newport, rt. hon. sir J.|
|Barnett, James||Noel, sir Gerald|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||O'Callaghan, J.|
|Burdett, sir F.||O'Brien, sir E.|
|Benyon, Ben.||Plunkett, rt. hon. W.|
|Butler, hon. J.||Parnell, sir H.|
|Butler, hon. C.||Parnell, Wm.|
|Bagwell, rt. hon. W.||Palmer, C.|
|Browne, Dom.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Becher, W.||Primrose, hon. F.|
|Bective, earl of||Power, Rd.|
|Callaghan, G.||Ponsonby, hon. F. C.|
|Coffin, sir Isaac||Pares, Thos.|
|Colclough, C.||Prittie, hon. F. A.|
|Colthurst, sir N.||Robarts, W. T.|
|Clifford, Aug.||Robarts, A.|
|Carroll, John||Richardson, W.|
|Carew, R. S.||Rickford, W.|
|Chichester, Arthur||Shaw, R.|
|Denman, Thos.||Symonds, T. P.|
|Euston, earl of||Smith, hon. R.|
|Fitzgerald, lord W.||Stewart, sir John|
|Fitzgerald,—||Somerville, sir M.|
|Fitzgibbon, hon. R.||Sneyd, Nat.|
|Forbes, C.||Talbot, R. W.|
|Gordon, Robt.||Tavistock, marq. of|
|Glerawley, lord||Vereker, col.|
|Grattan, right hon. H.||White, Luke|
|Hart, Gen.||Westenra, hon. H. R.|
|Hutchinson, hon. C. H.||Walpole, hon. G.|
|Hill, lord A.||Wilson, sir Robt.|
|Hurst, R.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Hamilton, H.||Althorp, visct.|
|Kirby, John||Cavendish, lord G.|
|Knox, hon. T.||Duncannon, visc.|
|Kennedy, Thos. F.||Dundas, hon. L.|
|Latouche, John.||Le Fevre, S.|
|Leslie, C. P.||Russell, lord W.|
|Maule, hon. W.||Stewart, Wm.|
|Merest, J. D.|