§ Mr. Holme Sumner
rose, pursuant to notice, to ask for leave to bring in a bill to repeal certain acts imposing a duty on Sea-borne coals. This act was one bearing peculiarly and partially on the metropolis and neighbourhood, and formed just grounds for complaint. He was aware if antiquity could be considered as a just ground for taxation, then this might be well defended. The taxes had been laid on upon some extraordinary emergency for a temporary purpose, but had been continued after such necessity had long ceased to exist. He observed, that the first tax appeared to have been levied in the reign of Richard 2nd, when two ships and two barges were fitted out to protect the northern coast from pirates, and for which coals, among other things were subjected to a duty of 6d. per chaldron. In 1627 the next addition was laid on coals. The towns of Newcastle and Sunderland offered to pay another 67l. if Charles 1st would assist them, by protecting their trade. The king very readily agreed to that, and appointed a special commission to fit out six ships, not having had money with which he could equip a few of his own men of war. In 1670, a duty was levied of 2s. more, in addition to the 1s. for rebuilding London; and this was only to have lasted for twenty years; but the fact has since proved how little reliance was to be placed upon the royal promise. In 1677, Charles 2nd granted a charter to his son, the duke of Richmond, for ever, of 1s. on the Newcastle chaldron, amounting to about two of those used as the measure of the present time; but in 1696 (in the reign of William 3rd) the parliament took off the 3s. duty altogether. In 1698 (9th and 10th William 3rd) after the treaty of Ryswick, the expenses of the war having amounted to between two and three millions, parliament agreed to take five years to pay it off, and for which many taxes were then levied; among others, a tax of 5s. per chaldron was laid upon all coals carried coastwise for five years only. But almost immediately after, upon the accession of queen Anne, it was made perpetual, and exists to the present day. In 1710, the 3s. tax, formerly repealed, was revived for the purpose of building 50 new churches, out of which number 10 only had been built; but still the tax continues for the port of London only. Such it dreadful increase of taxation would never have since continued, if it were not 570 that no attempt had since been made to shake it off. In the reigns of George 1st, and of the present king, several per centages were laid on, amounting to 1s. 4d. together per chaldron, besides war duties imposed during the late war, amounting to 3s. 2d.: but these latter were withdrawn in 1814, still leaving 9s. 4d. to be paid by the counties of Middlesex and Surrey, and 6s. for 14 other bounties, the former paying 7s. 2d. duty, and the latter 1s. 1d. per annum for each human being; the population of each gross amount of the duty being regarded. It would also appear, that four counties paid only two farthings each, and 21 other counties paid nothing; a fact only to be accounted for, because they were mining counties, possessing, beside, the advantages of inland navigation. A proportion of these aggregate taxes was applicable to the Orphan's fund. It was not his object to affect by the present measure any amount of the duties applied to this fund. The bill would be confined to the reduction of the duties on coal and culm, forming part of the public revenue. The propriety of lessening to the consumer a tax levied on a raw article so essentially necessary to manufactures of almost every description, could not be for a moment a matter of doubt in so commercial a country as England; nor would it be likely the proposition would want support where the manufacturing interest was so ably and competently represented as in that House. The expediency of establishing a bounty on coals imported into the port of London, had, with the view of lessening the price, been long since submitted to the public, and Mr. Adam Smith, whose opinion was in itself a tower of strength, had said, that of all duties imposed on the necessaries of life, the duty on coals was, with the exception of a tax on bread, the very worst that could possibly be levied. The original cost of the coal was calculated at 13s. a chaldron; its cost of conveyance or freight was generally about 12s. or 14s. The price of the conveyance, metage, shooting, carriage, and merchant's profits, raised the cost of the article enormously to the manufacturer and consumer, whilst coals were supplied at the first cost price to the manufacturer and consumer in the country. Admitting for a moment, as it had been urged with some plausibility, that it was unadvisable to encourage the increase of the number of manufactures 571 in the metropolis and its immediate neighbourhood, still the interest of the manufacturers in the counties adjoining London were not to be sacrificed to any such vague hypothesis. By the existing duties, a population of four millions and a half paid annually 865,000l.; four additional counties paid 20,000l.; and the remaining counties paid nothing in the shape of coal duties: so that a poor labouring man in the neighbourhood of London paid from 200l. to 300l. per cent more for his fuel, than a poor labouring man in the country. He regretted that the persons who first introduced this (subject to the House should have shown so little knowledge of the materials of which that House was composed, as to imagine it would consent to any thing like an equalization of duties on coals generally. The manufacturing districts were sure to oppose it, and petitions, it was well known, had flocked in from all parties likely to be affected. They had represented it as a tax about to be levied on one part of the country, with a view to relieve another part from an existing tax. The present motion merely went to the abolition of the tax. It would be unfair not to admit (if the admission would do the petitioners any service) that the people of London were not completely ruined, though they were dreadfully cramped and injured by the existence of these duties. The petitioners of Birmingham had stated, that misery and discontent would be the result of any equalisation of these duties, as they would no longer be enabled to carry on their manufactures. The petitions of other manufacturing districts had stated the prospect they each entertained of immediate distress and ruin. But would it be fair to argue, that because the levying a trifling tax on coals in these districts would ruin the manufacturer, the manufacturers of London should not be relieved by the repeal of acts levying enormous duties on the same article? Nor would it be thought worthy of serious refutation that the metropolis was said to be likely, by the facilities thus given to manufactures, to be constantly enveloped in a still darker cloud and denser atmosphere of smoke. The existence of such an atmosphere was undoubtedly a subject of general regret; but was it not likely in this improving age, that by the application of philosophical principles, as in the case of count Rumford, this evil would be surmounted, 572 and the smoke itself applied to some useful purposes? The object of his bill was to effect the repeal of so much of the duties as formed a source of revenue generally, without affecting the amount or security of that fund commonly called the Orphans' fund. He particularly wished to remind the House that the persons in whose behalf he was principally interested, the inhabitants of the county of Surrey, were those who, during the late arduous and protracted war, were the firmest and most liberal in contributing to its support, and trusted the House would not recompense their fortitude and zeal during a period of unprecedented danger, by sacrificing them to the interests of others during a period of profound peace. He then moved, "That leave be given to bring in a bill to repeal the several acts now in force, for imposing duties on coal and culm sea-borne and carried coast-ways, together with so much of the act 39 Geo. 3, c. 84, as makes the duty purchased of the duke of Richmond, under the authority of that act payable to his majesty, as other duties on coals."
seconded the motion, He said that the hon. mover had gone so ably and at such length into the general question of the impolicy of the duties on coals, that he should confine his observations to its effects on that part of the country with which he was connected. The duties on coals in Devon and Cornwall last year amounted to near 60,000l. and this impost was paid at twelve ports. The consumption of coal in Devonshire was confined to a small part of it comparatively; it was chiefly among the higher classes, and that part of the population residing near the sea ports. This was a consequence of the high price of that article; the same cause operated to depress the manufactories, and prevent their establishment; It was not, perhaps, generally known, that a great portion of the clay now used for the making of the finer sort of china in the Staffordshire potteries, was the produce of the county of Devon, and neither spirit nor industry was wanting in that county to turn it to account. A china manufactory was set up some time since at Plymouth. But the difficulty of procuring coals caused it to be abandoned; another manufactory of coarser ware was undertaken afterwards, and also on the same account nearly given up. All who were acquainted with the west of England knew, that the best ma- 573 nure for the soil of Devonshire was lime: lime was not to be had without fuel; so that the high price of coal and culm, had a directly injurious effect on agriculture and the improvement of land. In making these observations, he did not entertain a sanguine hope, that this or any other tax would be given up in the present distressed situation of the country. In the early part of the sessions, when the noble lord (Castlereagh) had drawn so flattering a picture of the finances and prosperity of the empire, those who felt that this picture did not apply to their case, had flattered themselves that they might have been relieved from some of their own burthens out of the overflowing prosperity of their neighbours, but, it now appeared, that the agricultural and commercial interests were labouring under one common and general depression, the consequence of which would naturally be a considerable falling off in the revenue. Under these circumstances, it was hardly to be expected that any of the existing duties could be abandoned. At the same time, he hoped, since the subject had been brought before the House, that the chancellor of the exchequer would consider, whether some substitute might not be devised; or if it was necesssary in this instance, that the tax gatherer should interpose between the raw produce of the soil and the consumption of the people, that, at least the burthen would be put upon a more just and equal footing than at present, when those who from their situation could obtain the article the cheapest, were wholly exempted from it, in order that it might fall with increased weight on those who have the other heavy expenses of freight and carriage exclusively to contend with, in addition to it.
§ Mr. E. Littleton
considered this a question not between the chancellor of the exchequer and the city of London, but between the consumers of inland coals, and the consumers of sea coals. It had not been necessary to make any reference to the time of Richard 2nd. It would have been quite sufficient to have gone back so far as the Revolution. After several manufactures had arisen under certain taxes, to repeal those taxes at once would occasion a revulsion injurious to those manufactures, and most injurious, for a considerable time, to the country at large. If 6s. per chaldron were taken off Newcastle coals, the consequence would be to force‡574 them into the country so far as 6s. would pay the carriage, at least thirty miles from the present markets. How injurious must this prove to immense capitalists in the coal trade! Coals could be carried far into the country by the grand junction canal. At least, if this reduction should be made, all barriers and exclusive privileges in favour of Newcastle coals should be done away at the same time. The coal miners at Newcastle would not be well pleased that Welsh coals should be allowed to come into competition with their's. The comparison instituted between London and Staffordshire was not fair. The comparison should be between Devonshire and Berkshire or Oxfordshire. In Devon they paid the original price of the coals, the carriage and 6s. In Oxfordshire or Berkshire, they paid the original cost, the freightage, and the duty on canals, which, unlike the duty on sea coals, increased with the distance. In the one case, the duty was to the revenue, in the other to the canal-proprietor; to the consumer, however, it was the same. But he doubted much, whether the city of London would benefit by this repeal. At least 5s. of the 9s. would go to the pockets of the coal miner and ship-owner. If his view in this respect was correct, and he was sure it was, it formed a conclusive argument why the chancellor of the exchequer would find it much better to retain the duty. He did not believe that there were twenty English counties which paid no duties. But in the counties which paid none inland coals were dearer than sea coals elsewhere. It had been stated, that the family which paid 22l. a year in London for coals, would pay only 7l. in Birmingham. Such an argument might impose upon those who had not inquired into the subject as he had done. He did not mean that it was fraudulent, but it was calculated to mislead. The quality was very different—. 27 cwt. of Newcastle coals were equal to 40 cwt. of Staffordshire coals. He believed, upon the fairest calculation, that 3s. per ton upon all coals would be necessary to produce a revenue equal to that proposed to be repealed. Only sixty petitions had been procured for the repeal. The friends of the measure had worked hard, but this was all they could get. From many places they failed to get petitions in answer to their applications. Many of the inhabitants of London thought the tax was one that ought to be 575 imposed if there had been none, and no petition had been presented from Westminster.
Mr. Alderman Wood
said, that the supporters of the measure before the House were placed between two fires. Last year the chancellor of the exchequer gave hopes that this tax would be altered in the course of this session, but now those who advocated an equalization of duty were charged with endeavouring to repeal the tax altogether. But this was not his object; he wished to have the duty equalized, and if a tax of 1s.per chaldron was imposed on all coals coming from the pit, it would bring a sum of 100,000l. more to the revenue than was raised by the existing system. It was said that inland coals, though exempted from the duty, became as dear, from the addition of canal and land carriage, as sea-borne coals; but the House should recollect, that the price of sea-borne coals was also much increased by land carriage. If the duty was taken of from Newcastle, it might go to check the inland coal trade in some measure, but then manufacturers and consumers generally could obtain coals much cheaper than they now do. It was said that gentlemen concerned in the in-land coal trade would be ruined by this; but what right had those persons to claim an exemption from a tax levied on the rest of the country? Could they expect that the chancellor of the exchequer, when he wanted money, would not call upon them to contribute their proportion to the public wants? Let the present duty be continued if necessary, but then let the proprietors of inland coals be also taxed. He could not see why Wales should be exempted from this tax more than any other part of the kingdom. If the poverty of the country was the cause, then Cornwall had an equal claim, as the labouring classes had been reduced to great distress at the period when the chancellor of the exchequer extended his favour to Wales. The period of this indulgence, however, would expire in 1820, and he hoped the chancellor of the exchequer would take a lesson from what had passed, and not allow any one part of the country to be relieved from a burthen at the expense of another. He was the more anxious that some remedy should be applied, from a knowledge of the sufferings of the lower classes of London from the high price of coals: he had known them pay be much as 7s. a bushel in times of 576 scarcity, when the inhabitants of other parts of the country could purchase coals at half that price. The manufacturers of iron were also seriously injured by the existing system. There was no necessity of placing the duty to be taken at the pit's mouth, under the excise, as it could be collected as tolls, as other taxes now were.
thought it was an odd way of making coals cheap, to lay an additional duty upon them. He, however, preferred the existing system. He thought the cause why the coal tax was taken off in Wales, was not distinctly understood. The Welch coal was principally of a sort that would not be used in London. It was principally used to burn limestone to manure the mountainous part of that country. When the tax was proposed to be taken off in Wales, he believed there was a substitute in view, which a distrust of the chancellor of the exchequer prevented from being mentioned. And he doubted not but the hon. member for Surrey had also a substitute in view, which he kept back from a fear that the chancellor of the exchequer would continue the present tax, and adopt the substitute also [a laugh]. If the hon. member had a substitute in view, which could be borne without distressing the country, he ought in fairness to mention it in place of the present tax. If any tax could be spared from the revenue of the country, he could name several which had an equal claim with the coal tax. He thought a mitigation of the salt tax would be beneficial to the country, if it could be done; but he allowed that at present it was impracticable. He could also mention another. He thought a part of the excise duty on candles, might, if any tax could be spared, be taken off. The people were now obliged to go to the chandler's shop for candles, but in his country, though it was a little irregular, they made their own. This tax brought in 300,000l. but the collecting of it cost 50,000l. The fact was, that parliament commenced taxation at the wrong end; they relieved themselves from the burthens, and threw them on the shoulders of the poor [Hear!]. The city members had been active against the property-tax, but they would have been better employed in relieving the poorer classes from the weight with which they were saddled. For his part, he voted in favour of the property-tax and had received the thanks 577 of his constituents for so doing. He did not know what were their opinions at present as to such a tax; but, for himself, he was of opinion, that a moderated property-tax would be the most beneficial tax that could be imposed on the country. A duty of 2s. upon each chaldron of coals, made a serious difference to those concerned in iron works; it would, in fact, determine whether they could export or not. A petition upon this subject from the lord mayor of London was alluded to, in which he complained that all coals coming into the port of London, whether inland or not, were considered as carried coastwise. It seemed there was a large stone at Staines, to which the port of London was said to extend by some old regulation. Any coals brought below that stone, whether inland or not, were considered as arriving in the port of London. Some time back, a cargo of coals was brought to this stone from Wales; an excise officer was immediately dispatched, who completely frightened them away, and no coals from that country had appeared there since. The officer, however, still remained at his post. The evil might be remedied by removing the stone to London bridge. The poor of the city would then have the advantage of inland coals. He thought that this question had gone to sleep, but unfortunately he was mistaken; he must, therefore, give his decided negative to the motion.
Mr. Alderman Wood
wished to explain with respect to the great stone. It was by direction of government, not of the city, that coals were not allowed to come lower down.
§ Mr. W. Courtenay
said, that this was a tax which pressed heavily upon the poor, and injured manufacturers very much. In Exeter, where the population was only 18,000, they paid 10,700l. in coal duties. The inequality of the tax was so evident, that it would be wasting the time of the House to attempt to dwell upon that consideration. He would support the motion, in the hope that the chancellor of the exchequer would place the tax more equally on the country. If the tax had existed during a long time, no just argument could be derived from its antiquity, that an alteration ought not at present to be made; for the length of its continuance ought not to sanctify an unequal and unjust tax.
§ Lord Milton
expressed his surprise that a debate on the subject of repealing a tax 578 should have proceeded so far without the House being made acquainted with the intention of the chancellor of the exchequer. But surely when relief was to be afforded from the pressure of the present impost, that relief ought not to be partial but general. Take away, however, the present tax, and the relief would be partial. The hon. alderman had adverted to the great amount levied on the cities of London and Westminster; but was not its greater proportion paid by the wealthy citizens and rich families at the west end of the town? He viewed the present question with considerable apprehension, because he believed, though it was not avowed, that it was but an indirect way of getting at an equalization of the tax; a measure most injurious to the interests of the great manufacturing parts of the kingdom. It was also to be recollected, that though the lord mayor and aldermen of the compassionate city of London were thus solicitous for the repeal of the parliamentary part of the tax, which was applicable to general purposes, they would not give up that very large portion of it which was received for their own purposes. The noble lord concluded with expressing his determination to give the motion his decided negative.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that his views on the question must have been known, from what he had at different times stated when petitions were presented on the subject to that House. That was one of the reasons for his not having previously taken a part in the discussion. Besides, he was willing to hear the opinions of gentlemen, who, from their local connexions, were calculated to afford the House the fullest information. Since the subject was first introduced, it was his decided opinion, that it would be most inexpedient to stir a question of this nature, when the circumstances of the country were such as not to allow the hope of a favourable decision. Enough had passed on the discussion of a former night, to show that it was the intention of parliament to watch with jealous and peculiar care any thing that tended to produce a diminution of revenue. Indeed, it would be his duty in a few days to call the attention of that House to the manner in which they might best add to the revenue of the country. With respect to the cities of London and Westminster, it was to be recollected that they had received a considerable relief al- 579 ready by the cessation of the war tax. Coals, which, in 1814, were at 62s. per chaldron in the pool, were now to be had at 48s. giving a relief of 14 shillings b}-that measure. He did not think the House could act otherwise, under the circumstances of the country, than to reject the motion.
§ Mr. Lambton
said, he had heard with great regret, though certainly not with surprise, the determination of the chancellor of the exchequer not to agree to the repeal of this most oppressive tax— not only, it appeared, did he mean to refuse the relief now claimed, but he contemplated the levying of fresh taxes on the people, in a period of profound peace. He and his friends would most steadfastly oppose the introduction of new taxes. He knew not whether the House would or would not support them—he knew not whether their opposition would be successful—but they would, at all events, have the consolatory reflection that they had discharged their duty [Hear!].— The hon. member (colonel Wood) had made a very facetious speech, on a very grave subject. Like an hon. member (Mr. Marryat) who, on a former evening made several observations on the price of tallow, the gallant colonel had entered into a dissertation on tallow-candles. He hoped the similarity would not end here, but that, like the hon. member to whom he had alluded, the gallant colonel having made his speech, would quit the House without voting. He had entertained the House with a supposed bull made by the city of London, in denominating coals on the Paddington canal, sea-borne: but the fact was not so—Inland coals brought to London did not pay the coast duties, but a particular duty imposed by government for the protection of the revenue they derived from the importation of sea-borne coals into the port of London. The House were next amused by the gallant colonel with the history of the great stone in the River Thames. He stated, that a Customhouse officer was sent down to this stone for the purpose of preventing a cargo of Welsh coals from being introduced into the port of London. The consequence was, the vessel returned, and the unfortunate officer remained ever since at his post—"Infelix These us sedit et semperque sedebit." [Hear, hear!].—But really the subject was of too much importance to be trifled with in this way. In Consequence of the heavy duty payable 580 on sea-borne coals, those carried by canals were preferred whenever they could be procured. The consequence was, that a great number of vessels were thrown out of employment, and thus the principal nursery for seamen was discouraged. Sea-borne coals had lately been excluded from several ports and districts which they formerly supplied viz. Boston, Lynn, Northampton, Bedford, Newport Pagnell, and many others. That exclusion had diminished the sale to the amount of 50,000 chaldrons in the year 1817, when the last calculation was made; and had those 50,000 chaldrons been taken, as before, from the port of Sunderland, employment would have been given to 50 ships, now laid up, and 350 seamen annually, besides numerous labourers employed in loading and delivering ships.— He need not impress on the House the importance of protecting that coasting trade, from which in the event of any war breaking out, our best seamen were drawn. They had heard from the hon. member the reasons which caused the tax on coals in Wales to be removed—and they knew, that in 1793 it had been repealed with respect to Scotland. Why, he asked, was this boon withheld from England and Ireland? Three hundred and fifty thousand chaldrons of coal were annually imported into Ireland: and in his opinion, that favour which was shown to Wales should be extended also to Ireland. When they considered the impoverished state of the people of this country, surely it was right that this boon should be bestowed on them. Day after day they saw charitable societies formed to supply the poor with coals, either gratis or at a cheap rate. But surely more good would be effected by repealing the tax than could ever be derived from the benevolent assistance of the charitable and well-disposed. It was a most extraordinary circumstance, that this article should be taxed in places to which it was brought at a great expense and with considerable difficulty; but that it should be free from impost, where it could be procured with scarcely any trouble. This surely was not the liberal principle on which taxation should be founded—but he could point out many instances where the same defect was observable. The inequality of the tax would easily be demonstrated by the fact that Middlesex and Surrey paid 9s. 4d. duty per chaldron—14 other counties 6s. The former paying 7s. 2d. duty, the latter 1s. 581 1d. for each human being: whilst four counties paid two farthings, and 21 counties paid nothing. And supposing the population of England and Wales to be 11 millions. The House would find that the duty was levied on 4½ millions, whilst 6½ millions paid nothing. The chancellor of the exchequer had said, that were the duties taken off, the price to the consumer would remain the same, because the proprietor would raise the price. That he denied—and all experience was against the assertion. The repealing the war-duties had occasioned no increase—on the contrary the price had diminished at the mouth of the mine 1s. a chaldron—and this would always be the case whilst that competition existed in the north, which natually arose from the great extent of mineral property in full work. It was said, by the hon. colonel, that the income tax did not affect the poor; but, setting aside its inquisitorial operation and the vexation with which it visited persons of confined income—leaving these considerations out of the question—he would maintain that it was a tax, which if not directly, did indirectly, press on them, since it prevented those persons from employing them, who, if it were not in existence, would have possessed the means as they really possessed the inclination. If ever that detestable impost was introduced, he would humbly, but as firmly as he could, express his abhorrence of it. [Hear, hear!].—If it were brought forward again (notwithstanding the taunts of the hon. colonel) who said that the tax had been repealed, in order that the incomes of the rich should be spared, while the poor were oppressed (a sentiment which he was astonished to hear so loudly cheered), he hoped the House would do its duty, and repel the proposition with the indignation it deserved—[Hear].
§ Mr. Dickinson
opposed the principle which many gentlemen had expressed themselves in favour of, namely, that of a tax on coals at the pit's-mouth. Such a tax would affect every person, of every description, in the country. It would be worse than that odious tax which disgraced their history, called the poll-tax. The latter only affected persons who had arrived at the age of puberty, while a tax on coals at the pit's-mouth would affect every man, woman, and child, in the 582 country. The hon. member censured, in strong terms, the part taken by the city of London on this question, and concluded by expressing his determination to vote against the motion.
§ Mr. W. Smith
thought that the whole question might be resolved into this issue —whether coals should be subject to little or no tax in places where it was cheap, but be subject to a considerable addition in places where it was already dear. A tax which in its nature was unequal, must be injurious to the country at large. He thought that the argument derived from the antiquity of this tax was of no importance, and that if coals were introduced in those parts of the country where wood was at present grown for fuel, an opportunity would be afforded of adding to the extent of land fit for cultivation. It was for the advantage of the country that every thing of service to the community should be furnished to the public as cheap as possible.
§ Mr. Denison
supported the motion, principally on the ground that the tax operated so heavily on one part of the country, when other parts, and particularly the vicinity of the coal countries, were exempt. The only just principle of taxation was, that it should be equal on the taxed commodity upon every class of his majesty's subjects. But he thought the tax on coals one of the most partial and grievous taxes under which the metropolis and its vicinity laboured, and therefore he should vote for its repeal.
§ Mr. Sinclair
rose amidst loud cries of question. On which he observed, that the hon. member for Donegal should not prevent him by clamour from doing his duty to his constituents [Order, order]. If any other member, connected with Scotland, had addressed the House on this subject, he should have thought it highly indecorous in him to have trespassed, for a second time, upon its indulgence, but he rose to protest, in behalf of his native country, against any measure which could possibly lead to a general equalization of the duties upon coal throughout the empire. Such an impost was anticipated in every part of Scotland with the strongest feelings of alarm and dismay; not only because it would be highly injurious to the manufacturers, but because it would be an act of gross injustice towards the community at large, inasmuch as the tax on sea-borne coal had already been commuted in Scotland for an impost 583 of a different kind. It had been said, that this motion was not for an equalization; but he was decidedly of opinion, that this measure if successful, must inevitably be followed up by a proposition from his right hon. friend the chancellor of the exchequer, to make up for the deficiency thus occasioned in the revenue, by imposing a fresh duty upon coals throughout the kingdom (cries of No, no). Other gentlemen might think otherwise; but this was his sincere conviction, which had been greatly strengthened by the candid avowal of an hon. and learned gentleman behind the treasury bench (Mr. Courtenay), who supported the removal of the existing duty, on the ground that it must inevitably lead to an equalization. The hon. mover had stated, that he had an excellent substitute to propose; but he (Mr. S.) was of opinion, that, in the present state of the country, any unexceptionable tax that could be suggested, should not be adopted in lieu of, but in addition to, the existing imposts. As to taking off this duty, without providing a substitute, such a course was quite impracticable. He had voted, during the present session, against the abolition, or even reduction, of any existing tax, and should continue, however reluctantly, to pursue the same course; because he thought that, in the midst of our actual embarrassments, it would be unfair towards his majesty's ministers, and unjust towards the public creditor, to increase the difficulties of the one, and impair the security of the other, by cutting off, at such a crisis, from the national treasury, any productive source of revenue. He considered the present question to be, whether we should leave the coal duties to be paid by those, who, from time immemorial, had been liable to them, or impose a fresh burthen (by equalizing the tax) upon many industrious and public-spirited manufacturers, who, after struggling for years under the pressure of unexampled difficulties and privations, were only beginning to emerge from this state of suffering and distress, and would naturally consider an additional duty to be an unjust and grievous hardship. They were a class well intitled to the protection of the House, because they contributed very largely, not only to the revenue, but to the maintenance of the poor, in the districts to which they belonged; and he should therefore show the interest he took in their welfare, by opposing the present motion.
Lord Mount Charles
said, that after the personal allusion made to him by the hon. member who had just sat down, he must require an apology from that hon. member to the House.
§ Mr. Sinclair
was about to reply, when a loud cry of Chair, Chair! called up the Speaker, who said he was sure the hon. member must be aware, on a little consideration, that if he thought any hon. member interfered with his right of expressing his opinion, it was his duty to address the House on the subject, and not that hon. member. He was persuaded, therefore, that under the circumstances of the case, the hon. member would see that he had been wrong.
§ Mr. Sinclair
disclaimed any offensive personal allusion; but as there was a loud clamour the moment that he rose to address the House, it was natural that he should feel annoyed by it. He certainly was ready to make every proper apology for his warmth [Hear, hear!].
§ Mr. Alderman Waithman
rose to vindicate the city of London from the aspersion cast on its conduct by an hon. member. The hon. member should not forget that on every emergency the city of London had always been foremost to manifest its loyalty, and to advance its extensive and liberal aid to the government. The celebrated income tax, the discontinuance of which was so much lamented now by his majesty's ministers, he believed originated with the city of London, and he had the satisfaction to add, that it was the spirit and persevering firmness of the 'city of London which gave the mortal blow to that odious and inquisitorial tax. The hon. member should also recollect that although the city of London petitioned against this tax as a heavy grievance, the population of the city was not as one to ten of those in its vicinity who felt its pressure, and who were much less able to bear it; and more especially the manufacturing orders and labouring poor in its suburbs and surrounding vicinage, who were most grievously affected by this tax.
Sir J. Sebright,
in the present exigency, was not for reducing the revenue. On the contrary, if the finances of the country were placed on a sound footing, and a rigid system of public economy adopted, no man would be more ready to pay himself, and to vote for the payment by the nation at large, of such taxes as the good of the state might require. But the duty under consideration was most unfair and 585 partial, and he must enter his protest against it.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
said, that with repect to the apprehension expressed by some gentlemen, that if the tax were repealed in London, instead of lowering the price here, it would only transfer it to the owners of coal mines, who would directly charge a much higher price on coals at the pit's mouth, he could speak from his own knowledge, that for the last 18 or 20 years, not a shilling had been raised on the price of coals at the pit's mouth; on the contrary, it had diminished one shilling per chaldron for three years past. The coal owners charged at the pit but 16s. the chaldron, and this at a time when the poor of London were paying 1s. the bushel. He should support the motion.
§ Mr. Ellice
supported the motion, because he thought an equalization of the duty preferable to the present tax, which he considered partial and oppressive.
§ Mr. Bennet
said, he should vote against the tax, because he thought it extremely oppressive in the metropolis and the surrounding country, and he should vote against an equalization, because he thought it would be ruinous to the manufacturing districts.
§ Mr. Protheroe
defended the conduct of the city of Bristol in petitioning against the equalization tax, because they thought it would immediately occasion a considerable rise on coals at the pit's mouth. But with respect to any tax on coals, there was but one opinion in all Bristol, and that was, that the tax should be repealed altogether. He trusted the time was not far distant when all the taxes of the country would call for revision, and when the relinquishment of this oppressive tax would be forced upon his majesty's ministers.
§ Mr. Maxwell
said, that in rising to oppose the motion, he was directing his hostility to the equalization of duty; for he was convinced, that if the present duties were repealed, new ones of such a nature would be immediately resorted to. Any alteration to which his conception led him would be unjust and grievous to his constituents. The county which he had the honour to represent, and the district in which he lived, was filled with coal mines and studded with manufactories; to it any duty would, in consequence, be highly injurious and unjust; for they had built large edifices for their manufactures, 586 upon the faith of cheap fuel, and the coal proprietor had embarked his capital in mines on the faith of their continuance. But what would be the situation of the poor in many parts without wood and without coals, and to whom coals must be carried more than twenty miles on almost impassable roads, and under a latitude of nine months winter? No man agreed more fully in what fell from the hon. member for Durham on the subject of taxation. He would oppose every tax which tended to support corruption or military despotism; but when he could see that the tax was just, and it was, in his judgment, necessary for the conduct of the state, he would as readily vote for its continuation. London had such advantages as no other part of the kingdom could boast.—A court, a parliament, a judicature, and all the attendant wealth belonging to them expended in it—a national bank—an East India monopoly— charities—donations — schools — asylums without end—high prices for labour, and every comfort and convenience, when the power of working ceased, gave it privileges and advantages no other place could attain. He opposed this bill, then, in its first stage, and should continue to oppose to the best of his ability.
observed, that as the existing duty was most oppressive and unequal, and bore peculiarly hard on those whom he had the honour to represent, he felt it his duty to support the motion.
§ Mr. Sumner
replied. After which, the House divided: Ayes 49; Noes 15.1. Majority against the motion 102.
|List of the Minority,|
|Anson, hon. G.||Maule, hon. Wm.|
|Barnet, James||Monck, sir C.|
|Bastard, E. P.||Moore, Peter|
|Bastard, John||Mount Charles, lord|
|Becher, W.||Newman, R. W.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Normanby, lord|
|Buxton, F.||Onslow, serjeant|
|Byng, G.||Powlet, hon. H. W.|
|Conyngham, lord F.||Perring, sir John|
|Courtenay, W.||Protheroe, Ed.|
|Crawley, S.||Pryse, P.|
|Denison W. J.||Ramsbottom, John|
|Duncannon, lord||Rancliffe, lord|
|Ellice, Ed.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Gurney, H.||Rumbold, C.|
|Harvey D. W.||Sebright, sir J.|
|Honywood, W.||Smith, hon. R.|
|Hurst, Robt.||Smith, J.|
|Lamb, hon. G.||Smith, W.|
|Lambton, J. G.||Tennyson, C.|
|Lefevre, S.||Thorp, alderman|
|Turton, E.||Wilson, Thomas|
|Wall, C. B.||Wood, Alderman|
|Western, C.||Sumner, Holme|
|Williams, Wm.||Ebrington, lord|
|Wilson, sir R.|