§ On the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means,
§ MR. HUME
said, he would take that opportunity of correcting an error which the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets had made in his speech in the House, and which he had afterwards repeated in a letter to the Times. The hon. Baronet said that he opposed his (Mr. Hume's) Motion because it would create a deficit of 7,000,000l., and that that would endanger the credit of the country. He (Mr. Hume) begged to state, in answer to the observations of the hon. Baronet, and to remove all doubt, that the actual deficit of the past and present year was 4,800,000l.; and that, supposing the expenditure to be carried out on the scale which the noble Lord laid down in his budget, there would be only that deficiency. He begged, at the same time, to impress on the House, that, whether they voted the continuance of the tax for one year or 364 two, that Motion would not affect the credit of the country, or take away 1l. from the means of filling up that deficiency.
§ House in Committee of Ways and Means.
§ MR. JAMES WILSON
said, the question before the House was, whether the income-tax should continue for one year, or three years; but after the very effective speech of the right hon. Baronet opposite on Monday night, and the speeches of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn and the hon. Member for South Warwickshire, it was quite evident that that was the stage in which it was the intention of the House to consider the whole question of our financial and commercial policy, and more especially with regard to the course taken in 1842, and confirmed in 1845, and upon which he apprehended the House had then to decide whether they were willing to go on, or to revert to the old system. The question before the House involved the question of the success of that policy. He was quite aware, after hearing the speeches of the hon. Member for South Warwickshire and the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, that those hon. Members and the Gentlemen who usually acted with them, referred the present distress of the country to the measures that were introduced by the right hon. Baronet. Now, if he understood the policy adopted by the right hon. Baronet in 1842, and confirmed by the House in 1845, it involved two great public questions—that of finance, and that of commerce. He should propose, in the first place, to make a few observations upon the financial effect of that policy, because he believed that that was the object which the right hon. Baronet then had principally in view. It was hardly necessary that he should remind the House of the state of our finances in 1842, when the experiment was first made. The right hon. Baronet had so effectively done that on Monday night, that it was unnecessary for him to do more than refer to it. But he believed it was admitted on all hands, and was professed by the right hon. Baronet himself, that in imposing the income-tax in 1842 he had two distinct objects in view. The first was, to raise the financial condition of the country; and the second was to relieve the springs of industry, in order that from the ordinary sources of revenue the income might, in the course of a moderate time, rise equal to the expenditure. The first point then for the House to consider was, how far those two objects had been attained since 365 1842? In that and the four successive years the right hon. Baronet had reduced or repealed the following amount of taxes:—
Making a total in those five years of no less a sum than 7,897,000l. He thought it required no observation on his part to convince the House what a relief the removal of those taxes must have been to the industry of the country. But against that amount the right hon. Baronet had imposed the income-tax, which he would put at 5,500,000l., leaving a clear annual profit of 2,400,000l. in favour of the public. But, notwithstanding that extraordinary reduction, would the House allow him to call their attention to the state of the actual produce of the Customs and Excise duties in 1842, when that policy was commenced, and in 1847, the last year that it had been in operation? In 1842 the whole of the Customs duties amounted to 23,515,374l., and the Excise duties to 14,602,847l. making together 38,118,221l. In 1847, notwithstanding the reduction of 7,897,000l., the two amounted together to 37,290,459l.; so that, notwithstanding the extraordinary reduction to which he had referred, such had been the effect of those reductions on the commerce and industry of the country that the revenue had risen to within 700,000l. of the total of the former revenue. The next thing to which he would call the attention of the House on the financial operations of that policy, was the effect it had had upon the debt of the country. In the first place, he would refer to the amount of the deficiency bills the Government were obliged to rely on receiving from the Bank of England, in order to pay the dividends on the debt. In 1842 the Government paid the Bank of England no less a sum than 100,000l. for interest on the deficiency bills—interest for money borrowed to pay the public creditors—and when the Government were not in a position themselves to pay. On the 5th of January, 1842, the amount of deficiency bills the Government were obliged to receive advances on from the Bank of England was 6,600,000l.; in 1843 it was 8,560,000l.; and that increase arose from the fact that a very small portion of the income-tax was then paid; and therefore, although the Government were 366 perfectly justified in relying upon the amount of that tax during the following six months, yet on the 5th of January, the new tariff having been in operation twelve months, only 200,000l. had been received on account of the income-tax. In 1844, however, the deficiency bills had decreased in amount to 5,462,000l.; in 1845 to 2,095,000l.; in 1846 to 280,000l.; and in 1847 the Government were in a condition to pay the whole of their liabilities without receiving one fraction of accommodation from the Bank of England. He thought, when they had heard so much in the commercial world of all the inconvenience to which it was exposed by the Government relying on the Bank of England at stated periods for a large amount of accommodation, it could not be considered a small advantage that the Government were able, within the period he had mentioned, to relieve the Bank of that requirement of aid and assistance. Whilst, therefore, they had reduced taxation to an amount of nearly 7,000,000l., they had also, by that policy, cleared away what he might call an unfunded debt of no less than 6,000,000l. Again, he found that in 1842 the amount of the funded debt was 738,000,000l.; in 1847 it was 724,000,000l., showing that, in the same period, there was a reduction of no less than 14,000,000l. sterling, making a total reduction in the debt of the country of 20,000,000l. There was, moreover, an annual saving in the charge of the country of 9,834,825l. The right hon. Baronet had effected an annual saving, on the
In 1842 £1,590,000 1843 411,000 1844 407,000 1845 4,749,000 1846 740,000
So far, therefore, as the financial effects of the policy of the right hon. Baronet were concerned, he thought they had no right to be dissatisfied. Then with respect to the commercial consequences of that policy. It must be in the recollection of all hon. Members in that House, that in 1842 the commerce of the country was in an extremely prostrate condition. The amount of the exports in that year was only 47,000,000l., whereas in 1836 it had increased to no less than 57,000,000l. They had heard a great deal of the effect which their policy would have on Conti- 367 nental countries. They held out, he admitted, hopes to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, that if they were willing to relax their tariff, they would find that other nations were ready to meet them on terms of reciprocity. He admitted that, with him, it was not a very important consideration whether those nations reduced their tariffs or not, if he could have the gratification of seeing the result of the efforts of this country; but he had yet to learn that it was wise in us to do an injury towards ourselves merely because other nations were foolish enough to persevere in what we thought was an unwise course towards their own subjects. However, notwithstanding the boast that was frequently made, that whilst we had relaxed our tariff, foreign countries had only made their tariffs more stringent, he found that the exports had increased to those countries where the tariff was most stringent. In 1842 the exports to the whole Continent of Europe were 20,000,000l.; in 1846 they had increased to 27,000,000l., being an increase in four years of not less than 33 per cent. That was a most satisfactory result. But he thought it would be enough to say that we had passed through two years unparalleled in the history of the world—unparalleled considering the variety of causes that combined during that period to prostrate the condition of the country, and, he was sorry to say, of the whole of Europe also. We had not had famine in this country alone; there had been a severe famine in the neighbouring States of Europe, in the whole of the western and southern, and some of the northern provinces of Europe; and those countries from which we were in the habit of drawing in former years supplies for our own subsistence, when our harvests were bad, were obliged to come to the farmers of Lincoln and Norfolk and other places in this country to purchase corn for themselves. No wonder, then, that we had found their ability somewhat less to purchase our manufactures. But were there any means by which they might compare the extraordinary depression of the last two years with that of any other former period? They all remembered 1839—the consequences of the bad harvest in that year produced political disorganisation, and the Bank of England was reduced to such a state by adverse exchanges that it took at least four years before commerce showed the slightest symptom of revival from the prostration. But let them look to the quantity of grain that 368 was imported at the time. It was 3,000,000 quarters. But in 1847 it was 12,000,000. Judging, then, by that increased quantity of imports, he should say that if the consequences had been more severe than we had yet known, or, he hoped, we should know them, they might have been expected from the circumstances of the times. But not only was that quantity of grain imported, but other articles of food were also imported, showing that an extraordinary scarcity of food prevailed. He confessed that when he referred to these things, he could not but tender his gratitude to the right hon. Baronet for having rendered it possible for this country, in the circumstances she had been labouring under during the last two years, to import those articles which, before 1842, were entirely prohibited. Before 1842 live animals were entirely prohibited from being imported; but, in 1845, 34,000 head of cattle were imported; and, in 1847, 216,000; and yet, with that large importation, it had been an universal complaint in all parts of the country that animal food was never so inconveniently dear as during that period. Prior to that time, too, there was a prohibition against provisions usually known by the term of "meat of various kinds." By the tariff of 1842 the restrictions were taken off some, and on others the duties were reduced; and the consequence was, that although in 1845 only 130,000 cwt. were imported, in 1847 the quantity had increased to 461,000 cwt. Then as to butter and cheese; in 1845 the quantity of butter imported was 254,000 cwt.; in 1847 it was 314,000 cwt. Of cheese, in 1845, the quantity imported was 268,000 cwt.; in 1847 it was 355,000 cwt. Of grain, the quantity imported in 1845 was 2,162,644 quarters; in 1847 it was 9,437,034 quarters; and of flour, in the year 1845, it was 953,000 cwt.; in 1847, 8,637,000 cwt. Then, bad as was the whole condition of the country at present, and melancholy as were the accounts from the manufacturing districts, what would they have been if the sliding-scale had prevented the importation of a large quantity of grain, and that entire quantity of live animals, and a large portion of animal food? With respect to the large quantity of imported grain to which he had referred, he was prepared to contend that under the sliding-scale, although it had been professed to be an ingenious device by which corn was admitted when prices were high, nothing like that quan- 369 tity could have been imported. The uncertainty of what the duty might be when the import of corn arrived, rendered it impossible to bring it from distant countries of the world; and with respect to those corn-exporting countries which lay nearer home, they were as badly off as ourselves. The largest quantity of this grain came in the proportions of about half from the far western States of America, and the other half from Russia; and the distance which the grain had to be conveyed would have rendered it physically impossible that half of the importation that took place could have been brought in under the operation of the sliding-scale. He was ready to admit that a distinct expectation had been held out to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that, as the imports increased, our exports would increase in a corresponding ratio; and he admitted that the facts of last year showed that there had been some disappointment in that respect. Yet he would show that that was not a ground for having less confidence in the principle which had been acted upon. He need not refer to the extraordinary state of depression which had prevailed in the neighbouring countries of Europe the last two years, and to the failure of the harvest in Germany, France, and the greater part of southern Europe; but the large imports of grain which must in consequence have taken place into those ports might be conjectured. But let hon. Gentlemen remember this fact, that in 1846, out of 57,000,000l. of exports, no less than 27,000,000l. went to the neighbouring countries of Europe; and that notwithstanding their hostile tariffs they took our manufactured goods to an extent exceeding the whole of our colonial possessions, including the Mauritius. In saying this, he desired not to be understood as making an invidious remark upon our colonies; he merely wished to state the fact, and that it should be known and appreciated, when they wished to investigate these matters and trace consequences to their causes. France took of our manufactures 2,700,000l.; Germany, 6,000,000l.; being as much, or more, than the whole of our East India possessions. Holland took 3,500,000l., being a larger amount than our American colonies. Italy, also, took more than the whole of our North American territory, and Turkey took more than all our Australian colonies. Our trade had suffered not only from the blight of the potatoes in Ireland, and the failure of the barley and oat crops in Scot- 370 land, but from the blight of the potato and wheat crops in France, and of the rye crop in the Rhenish provinces and other parts of the Continent. And here he would beg the attention of the House to the extraordinary effect that this sudden revulsion in the state of Europe had had during the last year in some of the leading articles of export from this country, as shown in the following comparative view of the exports of those articles to southern and western Europe during the years 1846 and 1847:—
Funded debt, of £1,295,580 On the cost of management, of 68,612 For interest on deficiency bills, of 98,600 For interest on Exchequer-bills, of 475,033 And for reductions in the Customs and Excise duties, of 7,897,000 Making together £9,834,825
The article of printed calicoes was the only one on which there had been any increase in 1847, and from those figures the House would see how sympathetic the manufacturing markets both in this country and abroad were in those cases. The House was aware of the depression which had prevailed in our Eastern markets, including the East Indies, China, and the islands of those seas, and which proceeded from causes utterly disconnected with the recent commercial policy; and he would now read a comparative statement of our exports to those markets in the years 1846 and 1847:—
1846. 1847. Cotton twist 102,629,901 lb. … 73,087,127 Thread and sewing 896,128 lb. … 919,207 Plain calicoes 109,417,507 yds … 67,024,351 Printed calicoes 76,548,710 yds … 77,585,332 Lines 4,135,902 yds … 4,918,120 Woollens 2,067,136 £. … 1,733,124 Silks 319,360 £. … 326,597
Now this great reduction in the amount of their exports was to be taken as affording a reason—clear, evident, and plain—in connexion with the failure of the harvest in these countries and in the adjoining parts of the Continent, for the depreciation which had taken place in the export of manufactures from this country during the past year. But he would now beg to call the attention of the noble Lord opposite to these two facts. There were two countries from which they imported the largest quantity of the corn which they required, and which no other countries could supply; and what was the state of things with regard to their exports to these countries? He, for one, never looked to a large increase of exports immediately fol- 371 lowing the increase of their imports from other countries, because for fifty years the effect of the policy of this country had been to raise up rival manufactures abroad; and it was unreasonable to expect that just as this country chose the time for altering its policy, they should do so too. But still he found that in the very first year of these enormous imports of corn from the United States and Russia, there had been a great corresponding increase in the amount of our exports; it being, as the House would recollect, the very first year in which the system of free trade with regard to them had been brought into operation. He found the following to be the amount of our exports of manufactured goods to the United States and Russia, for the two years 1846 and 1847:—
1846. 1847. Cotton twist 27,665,843 lb. … 22,529,236 Thread and sewing 114,746 lb. … 257,886 Plain calicoes 289,926,041 yds … 205,997,215 Printed calicoes 35,147,317 yds … 30,691,702 Linens 741,043 yds … 542,076 Woollens 579,966 £. … 538,019 Silks 16,223 £. … 32,338
Thus our exports to the two countries from which we imported our large quantities of grain rose in the articles of calico 300 per cent, of woollen 50 per cent, and silk 100 per cent. The noble Lord called the attention of the House the other night to the failure, as he thought it, of the reduction of the duty upon brandy. The noble Lord seemed to entertain the impression that the moment a duty was reduced, the effect was only to transfer the amount of that duty to the pocket of the foreign producer. The noble Lord had taken the article of brandy to prove this, and had told the House that in 1846, when the right hon. Baronet reduced the duty from 22s. 6d. to 15s. 6d., the foreign producer took all the benefit. But the noble Lord had only succeeded in making out that there had been a rise of 1s. per gallon in the price in bond of brandy after the reduction of the duty; and, therefore, upon his own showing, the consumer must have been benefited to the extent of at least 6s. out of the 7s. that were taken off. But he (Mr. Wilson) fully admitted that, if a duty were reduced, whereby the consumption of the article was increased, without previous preparation, and without the accumulation of an increased stock, the consequence must be a rise of the price in bond. The increase in price was the only motive to the producer to furnish an increased supply of the article. Had it not been so in this 372 case of brandy? The quantity of brandy imported in 1845 was 1,900,000 gallons; but in the first year after the change had been made in the duty, and when that small rise in price to which the noble Lord had referred took place, the quantity imported was no less than 2,700,000 gallons, and the consumption rose from 1,000,000 gallons in the former year, to 1,500,000 gallons in the latter year. He had been furnished by one of the most eminent brokers in the city with a statement of the prices of brandy, and he found that the noble Lord was so far correct that the moment it was announced the duty was likely to be reduced, and the consumption therefore increased, the price rose 1s. per gallon in bond. But he found also a fact which the noble Lord had not stated, that the price of brandy had afterwards gradually subsided to the amount it had been prior to the reduction of the duty. A duty had never been reduced without some rise in price taking place immediately; and that was the very motive which induced the foreign producers to send a larger supply. The noble Lord had also referred to the alteration in the silk duty. Whether the noble Lord had closely studied the history of the silk trade he did not know; but the matter had been so frequently referred to and discussed, that he felt it unnecessary to go back to the year 1823, and trace the quadrupling of that trade since that time, and he would therefore content himself with reminding the noble Lord of what had taken place during the last year and a half since the change. The facts, however, were so well known, that he would not trouble the House at any length; but it was a curious circumstance, that although the exports had fallen off somewhat during the last year, almost the only article in which there was an increase was silk manufactures, the export of which in 1846 was 729,000l., and which has increased in 1847 to 890,000l.; and it should be also observed, that the only article in which our exports to France had increased during the last year had been articles of silk manufacture, and France was now our second largest customer in the whole world for silk manufactured goods. The noble Lord had also referred to cotton, and seemed to think that the only effect of the imposition of a duty would be to reduce the profit of the grower in North America. But were hon. Gentlemen aware of the extreme competition which existed at this moment in cotton manufactured goods between this 373 country and the United States; that in the markets of China for example—nay, even in our own colonies, as the Cape of Good Hope—America competed so closely and keenly in some of the most important articles of cotton manufacture as almost to threaten to drive out our producers? A duty charged here that was not chargeable in New England would render the article by so much higher to the English manufacturer; and if only a farthing a pound were added to cotton it would he a most important addition in the price of those articles in which there was already so close a competition. Was there any reason, then, notwithstanding the melancholy prostration of the country, to regret the course of policy pursued during the last few years? So far as regarded finance and commerce, the policy of 1842 had, he thought, been perfectly successful. He believed that the country had been enriched, directly or indirectly, by that policy, twenty times the amount of the income-tax. When the events which had taken place during the last few months upon the Continent were reviewed, and the prostration of trade which had occurred at home was recollected, he thought no Gentleman could wish that we should now have to deal with a great question of discord between the rulers and the ruled in this country. To his mind, it appeared that one of the most gratifying reflections which the right hon. Baronet and those who had acted with him could now entertain, must be that they had had the wisdom to make concession in time, and not waited for such an hour as this. There were few who would not feel that they owed a deep debt of gratitude to that Government which had sacrificed all its own personal views and interests, and feelings and ties that were dearer still, in order to carry out a policy which they believed must conduce to the true, lasting, and permanent interests of this country. He would now leave this part of the subject, and turn to that which was more immediately the question before the House. The real question the House had to decide apart from minor considerations was, whether that policy was to be continued under which we had prospered? At least he might say that we had prospered; for if we had not had these exports last year, and if there had been a failing trade with Russia and the United States, our condition would have been much worse; and therefore he might say that we had prospered in finance and in commerce under the new system. 374 The question then was, whether this course should be persevered in, or whether we should revert to the system of Customs and Excise, in order to make the income of the country equal to the expenditure? The noble Lord in bringing forward the budget the other night had stated that the revenue had fallen no less than 2,400,000l., and that the decrease on the last quarter had been 1,100,000l. This was not more than under the circumstances might have been expected. In 1842, for example, when the system of protection and the sliding-scale had been in full operation, and when the harvest had not been so bad as that of last year, the Excise alone had fallen off in one quarter 700,000l. Regarding the deficiency then stated by the noble Lord, there were three courses open to the noble Lord to pursue. They might consider whether it was worth while to borrow the money and increase the funded debt of the country. Some Gentlemen might think that a wise policy; but for himself he rejoiced that the sense of the country at large was opposed to an increase of the funded debt in a period of peace. The next thing to consider was the possibility of reducing the expenditure. He had looked over the Estimates—not that he was able to form an accurate opinion of them—but he had confidence in those by whom those estimates had been prepared, and believed that everything had been done consistent with their views of public duty, and in accordance with the policy that had been sanctioned by that House. The estimates had been prepared, not so much with respect to a policy which the Government sought to carry out, but with regard to a policy which had already received the sanction of that House; and, therefore, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman who had brought them forward should not be held solely and entirely responsible, but that the House ought to bear also some share of responsibility for the development of principles which they had previously recognised. He was not prepared to assert that some reductions might not be made in the estimates; but he could not refrain from expressing the strong objection he felt to the course pursued by the Government in one respect. He thought it was not consistent with the dignity of Government to have brought down specific estimates for the expenditure of the year, and then ask the House to refer those estimates to Committees. He could understand a Government coming down on the 375 first day of a Session, and appointing a Finance Committee to inquire into the revenue and expenditure of the country; but that was a very different proceeding to that which the Government had taken. It was contrary to all precedent to refer specific estimates to any Committee whatever; and he regarded the act with apprehension not only with respect to the present case, but regarded the effects it might have in future. The preparation of the estimates was one of the most important functions of the Executive Government; they of course knowing so much better than any one else could possibly know, what were the circumstances which influenced the expenditure; and he much feared that if a precedent of this kind were set, it would infuse into the Governments of future years a laxity in the preparation of these estimates which might eventually prove highly prejudicial. The best guarantee for carefully prepared estimates was in the feeling of responsibility which attached to the Government; and while, not casting the least imputation upon the intentions of the Government, he had felt it his duty to say, and his belief was, that the country would have no confidence in those estimates when they had come out of the hands of these Committees. And, looking to the circumstances attending their expenditure, he did not think that there was much probability of their being able to effect any great reduction—at least for this year. The Committee might make a searching and careful inquiry; but they would find that their policy was fixed, and that it would be neither possible nor desirable to leave unfinished, and to go to rack and ruin, any of those immense works which they had commenced in past years, and which they were now under an obligation to see rapidly, though at the same time with a proper regard to economy, completed and carried out. There was too, another very serious question to be mooted in all considerations of reduction. They found, every month, new British possessions rising up all over the world. Up to the year 1834, indeed, the extent of our foreign possessions had been really very small compared to what they were now. The rapid and striking progress in the acquisition by Great Britain of new territory during that period, had in it, to his mind, something appalling. It was quite quite true that their export trade had greatly increased, and that they had created many additional markets during that time; but he entertained considerable 376 doubt if, in a merely commercial point of view, those new possessions had anything like paid their expenses. If they were to travel over the universe, dropping a handful of Englishmen on every barren coast in their way—on large islands, for instance, like Trinidad, where there were only twenty-three people to the square mile, and would not be content with their own West Indian colonies—if they would wander continually in search of new possessions, and insist on appointing governors, deputy-governors, and officers of every class and grade to the new territory—if they would afterwards call for ships of war to protect the property of their colonists, even in these small places—why, then the public which indulged in this sort of mania for extending their flag, and those Gentlemen in the House who called out justly enough for economy, should consider first of all what they demanded of the Government to do before they thought of cutting down the expenditure. It was only the other day that a petition arrived from the Chamber of Commerce at Singapore, praying the Home Government to despatch additional frigates to protect British ships in those seas; and at Penang also the same demand was being made. He did not mean to say that this policy was radically bad, but he did maintain that a calculation ought to be made; and if the commercial world did really think it for their interest to go on extending their markets in the way they had done for some years, it would be the height of absurdity in that House to pretend that they would be able to reduce the expenditure in such a manner as to leave those recently-acquired possessions without any defence. No Government—no House of Commons, would ever be brought to consent to leave their colonists, no matter under what circumstances the colony had been planted, without a just and adequate protection; and, therefore, while there was not a Gentleman in that House who could be more anxious than he was to see economy enforced on all hands, he begged of them, in directing attention to this subject, to begin, not with the estimates, but with the causes of those estimates. There were yet, as he conceived, other reasons why, this year, they would find it difficult to adopt any important reduction in the expenditure. He entirely sympathised in the feelings of those hon. Gentlemen who had expressed well-founded apprehension of perceiving that, year by year, the amount of our ex- 377 penditure was seriously increasing. There was no doubt that such was the fact; but it would, he thought, be much more dignified in them if they examined beforehand the whole system, and traced the causes of expense, rather than utter complaints when the time time came to pay debts which had been incurred in accordance with public opinion, and in pursuance of the recorded votes of that House. Therefore, as he could not bring his mind to believe it in their power to effect any reduction of moment; seeing, moreover, a deficit of no less than 2,000,000l. in the estimates of next year, another deficit nearly as large on the last year, and without a prospect of improvement, he was sorry to say, in the coming twelve months—with, in point of fact, the probability of another deficit—he considered they would be taking a perilous step—a step which he would not sanction with his vote—to commence a year with such elements of danger around them without insuring full security to the finances in the manner now proposed by the Government. Well, then, what were they to do? It appeared to him that the only other remedy left was what had been proposed by the Government in the first instance. It might be unpopular in him to say so; but he did most firmly believe that in this matter the country was wrong and the Government right; and he was convinced that not two years would pass over their heads without many Gentlemen in that House regretting their opposition to the project of the Ministry. If they found themselves under the necessity of increasing the taxes, the first consideration was (and he begged it to be understood that he knew nothing of the views of Government beyond what he had heard in that House), how could they most conveniently obtain the required income? and he did not see that there was any mode in which they could have done so more likely to meet general approbation than the one contemplated by Her Majesty's Ministers. Suppose they had reverted to the Customs duties—suppose the proposal of the noble Lord oppoosite (Lord G. Bentinck) had been brought forward—did the noble Lord really believe, that in the present depressed state of commerce, anything like a restriction, increasing that depression, would have been endured? What kind of duty would the noble Lord have suggested? This was not a question of protection, it was a question of revenue. If the noble Lord would have wished to return to the 378 sugar duties, he could only have done so, not by repealing the Bill of 1846, but by increasing the duty on our own colonial produce; for an increase of differential duty on foreign produce would, of course, have only had the effect of decreasing the revenue. In the present condition of the West Indian planters, and in the present state of the public mind, would such a proposal as that on the part of the noble Lord be received with any favour or with any probability of success? Would they have reimposed the Excise duties? He considered that no class of duties was more vexatious or more inquisitorial. Then, as the Customs duties and Excise duties were equally out of the question, what remained to the Government? They had only direct taxation to fall back upon. And he would beg to remind hon. Gentlemen that every tax they imposed would turn out, in one shape or another, to be be an income-tax. It was contrary to the recognised principles of taxation, as laid down by all statesmen, to tax capital; they derived, or ought to derive, their revenue from income, and income alone. This was the principle upon which they were supposed to proceed, and on that ground he objected to the probate duties as they existed at present. There were many good reasons why those duties should not be extended to real property; but there were further good reasons why they should be repealed on personal property, for they were duties on the capital of the country, and on that account objectionable. All taxes, therefore, were taxes on income, and the only question was, would they tax the articles they consumed, or submit to have the same sum extracted from their pockets by the Income-tax Commissioners at certain periods of the year? The Customs duties had been found onerous, prejudicial, and unjust, and, to a certain degree, had been given up. They then must have recourse to an income-tax, and they had merely to consider what kind of income-tax it should be. It appeared to him that that which had been in operation since 1845 was the best which they could now adopt. In the first place, they had the whole machinery ready at their hand; and, in the second place, the public mind had, to some extent, become reconciled to the present system. ["No, no!"] He could only say, that if the public was becoming dissatisfied, hon. Gentlemen in that House were greatly to blame; and some of his hon. Friends around him, who had been all their lives advocating this 379 particular tax in preference to all others, had, unwittingly, and contrary perhaps to their intentions, been doing a very great deal to render the system unpopular. They were told, first, that this tax was odious because it was inquisitorial in its nature. He, himself, had certainly been of that opinion in 1842: this was the sort of historical character which had become attached to the tax; but if hon. Gentlemen would put it candidly to themselves, they would confess that they had been agreeably disappointed as to the effect, in this respect, experienced by the country. He had met, at any rate, very few valid objections on this score either in public or in private; he had had no proofs, himself, of the tax being inquisitorial; and from the communications he had received on the subject from gentlemen suffering under the operation of Excise duties, if he were asked which was the least inquisitorial, an income-tax, a property-tax, or a system of Excise duties, he should have no hesitation in replying that the latter was infinitely more annoying and vexatious. There was another objection raised to the income-tax, which very much surprised him. The hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne), in his masterly speech the other night, referred to the objection taken by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, in 1842, to the proposition which was then made. He had thought then, and thought still, that a more futile objection had never been urged. The objection was—and it was now made great use of for the purpose of enlisting the working classes in the opposition—that the tax tended to withdraw a portion of that fund which would otherwise be devoted to the employment of labour. Now, was there any other tax that did not do that to the same degree? The amount, in every instance, thus withdrawn, must be equal only to the amount of the tax itself, and depended in no way upon the character of the tax. Take the Customs duties; surely they would interfere with trade, and commerce, and manufactures, and impede industry infinitely more than a mere payment under the income-tax by a person comparatively wealthy. A third objection was, that the income was a war tax. That was a mere term; in a time of war they would necessarily require a larger income than in a period of peace; and if this tax was substituted for the Customs duties, and they should require, from hostilities breaking 380 out, an extra 5,000,000l. or 10,000,000l., what difference did it make to the country how that was raised, provided the mode adopted was as little objectionable as possible? There was another objection offered to this tax of a very grave character, and which had been attempted to be refuted by many in that House who justly possesssed the confidence of the nation on all matters of finance. It was urged that there was inequality in this tax. He did not deny this inequality; and he was persuaded that a useful and successful effort might be made to render it more equitable. The existing inequality was the whole objection of many Gentlemen who otherwise approved of a system of direct taxation; and he believed, moreover, that, out of doors, in the large commercial constituencies, the proposal would have been received with approbation if this one ground of cavil had been removed. He had listened with attention to the recent speech of the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Horsman); and though he did not pretend now to offer an opinion on the plan suggested, or to support the principle which the Motion of the hon. Member would have laid down, he regretted that, from accident, he had been prevented being present to vote for it. He had been greatly surprised at the reply to that speech which had proceeded from the right hon. Gentleman, an ex-Chancellor, the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn). The right hon. Gentleman was entitled to all respect in expressing his convictions on a matter of this kind; but the objection which he had raised was undoubtedly most extraordinary. The right hon. Gentleman, first of all, laid down a general proposition, that all taxes were unequal, and that no tax could be made equal. He would at once admit that, to a mathematical nicety, it was impossible to obtain perfect equality in taxation; but, in the words of Mr. Pitt, that was no reason why they should not do what they could to make it as equal as possible. The right hon. Gentleman referred them to the land tax, as full of enormous inequality; but did the right hon. Gentleman not know that that inequality had been intentional, and had arisen out of one of the wisest laws this country ever passed? Originally the land tax was equal; it was made and fixed equal, in order that it should not interfere with improvements, just in the same way as they had, a few years ago, commuted tithes, and on the same principle as they now called upon the 381 East India Company to fix an annual land tax in India. The inequality had arisen since in consequence of improvements being made in particular lands more than in others; but this tax always adjusted itself as time went on. There must, inevitably, be inequality in all taxes at certain periods, but in course of time the balance was brought round. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the local burdens which landed property had to bear. It was convincingly laid down as a principle of administration by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, in 1846, that they ought never to set off local taxes on landed property against the general taxes of the country. Local taxes were for local purposes; and their character was according to the peculiar property to which they were attached; in the country the tax was on land, in cities it was on houses. To set off, therefore, the local tax against the national tax—to set off the local rate chargeable at Lincoln, with reference to the tax chargeable to the whole community of London and Liverpool, seemed to him to be anything but a fair or accurate appreciation of financial necessities, and a most extraordinary recommendation as coming from a right hon. Gentleman who had occupied the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had argued, as if in the cases of a physician and a landed proprietor, each with an income of 5,000l. a year, the professional man would have redress at once if his income should fall off 1,000l., while the landed proprietor would continue to pay precisely the same to the income-tax commissioner. But this was a fallacy, for the tenants who paid the rent would deduct what they paid to the tax-collector; and if the rent fell, the tax would fall also. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to Mr. Pitt, in 1803, objecting to taxing funded property, on the ground that it would be a breach of public faith; but when that Minister first proposed the income-tax as a substitute for assessed taxes, he distinctly asserted the principle that the holder of the funds had no right, because the debt was not subject to the tax, to demand being excepted himself from the general taxation. The proposal of the hon. Member for Cockermouth was only to tax funded property the same as other real property. The whole question was, what was income? It could not be said that the person who received interest from Consols, was receiving income in the same sense as the man who 382 held terminable annuities—who obtained not only interest but a portion of his capital at the end of every year. The right hon. Gentleman said that no reduction was made for repairs in real property; but on the other hand, no deduction was made for wear and tear in the mills. He believed that this tax, like other taxes, would adjust itself in time. His hon. Friend the ex-Member for Kendal had always contended that an income-tax would be quite fair, provided only it were permanent; but, to be fair, he thought it must also have existed a certain number of years. Of this, however, he felt quite assured, that into whatever errors the House might be betrayed with respect to the subject now under consideration, the principle of adjustment would still go on, and that laws apparently calculated to interfere with that principle very rarely proved effective. In illustration of this principle he might refer the Committee to the case of terminable annuities. If a terminable annuity were created, and purchased by an individual, when an income-tax was actually in operation, then, no doubt, the price paid for it would be calculated accordingly; and therefore the payment of such a tax would prove no injustice. But if after the creation of such annuities this tax were imposed, then there could be no question that the owner would be charged on the portion of his capital which was, according to his calculation, annually returned to him, as well as on the interest. And if the income-tax were continued, every person in future buying terminable annuities would buy them at a price calculated in reference to this tax. The injustice, therefore, was done only to the present owner, and not to the future buyer of such securities. So in like manner all ether interests would have a tendency in the course of time to equalise themselves in reference to this tax; and ultimately, if the tax should continue, it would equalise itself; and every year it continued in operation, this end would be nearer reached. If, therefore, Parliament could not be induced on the present occasion to attempt such an equalisation as that to which he had referred, and the income-tax should continue for some years longer—during which period a process of self-adjustment would be going forward—he might not be disposed at such future period to take the same view as at present with regard to the duty of Parliament then to attempt what he thought should be done now. In the previous part of the debate upon the 383 present Motion, the hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth told the House that the present was a question of income, and so certainly it must be considered; but the right hon. Baronet offered that proposition as a reason the very opposite of that which it presented to his (Mr. Wilson's) mind. The right hon. Baronet said it was a question of income, inasmuch as it was intended to be, and actually was, a substitute for Customs duties; but it was to be remembered that in Customs duties there was no scale, and that they were levied without reference to the nature of the income which was expended in their payment. Now, he thought that that argument might be used for a purpose different from, and opposed to, that used by the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet said, that the possessor of income might or might not disburse his income in the payment of Customs duties, or he might save his surplus income, or he might apply it to the payment of premiums on life assurance. The House could not have forgotten that, before any income-tax had been imposed, under the old laws the recipient of income expended whatever portion he thought proper, and laid aside whatever surplus remained. It would also be remembered, that Mr. Pitt recognised this principle in 1798, and made many provisions in the law respecting income-tax for the purpose of practically carrying out that principle. Mr. Pitt exempted from the operation of the law men having large families, and funds applied to the payment of premiums on life-assurance he also relieved from the necessity of paying income-tax. In fact, in every case, he permitted the recipients of incomes to deduct from their income-tax the amount charged upon the sums which they paid in the shape of premiums, on the ground that those sums were funded as capital, and were not expended as income. He had listened very attentively to the greater number of the speeches delivered on the question which now engaged the attention of the House, and he certainly had not heard any one argument to alter the opinion which he had originally expressed as to the inequality of the tax. To say, however, that it was impossible to render it more equal, would be to enunciate quite a different proposition. He was aware that, to attempt its equalisation, would be to undertake a task of great difficulty. Nevertheless, he thought that an effort ought to be made to apportion it with more fairness and justice towards all 384 parties. A conviction of its injustice had sunk deep into the minds and hearts of almost all classes of the community; and he apprehended that if some attempt were not made to secure greater equality, the discontent which the persuasion of injustice would engender, could not fail to endanger—at least, to some extent—the whole finances of the country. Having thus stated the various objections to the income-tax, he would offer a few observations upon the actual state of our finances, and our prospects for the coming year. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a few evenings ago, withdrew the original proposition of the Government to increase the income-tax 2 per cent. Unpopular as the opinion might be, he (Mr. Wilson) doubted the policy and the wisdom of that step; and he feared the House would regret, before two years had elapsed, that the first proposal had not been carried. What arrangement was to be made about the aggregate deficit of 3,300,000l.? That was a question deserving the most serious attention. There was already 1,300,000l. deficiency, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would pay by drawing on the balances. He could not recommend that course. Last January the right hon. Gentleman stated the balances were then 8,000,000l. sterling; but hon. Members must remember that that was on the 5th of January, when 7,200,000l. had to be paid within ten days afterwards. That amount of eight millions was really only a provision for the expenditure of the quarter for the dividends then due, and other expenses belonging to the quarter; and the real balance was only 882,000l.; and in order to make up the eight millions, no less than 1,000,000l. sterling, part of the loan of last year for Ireland, was reckoned; so that, in fact, in January last, instead of having any real balance applicable, there was a deficiency of 200,000l. If they went on till April next, there would be a still greater deficit; and at that time, if these 1,300,000l. were to be charged upon the balances before the dividends were paid, it would be necessary to fall back upon the system of deficiency bills. The right hon. Gentleman said he must either fall back upon the balances, or propose some new tax. He could not think we were in a satisfactory position, now that the Government had withdrawn their proposed addition of 2 per cent, with a deficiency of two millions, which must 385 either be met by new taxes, or by the disreputable course of adding to the funded debt during a time of profound peace. He felt most strongly they were pursuing a most injudicious and dangerous course in entertaining the budget in its present shape—with a deficiency of two millions sterling, not knowing how to make it good, yet inducing the Government to abandon the only proposition by which that result could have been obtained. With regard to the particular Motion before the House, the question, now that the concession of the two per cent increase had been made, was whether the 3 per cent should be continued for three years or one year? Some hon. Members, and the noble Lord opposite (Lord G. Bentinck), with his Friends, supported the shorter period upon what appeared to be most intelligible grounds, because they hoped we should go back to indirect taxation. This was an intelligible reason for supporting the Amendment. But other hon. Gentlemen, who really wished to see the Government policy which had been commenced, and once confirmed by the House, and which it was proposed to continue—many of them being among his own particular friends—wished to support the Amendment. This appeared to him a course most detrimental and prejudicial to the great interests and principles of the policy which they had adopted. Let them only consider in what position they would place the Government. With two millions of absolute deficiency, and an estimate of three millions more, with uncertainty as to what might take place next year, how could they expect Government to turn their attention to ameliorations of our commercial and fiscal system? On the 1st February, 1849, the present duties on corn would expire. The noble Lord opposite (Lord G. Bentinck) would be glad of any cause to induce the House to consent to a continuation of those duties; but his hon. Friends near him would be exceedingly opposed to any such result. Yet the course they were about to pursue was, in his estimation, doing more to endanger the fulfilment of their own principles than any other course they could possibly take. On these grounds he should vote for the proposition of the Government to continue the income-tax for three years. In Committee he should be glad to consider any proposal for removing its inequalities; but if those inequalities could not be removed without endangering the tax, much as he objected 386 to them, he would wave his objections for the present. Another point he begged to urge on his hon. Friends. There had recently been a very great movement in the commercial towns, and he had himself gone with deputations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord of the Treasury to ask for a repeal of the tea duties. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) was one of the greatest advocates for a repeal or reduction of the tea, tobacco, excise, and all other duties; but how could he expect the Government even to think of these matters, unless they had the means of providing for the deficit which would he produced? Government might receive deputations and hold out hopes that next year something might be done; but if the whole basis of our finance was to be rendered uncertain by making a tax amounting to five millions depend upon an annual vote, a tax so easy to be made unpopular, it would he utterly impossible to look forward with any hope for an amelioration of those taxes for which the public was so anxiously wishing. He, therefore, thought that the large constituencies of Liverpool, Manchester, and the city of London, which had been loudest in demanding these reforms (and he thought justly, because their interests were deeply involved in them) were somewhat inconsistent, if, whilst making these demands, they called upon Government and that House to obstruct the only course which would enable the Government to carry out their views. He should greatly mis-state his own views if he did not say he looked with great apprehensions at the course which the commercial interests of the country were likely to take during this year. On whatever side he turned, he did not see the slightest indications of anything like a permanent improvement, either at home or abroad. He knew it would be said out of doors, and that it would he said in that House, "if such be your opinions with regard to our commerce, is this a time for imposing a new tax?" But how were they to escape from the dilemma? Were they determined to support the credit of the country at all hazards? If that were their determination, as he believed it was, it would be idle to attempt to say that, because the country was in a bad state, the necessary expenditure could not be met. Why, to his mind, this was the great recommendation of the income-tax. The income-tax was just that particular kind of tax which, as 387 far as it was derived from real property, might fairly be expected to yield the same amount that it had hitherto done. They might safely calculate upon no reduction from that source; and with regard to incomes from trade and commerce, if trade was bad, less would be the tax to be paid. The tax, therefore, was certainly proportioned to circumstances; and, all things considered, it was the least prejudicial in time of depression. Those who were in possession of incomes from real property had clearly been well off during the last two years; and therefore they, at least, would not shrink from their share of any additional burdens. While the country had been suffering from great depression, consequent upon bad harvests, deranged commerce, and want of credit, land had actually increased in value, owing to the very causes of all these mischiefs to the other classes. The price of corn had been very high, rents never were so well paid, agricultural products, notwithstanding enormous importations, had obtained higher prices than for many years before; therefore, however distressed the commercial classes might have been, the landed classes had been exempt; and he was quite sure they would willingly bear increased taxation, in order to raise the income of the country upon an equality with its expenditure. To embarrass the Government would be to paralyse every branch of commerce; for if the national credit were depressed, commerce could not be prosperous. They all knew that the banking reserves were held in Government securities. If discredit affected them they would become unnegotiable; thus large amounts of capital would be withdrawn from money markets, former crises would be repeated, a worse panic than that of 1847 would ensue, and boarding, with increased discredit, must be the inevitable result. He maintained that the addition of the 2 per cent was a matter of no consideration as compared with the evils which those panics and crises would occasion. Upon these grounds he had made up his mind to support the Government measure of 3 per cent for three years. After the best consideration which he could give to the subject, he had arrived at the conclusion that the tax in that shape, if not in the other, was most important to the interest of all classes, and above all to those engaged in the commerce and industry of the country.
1846. 1847. Plain calicoes 12,468,113 yds … 44,460,459 Printed calicoes 17,240,546 yds … 51,813,329 Linens 20,817,312 yds … 28,063,267 Woollens 1,354,249 £. … 2,104,366 Silks 161,898 £. … 299,202 Cotton twist 14,116,502 lb. … 12,714,394 —thread 1,407,804 lb. … 996,656
MR. J. B. SMITH
expressed his inten- 388 tion of voting for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose, because he was favourable to a tax upon property rather than income, which was precarious. The manufacturing interest could not object to the income-tax, but they objected to the inequalities and injustice of the income-tax. It appeared to him that the country was very much in the position of a parish with which he was acquainted. For years they had gone on adding to their rates, until at length things were brought to a crisis by the proposal of a rate of 10s. in the pound. Upon this proposal, the parish was up in arms, special meetings were held, and after much fighting the rates were reduced to 2s. 6d. in the pound, and it was found that the affairs of the parish were just as well administered under the latter rate as under the high one of 10s. in the pound. So with regard to the affairs of the country. The expenditure had gone on yearly increasing; but he thought the time had now come when retrenchment was necessary. He had no doubt, if the expenditure of the country were looked into as carefully and minutely as a select vestry looked into the affairs of a parish, that a saving of some 9,000,000l. or 10,000,000l. might be effected. He regretted that he was obliged to agree with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down in the gloomy anticipations which he had expressed with regard to the coming year. The state of the Continent and our foreign markets was such, that he feared before the close of the Session the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have to ask the House for some additional means of increasing the revenue. For this reason he was inclined to support the continuance of the income-tax for one year; and by the expiration of that period such reductions might be made perhaps in the expenditure as would enable them to dispense with the tax, or regulate our whole system of taxation with a view to a fair and equal adjustment of the national burdens.
§ SIR W. MOLESWORTH
It appears to me that the two questions which have been the main subjects of discussion in the course of this debate, are, what are the causes of the present financial embarrassment of this country, and what is the best mode of meeting that embarrassment? The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, and his friends, maintain that the financial embarrassment of the country has been brought about by the free-trade policy of the right hon. Baronet the Member for 389 Tamworth; and that in order to relieve the country, it will be sufficient to return to protecting duties, and to substitute indirect for direct taxation. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury, have so ably defended the policy of free trade, that I will say nothing on that subject; but I must observe, that though they proved that free trade was not the cause of the present financial embarrassment, they have omitted to state what was the main cause of that embarrassment. I maintain that it can be easily traced to the vast, and I believe unnecessary, increase of expenditure which has taken place of late years. No one can deny that the expenditure of the country has been increased, and is increasing with great rapidity. This increase of expenditure has taken place since 1835; in that year both the income and the expenditure of the country were less than they had been in any year since the Peace. In 1835, the net income was 46,000,000l.; the expenditure, 44,400,000l.—a surplus of income, therefore, to the amount of 1,600,000l. Since that year taxes have been repealed to the estimated amount of 10,000,000l., and in their stead taxes have been imposed to the amount of 8,000,000l.; leaving, therefore, a balance of 2,000,000l. in favour of the taxes that have been repealed. Nevertheless the net income of the country has increased from 46,000,000l. in 1835, to 51,500,000l. in 1847—an increase of 5,500,000l.; but, unfortunately, the expenditure of the country has increased twice as fast, from 44,400,000l. in 1835, to 54,500,000l. in 1847—an increase of 10,000,000l. and upwards. This increase is so vast, that it is difficult to form an adequate conception of its amount. It amounts, for instance, to double the present income-tax. It is equal to the whole revenue from the duties on tea, coffee, and tobacco, taken together. It is double the malt-tax, six times the window-tax, ten times the county rates, a hundred times the sum we grant for the education of the people of England. It is 3,000,000l. more than the poor-rates—2,000,000l. more than we borrowed last year to save the Irish from starvation. This vast increase of expenditure, to what is it owing? Of the 54,500,000l. which we expended last year, 28,100,000l. were paid for the interest of debt. That sum was 400,000l. less than the sum which was paid in 1835 for the interest of debt; therefore the in- 390 crease of expenditure had been on account of the general government and of the forces of the country. For those purposes we expended in 1835 only 15,900,000l.; last year we required for the same objects 26,400,000l.—an increase of 10,500,000l. or 66 per cent. Of what does this increase consist? 1,500,000l. were applied to relieve distress in Ireland; 2,000,000l. were required for the increased expense of the general government of the country; and 7,000,000l. were paid on account of the increase in the Army, Navy, and Ordnance. Can we reduce any portion of this expenditure without detriment to the interests of the country? I will confine my observations to the expenditure for the Army, Navy, and Ordnance. The expenditure last year under those three heads amounted to 18,500,000l. and exceeded by nearly 4,000,000l. the average yearly expenditure for similar purposes since the commencement of our peace establishments in 1817. It even far exceeded the expenditure in any one of those thirty years, though more than once in that period Europe had been in a critical state, and rumours of war were rife. For instance, it exceeded by more than 4,000,000l. the expenditure in 1823, when France under the Bourbons invaded Spain, with the approbation of Austria, Russia, and Prussia; and England stood aloof, disapproving and menacing. Again, it exceeded by 3,700,000l. the average expenditure during the Administration of the Duke of Wellington—the three memorable years from the commencement of 1828 to the close of 1830, the years of Catholic emancipation, revolution in France, revolution in Belgium, revolution in Poland, and commencement of agitation for reform in England. From that period down to the year 1835, the expenditure gradually diminished, under the influence of a reformed Parliament, a reforming Ministry, and those able administrators and reformers, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, and others. It is painful in these times of lavish expenditure to read over their economical estimates, and to think that those happy days are so long gone by. 4,500,000l. were the moderate Navy Estimates of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon for the year 1834–5; 4,350,000l. were those of the noble Lord the Member for Bath for the year 1835–6; last year Lord Auckland spent 8,000,000l. on the Navy; this year he will spend as 391 many more. In 1834 and 1835, the cost of the Ordnance service was about a million a year, when Sir James Kemp and Sir George Murray were Master Generals; last year we spent 3,000,000l. on that service; this year more than 3,000,000l. are required. Again, for the Army and Commissariat the expenditure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry did not exceed 6,400,000l. for the year 1835; and 6,470,000l. was the expenditure in 1836 when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford prepared the Army Estimates. 7,540,000l. were paid last year for these services; and this year the noble Lord the Member for the city of London proposes to add 5,000 men to the Army in the United Kingdom, and to lay the foundation of a militia force; and the noble Lord told us, that—if we could not come to the conclusion that the militia force was desirable, he should be obliged in future years—in the next year or in some future year—to propose a still further extension of the Army.The whole expenditure for Army, Navy, and Ordnance in the year ending January, 1836, was 11,600,000l.; last year it was 18,500,000l.—an increase of nearly 7,000,000l. I will not now affirm or deny that the estimates might be reduced to those of 1834 and 1835. I shall be curious to hear from the right hon. Baronet and the right hon. Gentleman, who were responsible for those estimates, what is their present opinion on such matters. I must, however, beg the House to observe, that since 1835 the expenditure for Army, Navy, and Ordnance, has gone on increasing at the rate of 580,000l. a year, and that the increase of the estimated charge for this year, including the militia, is 750,000l. I must beg the House likewise to observe, that in consequenee of this increase of expenditure in seven out of the last twelve years, the whole expenditure of the country has exceeded the income by sums varying from 350,000l. to nearly 3,000,000l.—that if the expenditure for Army, Navy, and Ordnance, had continued the same as it was in 1835, in every one of those years there would have been a surplus of income over expenditure to an amount varying from 400,000l. to 4,000,000l.; and then, instead of suffering, as at present, from a deficiency of 2,956,000l., the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have had to declare a surplus of 3,800,000l., with which he might have taken off the window-tax, or halved the 392 duty on tea, or done many other things which would conduce to the health and comfort of the people. I will, however, suppose, for the sake of argument, that the estimates for 1835 would be wholly inadequate at present, in consequence of some change in our external affairs or foreign relations. But then I must ask why the estimates should far exceed what they were when our external affairs were by no means tranquil, and our foreign relations by no means pacific; for instance, when Canada was in rebellion—when we were at war in China and India—when we were angry with Russia on account of the capture of the Vixen, meddling in Syria, disputing in France about Tahiti, and quarrelling with America about the Oregon. Now, all these events occurred in the interval between 1837 and 1845; yet on the average of those nine years the expenditure for Army, Navy, and Ordnance, was only 14,500,000l. a year, or four millions less than last year, when we were on friendly terms with all the world, except some naked savages at the Cape of Good Hope. But suppose that at present an expenditure of 14,500,000l. would not be sufficient for the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, still I ask why the cost of those establishments was much greater last year than they were for the year ending January, 1846? In that year, the last financial year of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, there was a surplus of income to the amount of 3,800,000l.; now there is a deficiency of 2,950,000. Therefore, in the course of two years, there has been a change for the worse in the financial condition of the country to the extent of those two sums added together—namely, to the amount of 6,750,000l. Now, what has produced this alarming change in the finances of the country? The noble Lord the Member for the city of London, on a former occasion, referred to the distress which prevailed last year, and which had caused a considerable diminution in the revenue of the year ending last January, as compared to the year ending January, 1847. But the ordinary revenue of last year was only 400,000l. less than the ordinary revenue for the year ending January 1846; it is true that there was a diminution to the amount of 1,100,000l. on the extraordinary revenue, in consequence of the cessation of remittances from China, and, therefore, the total decrease on the whole revenue since the year ending January, 1846, amounted to 1,500,000; but 393 this decrease could not have converted a surplus of 3,800,000l. into a deficiency of 2,950,000l.; nor could this change have been brought about by the 1,500,000l. which was charged last year to the account of distress in Ireland. What, then, has produced the deficiency? I answer that it has been occasioned by the increase in the expenditure for the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, which amounted in the year ending January, 1846, to 15,664,000l., and which last year was 18,500,000l., an increase in the last two years of more than 2,800,000l., or just the amount of the present deficit. Now, I ask, why we should keep up these huge armaments, which are so much more costly than even those which the right hon. Baronet required? Are we afraid of the liberal principles of the Pope, or of constitutional government in Italy, or of the republic which has succeeded on the downfal of the monarchy of Louis Philippe in France? The French won't meddle with us if we do not meddle with them. They will have enough to do in arranging their own affairs, in the speedy settlement of which may every success attend them which a noble and courageous people deserve! That foolish invasion panic is now happily dispelled, which a short time ago threatened us with fortifications as vast and as useless as those by which Paris is surrounded. It is, however, said, that we must continue our huge expenditure on the Navy, because the French navy has increased during the last ten or twelve years in something like the same proportion that our own has increased. It may be true that the two countries have been vieing with each other, and running a foolish race of reckless expenditure on their navies. If this be true, it is evident that that country will be the wisest who shall first cry "halt!" Now, we ought to set France the example of diminishing the navy, and for two reasons: first, because our navy is much greater than that of France; secondly, because as long as we possess our commercial superiority, it is impossible that France or any other nation can compete with us for the dominion of the ocean. For all history proves that that country, however small may be its territory, will be supreme on the seas which possesses the greatest commerce. It was so with Tyre and with Carthage, with Athens, Venice, and Holland. It is so with England; and if England should ever lose the sceptre of the ocean, it will in 394 all probability pass to our kinsman of America, whose commerce most nearly approaches in magnitude to our own. If France wishes to compete with us on the seas, instead of exhausting her resources on vessels of war, let her look to her commercial marine, and foster it by removing restrictions on trade. By so doing she would trade more with us, bind herself more closely to us, and render a war with us impossible. In fact, as it is, the trade between France and England has increased of late years so rapidly, and to such an extent, that I am inclined, even at present, to doubt the possibility of a war between the two countries. I hold in my hand some extracts from the official returns of the French Government with regard to the trade of France. I find from them that, in the interval between the year 1830 and the year 1844, the foreign trade of France had doubled. In the same period, the imports from this country into France have increased nearly sixfold: in 1830 they did not exceed, according to the French valuation, the sum of a million sterling; in 1844 they amounted to 5,700,000l. In 1830 there were seven countries from each of which France imported more largely than from the United Kingdom—namely, from the United States, the kingdom of Sardinia, Holland, Russia, Germany, Austria (with its Lombardo-Venetian States), and Spain. In 1844 the imports into Franco were greater from the United Kingdom than from any other country in the world. The export trade from France to the United Kingdom has likewise increased since 1830, though with much less rapidity than the import trade from this country. On the average of the five years ending with 1834, the value of the exports from France to the United Kingdom was about 4,200,000l.; on the average of the five years ending with 1844, the value of those exports was 6,000,000l., an increase of nearly 50 per cent. During the latter period, the export trade of France to this country has exceeded that of France to any other country; and it might be greatly increased, with no loss to the revenue, and to the great benefit of the people of this country, by a low ad valorem duty upon French wine, so as to augment the consumption of cheaper wines. Such an alteration in our tariff would be a more effectual protection against war, than the squandering of millions on national defences. It appears, likewise, from the tables of the Board of Trade, that France 395 has become of late years one of our best customers. In the year 1830 there were sixteen countries to each of which we exported a greater amount of our produce and manufactures than we did to France. Those countries were, according to the declared value of our produce and manufactures exported to them in 1830–1st. The United States; 2nd. Germany; 3rd. The East Indies; 4th. Italy, and the Italian islands; 5th. The British West Indies; 6th. The Brazils; 7th. Holland and Belgium; 8th. The British North American Colonies; 9th. Russia; 10th. Turkey; 11th. Portugal; 12th. Mexico; 13th. Rio de la Plata; 14th. Cuba; 15th. Spain; 16th. Chili; and then, 17th. came France, and the declared value of our produce and manufactures exported to France was only 475,000l. in the year 1830. Now mark the difference in 1845. In that year the declared value of our produce and manufactures exported to France was six times as great as in 1830 (namely, 2,791,000l.), and France stood sixth on the list of our customers. The only countries to which we sent, in 1845, more of our produce and manufactures than we did to France, wore—1st. The United States; 2nd. The East Indies; 3rd. Germany; 4th. The British North American Colonies; and, 5th, Holland. We sent, in 1845, more of our produce and manufactures to France than we did either to the British West Indies, or to Italy, or to the Brazils, or to China, or Turkey, or Russia. We sent in the same year twice as much to France as we did either to Belgium or Cuba, or Australasia; and thrice as much to France as we did either to Chili, to Portugal, or to Peru, to each of which countries we exported at least twice as much in 1845 as we did to France in 1830. Thus it appears that the French buy more from us than they do from any other nation; they sell more to us than they sell to any other nation, and they may justly be ranked among our best customers. And I am convinced that our trade with them might be indefinitely increased, to the great benefit of the people of both countries, by a judicious alteration of the duties on their staple produce. It is, therefore, for the positive pecuniary interest of France and England to be friends; and I believe that that pecuniary interest will in the long run prevail, and eradicate any hostile feelings, which, if they do exist, exist only among the stupid, ignorant, and prejudiced portions of the two nations. Sir, I believe that the ma- 396 jority of the thinking and reflecting men of this country entertain sincere respect and admiration for the great people of France. They acknowledge that in science, literature, and in the arts of social life, the French are at the head of European civilisation; that in most respects they are our equals; in some respects, perhaps intellectually, our superiors; in none our inferiors, except in the practice of constitutional government, which we have acquired by long experience, and which they would have rapidly acquired, had it not been for the imbecile folly of their late rulers. Every true Englishman must rejoice at the downfal of tyranny amongst them, must earnestly pray that every success may attend the efforts of the people to remodel their institutions, and that all jealousy may henceforth cease between the two freest and most enlightened nations of Europe. I may venture earnestly to express the hope that all real reformers of France and England will unite together to wage implacable war against the huge military and naval establishments, whose enormous expense occasions that burden of taxation which oppresses our industrious classes. We need them not, except when we distrust each other; for France and England, united in firm friendship, even when unarmed, are more than a match for the world in arms. I trust the House will pardon this digression, and permit me to return to the question of whether reductions might be made in our naval and military establishments. First, with regard to the Navy. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, in a very effective speech, assigned three, and only three, causes for the great increase of the naval expenditure, since 1835. Those causes were, first, the mismanagement of the dockyards by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (whom I always believed, and still believe, to have been one of the best First Lords of the Admiralty we ever had in this country); secondly, the introduction of steam into the Navy, and the consequent building of steam vessels, steam docks, and other vast works commenced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and which he left to his successors the unpopularity of paying for; and, thirdly, the cost of the packet service, arising partly from the condition that the steam-packets are built so as to carry guns and to become vessels of war. Now, according to the statement and estimates of the hon. Gentleman, the increase since 397 1835 amounts this year for new works to about 600,000l; for naval stores and the building and repair of ships, to about 1,100,000l.; and for the packet service, to 600,000l.; giving a total of 2,300,000l. But the whole increase of the Navy Estimates since 1835 amounts to 3,500,000l.; of this sum the hon. Gentleman has only accounted for 2,300,000l.; there remains, therefore, 1,200,000 unaccounted for. How is this increase to be accounted for? Why did the hon. Gentleman suppress all mention of it? Was it candid of him to lead the House to believe that he had assigned all the great causes of increase, when he omitted one of the most important ones? Or has he forgotten the enormous increase which has taken place in the forces of the Navy since 1835? In that year we voted for the Navy 15,500 seamen, 4,500 marines afloat, 2,000 boys, and 4,500 marines ashore, making 26,500. For this year, the estimate is 27,500 seamen, 5,500 marines afloat, 2,000 boys, and 8,000 marines ashore, in all 43,000. An increase since 1835, of 16,500 men, or of 66 per cent in our naval forces. This is a vast increase of the Navy. It is considerably more than double the force of the American Navy in times of peace—it is sufficient to man a fleet of eighteen hundred guns. Now the increase for the wages and victuals of these men alone amounts to 800,000l.; and I have no means of estimating the cost of the wear and tear of the vessels, and the other expenses contingent on employing them. It was said by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth that our vast naval forces are required to protect our commerce, which is to be found in every region of the globe. But to protect commerce we do not require 16 vessels of war, 750 guns, and 6,600 seamen in the Tagus and the waters of Portugal, as was the case in September last—a force not inferior to the strength of the whole navy of the United States in times of peace. To protect commerce we do not require fleets on the coast of Africa, on the coast of Spain, on the coast of Syria, or on the coast of South America, as has often happened of late years. To protect commerce we do not require huge line-of-battle ships stationed in the Mediterranean, but frigates and sloops of war cruising about the globe. Let us take a lesson from the United States. The foreign trade of the United States is next in magnitude to our own, and not much inferior to it. Wher- 398 ever an English merchant is to be found buying or soiling in the ports of Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, an American trader is likewise to be found. To protect that foreign commerce (and it is well protected) the United States had in 1845 (in addition to the force which we compel them by treaty to keep off the coast of Africa) only a frigate and a sloop of war in the Mediterranean; a couple of frigates and of sloops on the Brazil station; a frigate, a sloop, and a brig in the Pacific; a similar force on the Asiatic station (where, I may remark, they protected likewise our colonists in New Zealand); they had likewise one frigate wandering round the world; and one ship of the line (the only one in commission) was bearing their Minister to China to ratify a treaty with the Chinese Emperor. Now, the whole cost of their navy, to protect a commerce not much inferior to our own, did not in 1845 exceed 1,200,000l., or considerably less than one sixth of our expenditure last year for the Navy. With regard to the Army, it was said by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, that we require a large force on account of the extent of our colonial dominions. Now the effective force in our colonies, on the 1st of January, last, was 35,792 rank and file. On the 1st of January, 1835, it was 31,359 rank and file; an increase of only 4,433 men. I will not stay to inquire whether this increase be or be not necessary. I believe that if our colonies were properly governed, and the Colonial Office were reformed, very few troops would be required for the colonies, say 15,000 men, to garrison a few fortresses like Gibraltar, Malta, or Quebec. But I will suppose, for the sake of argument only, that the military force at present required for the colonies ought to exceed, by four or five thousand men, the number in the colonies in 1835; that increase will not account for the increase of the estimates, which amounted in 1835, for Army and Commissariat, to 6,188,000, and which amount this year to 7,168,000l.—an increase of nearly a million. To what, then, is this increase owing? I answer, not to the colonies, but to the increase of the number of troops in the United Kingdom. On the 1st of January, 1835, the effective force in the United Kingdom amounted to 34,189 men, rank and file. On the 1st of January last the effective force in the United Kingdom, including troops on their passage home, amounted 399 to 65,000 men, an increase of 31,015 men since 1835, or 97 per cent. For what purpose do we require this vast increase of force in the United Kingdom? Is it to preserve peace and order at home? Why, it is 20,000 men more than during the worst days of Sidmouth and Castlereagh; and since that period the facility of transport by railway has increased the efficiency of a small body of troops, and there is a well-organised police in the metropolis and in the great towns, and an armed constabulary in Ireland. Be assured, however, that the best means of preserving order are not by military establishments, but by educating and instructing the people; by making them good men, good citizens, and willingly obedient to the laws. I grudge the vast increase of expenditure on our armaments, not so much on account of the burden of taxation, as when I consider what might have been done with those sums in waging war against crime, and in rescuing from crime the juvenile portion of the criminal classes. Suppose a couple of millions a year (only one-third of the increased cost of our armaments since 1835) were applied to these purposes, what blessed results might not have been attained! For a moral and instructed people are the best security for order at home, the best safeguard against aggression from abroad. Is this increase of force required to defend our shores? But the invasion panic is now a source of ridicule to all men. The Monarch of the Spanish marriages has sacrificed his throne; the people of France are anxious to be the friends and allies of England. With regard to the Ordnance, I have already observed that a million was the average expenditure for that service in the years 1834 and 1835, and that the right hon. Baronet was contented with two millions, on the average; and no reason has been or can be assigned why a larger sum should be permanently required. It appears to me, therefore, that reductions might easily be made in the cost of the three services to the amount of three millions and upwards. And if the Army and Navy Committee do their duty upstairs, much larger reductions will be brought about. But a reduction of three millions would be sufficient, with the present revenue, to convert a deficit into a surplus of income over expenditure. Such a reduction in the cost of the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, would not be an extravagant one. It would still leave those establish- 400 ments much larger and much more expensive than they were a few years ago. What valid objection can be urged against such reduction of expenditure? I beg the House and the country carefully to consider for what useless purposes these establishments have been so much increased of late years. On the plea of maintaining the influence, extending the commerce, and protecting the trade of the British empire, it has been the policy of every Government of this country to interfere in every conflict that takes place on the face of the globe—to meddle with the internal affairs of every nation—and to seize every opportunity of augmenting our vast colonial dominions. Hence we are perpetually engaged in some petty and expensive war, or in suppressing some rebellion among our remote and misgoverned subjects. Look at the history of England for the last ten or fifteen years. First we sent our buccaniers to Portugal to dethrone Don Miguel—then our condottieri, with their mercenaries, went to Spain, some to maintain the rights of the virtuous Christina, whilst others fought with equal zest in the "good" cause of Don Carlos—then we drove the Egyptian out of Syria, because he was less of a barbarian than the Turk. Meanwhile we managed by our mismanagement to stir up rebellion among the peaceable habitans of Canada. We next drove forth into exile 3,000 boors from the Cape—men fleeing from our tyranny—and then we sent an armed force to drive them back again, whence this Kafir war, on which we are lavishing millions. At the same time, greedy of worthless empire, we laid claim to the whole of barren Australasia, a territory as large as the continent of Europe. Then we proclaimed ourselves sovereigns of the islands of New Zealand; and, by means of our missionaries, foolish governors, and incendiary bishops, at once involved ourselves in a conflict with the warlike natives. In India, contrary to sound policy, we rushed among the fastnesses of Central Asia, where Greek or Roman had never penetrated—beyond the limits even of the fabled exploits of Bacchus—there we violated, burnt, massacred, and destroyed; made our name known and accursed among the Affghans; rifled the tomb of the dead; desecrated the sanctuary of Mahmood of Ghuznee; and carried off in triumph what in our ignorance we proclaimed to the princes of Ind as the sandal-wood gates of Somnauth. Then we coveted the hunting grounds of the 401 Ameers of Scinde, sought a quarrel with them, and despoiled them of their territory. Then we destroyed the army of the Sikhs. At the same time we ravaged the coasts of China, levied contributions on the celestial empire, as a punishment for refusing to take our poisonous opium. Hong Kong and Labuan are our latest acquisitions. Now we have an itching palm for Borneo; and if we listen to the noble Lord opposite (Lord G. Bentinck), we shall at once run a tilt with Spain for Cuba. These are the exploits which require such vast expenditure on Army, Navy, and Ordnance—or rather these are the consequences of our maintaining such vast establishments; for they stand to each other in the relation of alternate cause and effect; the establishments beget the exploits, and the exploits are the plea for the establishments. It is said that these exploits are popular with the merchants of Great Britain. I disbelieve it. But are they popular with the country gentlemen of England? If so, there is no help for it. We must pay for them, and pay dearly for them, out of our incomes. You object to the income-tax, on the ground that it should only be imposed for purposes of war. Your objection is invalid, for it has been, is, and will continue to be a war tax. It has been expended, every farthing of it, on increasing the establishments with which you have been carrying on the petty wars to which I have referred. Since 1835 you have added seven millions to your expenditure on the Army, Navy, and Ordnance—nearly the whole amount of the income-tax plus the present deficit. I have thus attempted to prove that the present financial embarrassment of the country has been occasioned by a vast and unnecessary increase of expenditure on the Army, Navy, and Ordnance. I maintain that, unless any unforeseen event occur, that expenditure can be so reduced, without detriment to the public service, as to relieve the country from financial embarrassment. But if Parliament will not consent to a reduction of expenditure, then an increase of taxation appears to me to be inevitable; for last year there was a deficit, this year there is to be a deficit; and to go on year after year with a deficit is contrary to every sound principle of finance, which prescribes that in a country like this the income should not only be equal to the annual expenditure, but should exceed the ordinary annual expenditure by two or three millions a year, so as to en- 402 able the country to meet unforeseen contingencies. Therefore the alternative for the consideration of the House is an increase of taxation or a diminution of expenditure. In asserting that expenditure can be so reduced as to relieve the country frem its present financial embarrassment, I proceed upon the supposition that the revenue shall not be less than it is at present, consequently that there shall be no immediate diminution of taxation. For I cannot assent to the position that expenditure can be so reduced at once as to enable the Government to dispense with an amount of taxation equivalent to the income-tax. Nor do I consider that that position is involved in the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose. If his Motion be carried, the income-tax will be continued in its present form for one year at least; at the expiration of the year Parliament will have to determine whether it shall be again continued in its present form, or in an altered shape, or whether some other tax shall be substituted for it. The reason for the Motion of the hon. Gentleman appears to me to be this. No one can look upon the present budget of Her Majesty's Ministers as a comprehensive scheme of finance calculated to meet the financial difficulties of the country, for it avowedly leaves a deficit of three millions and upwards. It must be considered, therefore, as a temporary expedient, until Her Majesty's Ministers or Parliament can determine what ought to be done. It should, therefore, be treated as a mere make-shift for this year, and consequently the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose proposes virtually to adjourn the consideration of the budget for one year. It is to be hoped that, at the expiration of that period, the Government will be prepared with a more statesmanlike budget than the present one, for they will have time to revise the taxation and expenditure of the country, and to devise plans for equalising the one and reducing the other. With these objects in view, I feel it my duty to vote for the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose.
maintained that the increase of expenditure was caused by hon. Gentlemen sitting on the opposite side of the House. Did no one recollect the Motion of the hon. and gallant Captain, now in the Admiralty, the Member for Gloucester, relative to the half-manning of our ships? Did no one recollect how he was cheered from all sides, and that those ships which 403 were half-manned, and were a disgrace to our Navy, were put into an efficient condition at great expense? The question with him was, whether the expenditure proposed by the Government was called for by the military and naval situation of the country. He should be most happy to vote with the Government as far as these estimates were concerned. He could not say that this increase had been inexpedient; he believed it had added to the stability of our present situation, and he thought also to the maintenance of peace. He dissented from the noble Lord with whom he had had the pleasure of acting now for some years, and he would shortly give the reasons for that dissent. Considering what had taken place within the last three years, he could not say that free trade had yet had a fair trial, and until it had had that fair trial proper inferences could not be drawn as to whether the right hon. Baronet or the hon. Gentlemen on the other side were right in the year 1846. There was only the dogma put forth at the time of doing away with the corn law, which had not proved true. The cry was—allow the free import of bread stuffs from America, and that will add excessively to the export of manufactured goods from this country; and the hon. Member for Westbury had stated that we exported to the United States about four times as much last year as we did in former years, owing to the very great import of bread stuffs into this country. But the hon. Member for Oxford moved for a re turn, some time ago, of the exports of corn, and he (Mr. Miles) had moved for a return of the countries from which they came, and by that they could tolerably well tell the sum that had been paid to America for the imports of bread stuffs taken by this country. He found that from the 10th October, 1846, to 10th October, 1847,11,535,904 quarters of grain were imported at a cost of 30,873,437l. Out of this quantity 4,356,029 quarters were derived from the United States, at a cost of upwards of 11,600,000l. Now he wanted to know how much had gone in manufacture generally, and how much had gone in gold. There could not be the least doubt that three-fourths of the quantity had been paid for by gold. What was the difference between the exports of cotton goods in 1846 and 1847? He found that in 1847, as against 1846, there was 50,000 cwt. more of cotton wool imported into this country; but taking the cotton manufac- 404 ture and cotton twist, there had been a decrease in the export of this material to the amount of 2,300,000l. The hopes and expectations which were entertained had not been fulfilled. Compare the state of the Customs now with what it was in 1842, of course deducting the income-tax. In 1842 there was a deficit of 2,500,000l., the revenue from the ordinary sources being 47,917,521l. Then look at the state of the revenue for the last year and the present, and see whether the income derived from those two years was equal to the year when he himself assented to the imposition of a 3 per cent income-tax. On looking at 1846, and comparing it with 1842, he found from the same sources of revenue only 47,554,711l. So that the deficiency of 1846, as compared with 1842, was 362,810l. Then, comparing the last year with the year 1842, he found that whilst in 1842 the revenue was 47,917,521l., in 1847 it was only 45,891,000l.; so that the deficiency from the ordinary sources of income in 1847, as compared with the income in 1842, was no less than 2,026,521l. Looking, then, at the state of affairs in this country, and the necessity of keeping faith with the public creditor, and considering that the position which the noble Lord had taken rendered it impossible that he should go back to taxes of import, he must for a limited period consent to the imposition of a property-tax. Seeing not the slightest possibility that next year the income would come up to the expenditure, doubting very much whether it would in the second year, and reserving the power, when it did exceed the expenditure, of objecting to any tax being removed except the income-tax, he could not hesitate giving his support in preference to one year to the imposition for three years.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
was unwilling to give a silent vote. He would not occupy the time of the House by discussing the comparative merits or demerits, or justice or injustice, of different taxes, or whether the income-tax, tea-tax, or house or window-tax, or stamp-tax, were most unjust; but he was quite convinced that the income-tax was unequal, and that it was possible it might be made more just. In that belief he had voted for the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Horsman). The question for the House to decide at this moment was, whether they should grant this tax for one year or for three years. He had given the subject 405 very mature consideration, and must say that the eloquent and excellent speech of the hon. Member for Westbury had had great influence on his mind; and, although he might differ from some of his hon. Friends around him, he had come to the conclusion to support the resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. With regard to making the income-tax more just, he proposed that a Committee should be appointed to receive evidence and consider the various methods to be adopted to render the tax more equal; but he was quite convinced they could never, by any discussion in the House, come to a sound conclusion—there was such a difference of opinion as to the practicability of rendering the tax more equal without increasing the inquisitorial powers of the commissioners. He had always been of opinion that, lay taxes as you would, they would in the end fall upon the industrious classes, and therefore he was for the reduction of expenditure in order to accomplish reduction of taxation. The country was now determined that there should be a reduction of expenditure and taxation. He admitted that hitherto there had been a degree of apathy in the country as well as in the House. He must confess he could not see in what way this country could be justified in the extravagant expenditure we had incurred for a number of years. He had always maintained the principle that if nations acted towards each other in a spirit of justice and kindly feeling, there was no occasion for large war establishments. It was a maxim amongst military men and others that the best way to preserve peace was always to be prepared for war. What had we done in this way? Since the peace in 1815 we had spent 600 millions of money as a sort of premium in insurance for peace; and according to the returns moved for by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Graham), in the last twenty years, including 1828, the Army, Navy, Ordnance, and Miscellaneous services had cost this country 350,000,000l. Last year the expense was 22,000,000l.; this year it was 23,000,000l. It was more than the declared value of all the cotton manufactures and yarn exported. We were purchasing cotton in America, and giving it all away. Thousands and tens of thousands were employed for the support of the Army, Navy, and Ordnance. This appeared to him to be complete insanity. He had looked over the divisions and found that since 1835 there had been eighteen 406 divisions in Committees of Supply, and he had voted in fifteen of those divisions for a reduction of the Army, Navy, and Ordnance. On an average of years the minorities had not exceeded sixteen Members out of 658. Therefore, when he found hon. Members complaining of this increase of expenditure, he wanted to know what they had done to prevent it. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had thrown out a sneer as to the Reform Members; but it did not apply to the hon. Member for Montrose and others—they had proposed a reduction—they had resisted an increase, but were not supported by the House or by the country. There was great room for retrenchment; and if the Government would, on their own responsibility, set about retrenchment, they might considerably bring down the expenditure. We had seen by what had taken place in Paris that large armies were no protection to monarchs; their best security was in the affections of their subjects. Public opinion was stronger than armies. One nation increased its army, another imitated its example. As the increase in the army of one nation caused another nation to increase its armies, why might not the disarming of one lead to the reduction of the other? If we only acted in a spirit of just and conciliatory feeling towards other nations, we might produce that change of opinion—that spirit of peace both in this country and in others—which would enable Government to reduce to a considerable extent the national defences.
§ MR. CARDWELL
I am anxious, Sir, to state to the Committee, and I will state them as briefly as I can, the reasons which have induced mo, after mature reflection, to give my support rather to the proposition which was originally made, than to either of the Amendments which have been offered. These reasons rest upon two considerations: first, upon the duty which I owe to the great and industrious community I have the honour to represent; and, secondly, upon those still higher obligations which have regard to the vital interests of the empire. I am very sensible of the weight with which any income-tax must bear upon incomes, the produce of industry, derived from uncertain sources; and I know how much that pressure must be aggravated when the impost, levied upon an estimate of former and prosperous years, comes to be paid in a period of unprecedented distress. But with these considerations heavily on my mind, yet when 407 I look at the financial condition of the country, and remember the exigencies of the Exchequer—and reflect that the possible revival of trade is intimately connected with the position of the Treasury, I find it impossible to withhold my support from the proposition made by Government. Let me dismiss from consideration the finances of the past year, and, looking only to the future, review the financial condition of the country as it will stand on the 5th of April. If I have rightly collected from the Chancellor of the Exchequer his actual position, his clear balance at the Bank will be somewhere between 6,000,000l. and 7,000,000l. on that day. But, in order to make his quarter's payments, he will require at least 9,000,000l.; for between 2,000,000l. and 3,000,000l., then, he must necessarily be dependent on assistance from the Bank. There is no reason to expect, that in the ensuing year the income will fall short of the expenditure by less than 2,000,000l. On the 5th of April, 1849, the day to which it is proposed on the other side to limit the continuance of the income-tax, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be in arrear to no less an amount than between 4,000,000l. and 5,000,000l. at the least. With regard to the public expenditure, I am one of those who confidently hope that a great deal may be done to relieve the depressed energies of the country by a rigorous retrenchment of expenditure. But, hoping this, having this object earnestly in view, can any man believe that the effect of his retrenchment will be seriously felt within the year ending on the 5th of April, 1849? Considering that, with regard to a large portion of this expenditure, the House has no option to exercise, for the engagements have already been incurred; remembering, also, that the great public works which had been entered upon, the fortification of our naval arsenals, are still in rapid progress towards completion—can any man sincerely say, that he expects a very large reduction of this expenditure to have been effected, so as to be felt within the next financial year? There are, indeed, grounds of encouragement, and I look for great improvement in the succeeding years. I trust there will be no wars in Caffraria, or elsewhere. Having already fortified Portsmouth, and Plymouth, and Sheerness, that cause of expense will cease. I trust that the bounty of Providence may have in store for us the blessing of an abundant harvest. I am willing to hope, even beyond any reasonable evidence for 408 hope, for a revival of the energies of trade. But, entertaining all these anticipations, and carrying them to their most sanguine height, it is still impossible I should shut my eyes to the necessity under which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be placed, of requiring, on the 5th of April, 1849, assistance from the Bank of England to the extent of between 4,000,000l. and 5,000,000l. Is that a state of things which you, either as regards the state of your finances or the commercial condition of the country, sympathising always with the position of the Treasury, can suffer to continue? And if you do not continue it, how are you to avoid the necessity of raising, by some tax on property or income, the amount it now produces? With the produce of that tax, by rigorous retrenchment and with improving trade, you may hope, in the two succeeding years, after the 5th of April, 1842, to buy in your deficiency bills, to clear off your debt, and to restore the Exchequer to a position of independence. "Well," said the hon. Member for Cockermouth, "granting that you are to raise the same amount by this tax, you shall not raise it by the same means. I will show you a more equal mode of raising it." And then the hon. Member went on to show undeniable instances of the inequalities attending the operation of the existing tax. And here, Sir, I will notice in passing an error into which the hon. Member for Westbury has fallen, in his admirable speech. He said, there was no provision made in the Act for the depreciation of machinery. I hold in my hand the Schedule of the Act which provides the allowance for that depreciation. Sir, I am as anxious as the hon. Member for Cockermouth for perfect equality of taxation. I am as desirous as he can be to obviate any injustice. This I must observe of the existing law—what the noble Lord, the First Minister, already has stated—that if it does not succeed in avoiding inequality, at least it has this advantage that it does not institute that minute mechanism of inquisition, by which alone it could have attempted to avoid it. That inquisition the hon. Member for Cockermouth proposes to institute; and I ask myself, when he has instituted it, will he succeed in obtaining the equality at which he aims? I have considered his plan, as he propounded it to the House, and so far from finding that it secures a perfect equality, I find in it new elements of inequality that do not exist under the former law. Let me mention two cases 409 that will illustrate the operation of the plan. A widow, with an annuity of 160l. terminating with her life, is to pay 8d. to the tax. A Gentleman who, in Westminster Hall, or before the Committees of this House, is making an enormous fortune, will contribute 4d. Is this fair and equal? Can a more monstrous inequality be supposed? Yet this is an inequality foreign to the existing law; and I am asked to introduce it now by voting for the plan of the hon. Member for Cockermouth. Then look at the mode in which this new scheme is to affect the trading community. The existing tax is regarded as sufficiently inquisitorial. At present, if a gentleman is largely engaged in trade—suppose he is turning over 100,000l. in the year, a portion of that capital being his own; a portion the property of others, to whom he pays interest according to a fixed rate—the tax gatherer asks him no questions upon that. He takes 7d. in the pound upon the whole of the revenue produced, and leaves the merchant to adjust his own account by deducting a corresponding 7d. from the interest which he has to pay. But under the plan of the hon. Member for Cockermouth, the owner of the capital lent out at interest must pay 8d. to the Government—the profits in trade 6d. How is this matter to be adjusted? Only by an entire disclosure on the part of the merchant of the elements of which his capital, and the return it has produced him, are composed; a system of disclosure to which, I am sure, neither the commercial nor the retail trading interest, will submit with patience. The complaints of the inquisitorial nature of the existing tax are small in comparison of the indignation which would be excited by the plan of the Member for Cockermouth, when its practical working should come to be actually felt. Again, if all these minute disclosures must be made by the merchant, they must he made to some one—there must be an army of accountants and inspectors employed and paid by Government. But it has been one great advantage of the existing tax, that under the admirable public servants who conduct the Board of Taxes, it has hitherto been collected with a very small additional expense. Considering, then, fairly, and upon its merits, the plan propounded by the hon. Member for Cockermouth, I have not been able, either on the score of equality, or on the score of freedom from minute disclosures, or on the score of economy in collection, to prefer it to the existing plan. Am I without a 410 warning from history against rashly adopting a measure of this kind, without carefully considering its application? It is true, as the hon. Member for Westbury has told us, that Mr. Pitt did at first introduce a scheme of that kind. And what was the result? It was found to be so inquisitorial, and so objectionable in other respects, that when upon the renewal of the war it was necessary to reimpose an income-tax, the experience of the country and the wisdom of Parliament abandoned the scheme, and adopted the principle of the income-tax. I have already shown you that the difficulties which were insuperable to Mr. Pitt, have not been overcome by the hon. Member for Cockermouth. But, says the hon. Member for Montrose, we are to vote not upon the details of the new plan, but upon the principle involved in the resolution. Sir, I demur to that opinion. I submit that we came here not as members of a philosophical society, to discuss an abstract principle—we came hero as men of business, to consider the practical working of a plan, according to the details propounded by its author; and I think a very serious responsibility rests upon the Member of Parliament who, having that plan before him, votes for its adoption, well knowing in his own mind that, though it may be plausible in its general statement, it will not, in its practical operation, be conducive to the public good, or really more palatable than the existing tax to those who are required to pay. I think, therefore, we did right in refusing the proposition of the hon. Member for Cockermouth. "But," says the hon. Member for Montrose, "vote the existing tax, but vote it only for one year." That is the proposition now. We have seen that at the end of the first year there will be a deficiency which you will have to make good by the savings of the following years, and the produce of reviving trade. But will your trade revive if you leave this question open and uncertain? if you make no definite provision adequately to replenish the revenue? Confidence is the soul of commerce, and it is because here, as upon a rock, that confidence is built upon a steadiness of financial management to which other countries have been strangers—that England has been the pivot on which the commerce of the world revolves. Have I no warning what will be the consequences if this tax be renewed only for a single year? The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, 411 without disguise, avows that he is desirous to replace the import duties, which he thinks you have so hastily removed. Consistently with that desire, he will give you the tax for one year, in order that he may the sooner persuade or force you to the renewal of Customs duties. My hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire, in a spirit for which I may be permitted to offer him my thanks—in a spirit which I am sure the House will think honourable to his judgment and to his feelings, with candour says, "I opposed your free-trade measures when you brought them forward; but I admit that whether they are right or wrong, they have not had the fair trial to which at least they are entitled;" and he tells us he thinks the continuance of this tax for three years is essential to that trial, and he will therefore give it his support. Can I refuse to join my vote to that of the Member for Somersetshire?—shall I be weak enough to follow into the lobby the Member for King's Lynn, and refuse to the free-trade measures the fair trial to which, by the candid statement of their opponents, they are entitled. The noble Lord has opened to us his budget. He would reimpose the duty upon cotton. He would retain the duty upon corn. He would put a tax of 10 per cent ad valorem upon any import from the United States. He would double the postage. He would restore to the tariff all those items from which, by common consent, you have removed the duty. I am not prepared to accept his budget, and I will not consent to play his game. It is very painful to those who represent industrious communities to be instrumental in retaining any tax which presses heavily upon them. Gratiora posse vobis dicere satis scio; sed vera pro gratis loqui, si meum non moneret ingenium, necessitas cogit. The exigencies of the public service require it. I am free to admit that the Minister has a right to demand the independent support of those who acknowledge no party attachment to his cause. Charged with the Executive Government, he has a right to say to the representatives of the people, "You must not leave the Exchequer empty." I have discharged a painful task. I will advocate every just retrenchment of expenditure—every practical measure for promoting a perfect equality of taxation. If, in this time of danger, the difficulties of the country shall have been increased, that great responsibility shall not rest with me. If the energies of reviving trade 412 shall be impeded, it shall not be because I have aided the noble Member for King's Lynn in imposing duties upon the raw materials of domestic industry. If the privations of those shall have been increased who can scarcely now keep body and soul together, it shall not be because I have aided in the reimposition of duties upon articles of the first necessity. I am sensible of the responsibility under which I act; but I believe that a conscientious and courageous discharge of duty best secures to us the confidence of our fellow-countrymen, while it assures us of that possession which is of still higher value, the approbation of our own judgment.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury, in his lucid speech, has placed the question under discussion on its true basis. But although I agree with him that the real question at issue is the excellence or the evil of the new commercial system of this country, I must remind the hon. Gentleman, that in forming a judgment and taking a view of the effect and operation of the system, it would have been as well had he made that view as comprehensive as our experience. It would have become the hon. Gentleman if he had not called on us to form our judgment of that system merely on our experience of it during the administration of the late Minister. Let it be observed that the hon. Gentleman studiously confined his remarks to the time of the late Government. His motives for taking such a course are perhaps not difficult to apprehend. For instance, one proof of the success of the new commercial system, according to the hon. Gentleman, is the fact, that the late Minister was no longer obliged, like his predecessor, to apply to the Bank for large advances on deficiency bills; but the hon. Gentleman seemed quite to forget that only last April, under the influence of the same commercial system, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was obliged to apply to the Bank to make up one of the largest deficiencies ever experienced. The hon. Gentleman congratulated the House on another beneficial consequence of the new commercial system in the high rate of Exchequer-bills during the late Government; but why does the hon. Gentleman omit to remember that Exchequer-bills only a few months back had experienced a rate of depreciation quite unpredented? The hon. Gentleman, pursuing the same course, made also some other 413 observations which greatly surprised me, coming from one who on these subjects is no mean authority. The hon. Gentleman stated that the country had been enriched twenty-fold the amount of the remission of duties, although we all know that the amount of that remission was no ordinary sum. Well, Sir, it would seem that the property and income-tax, in the year ending the 5th April, 1846, returned 5,603,000l.; and that the estimate of its return by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the year ending 5th April, 1848, is 5,200,000; a falling-off in the tax of 403,000l. Now, Sir, if I multiply this deficiency by 34 (that is, 2l. 18s. 4d. per 100l.), we find that the national income has fallen off to the amount of 13,702,000l.; and if I add one-fourth for incomes under 150l. per annum, according to the estimate of the late Minister, we shall have a deficiency of 3,423,000l., making altogether a falling-off in the national income of 17,125,000l. And yet the hon. Gentleman tells us that the country is enriched twentyfold the amount of the remission of duties, which remission is not less than 6,000,000l. per annum. The hon. Gentleman, in his observations on the value of our exports, called our attention to our increasing commerce with France, and made some very depreciating remarks on the value of our trade with our own colonies. Our trade with France is as valuable, he says, as our trade with eur sugar colonies. Now, if I were an economist, I should never appeal to the commerce between England and France as favourable evidence of the truth of the principles of which the hon. Gentleman is a votary. But, observe the fallacy which lurks in the comparison made by the hon. Gentleman. France is a nation of 35,000,000 of people, who consume little more than 2,500,000 of our products. The same amount is consumed by our sugar colonies; but the population of our sugar colonies is scarcely 1,000,000. The hon. Gentleman made another statement which greatly startled me. I may have misapprehended the hon. Gentleman, but I understood him to tell us, that the public debt under the new system had been reduced 20,000,000l. I do not at this moment apprehend how he arrived at this result, but I accept his statement. But when he says that the national debt has been reduced by 20,000,000l., he forgets the amount which the national treasury received by the income-tax from 1843 to 414 1848, viz., 32,870,000l., to which I beg to observe must be added an item strangely forgotten, the 6,000,000 of China money, making altogether a sum of 39,000,000. One can account for a reduction of the national debt to the amount of 20,000,000l., when we find, during the period, the national treasury has received extraordinary aids to nearly double the amount. Sir, the hon. Gentleman has also said, that great as our sufferings have been, during the last year, they have not exceeded those of France. Now, I must say, I am extremely surprised at the hon. Gentleman maintaining that the commercial and financial embarrassments of France during the past year, have at all equalled those of England. Let me just call the attention of the House to the last speech of the King of the French to the Chambers. His Majesty then said—Our commerce, thanks to its prudent activity, has been but feebly affected by the crisis that has been experienced in other States. We are reaching the conclusion of those trials … I reckon on your co-operation in order to bring to a conclusion the great public works which, by extending to the entire kingdom facility and regularity of communication, must open fresh sources of prosperity. At the same time that sufficient resources shall continue to be applied to that fruitful enterprise, we will all watch with scrupulous economy over the judicious employment of the public revenue; and I am confident that the receipts will cover the expenses in the ordinary budget of the State, which shall be shortly presented to you.Why, Sir, that does not at all agree with the statement of the hon. Gentleman? The hon. Gentleman has also told us that all the taxes of the country come out of the industry of the country. That, indeed, is the principle upon which the whole of the financial scheme of the hon. Gentleman is founded. Sir, I deny the principle. It is the very point at issue. I deny that all taxes come out of the industry of the people of this country, or that they should come out of the industry of the people of this country. The very question at issue between us is this, whether the foreigner should not also contribute his share to the taxes of this country? Sir, the hon. Gentleman has also observed that the late Minister in 1845 confirmed and called upon the House to confirm the commercial principles which, under his advice, they adopted in 1842. Now, Sir, here again I entirely differ with the hon. Gentleman. I deny that the commercial principles which were propounded and carried into law by the Ministers in 1845 were the commercial principles which they introduced into 415 our notice in 1842. Sir, when the Minister came forward with his measures in 1842, he found himself in this situation. I advert very briefly to circumstances with which we are all now so familiar. He had to supply a considerable deficit in the revenue, and he wished to revive commerce by a reformation of our tariff. His instrument for this purpose was an income-tax. Now, Sir, it is not for me to say what were the motives of the right hon. Gentleman when he first introduced the income-tax to our notice, after what he stated the other night. The right hon. Gentleman's own version is surely the one we ought to accept, and I trust, therefore, that no controversy on that point will arise again. The right hon. Gentleman has given in his adhesion to the principle of indirect taxation, and I am obliged to him for it; as for entering into the question of German translations of his letters to foreigners, it really is of very slight importance. The fact remains, and unless we succeed in our Amendment tonight, I fear, will remain, that we have an income-tax. But however obscure may have been the expressions with which the income-tax was first proposed, no one can deny that the Minister was quite frank and explicit as to the principles on which his commercial changes were proposed in 1842. To terminate prohibitions, to reduce protective duties to a moderate and practical amount, to raise a revenue by moderate duties on raw materials, and to admit the manufactures of other countries at duties varying from 12 to 20 per cent—these were the principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman in 1842; and I am not surprised that, generally speaking, the House sanctioned those principles, and adopted them by an almost unanimous concurrence. [Sir R. PEEL: My plan was to levy 5 per cent duty on raw materials.] Exactly so—to levy a revenue by moderate duties on raw materials. But allow me to remind the Committee of a very important portion of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman which was also promised us. This abrogation of prohibitions—this reduction of protective duties—this scheme of raising a revenue at very moderate rates on raw materials, and permitting foreign manufactures to enter on reasonable terms, was accompanied by an announcement to the House that the Minister was already in communication with several foreign nations for treaties of commerce. This was a prime and important 416 element in these measures and our discussions. Sir, in all this, the right hon. Gentleman acted as great Ministers had acted before him. He acted exactly as Mr. Pitt did in 1787. He followed entirely the example of Mr. Pitt, who pursued the principles of other great men who had preceded him—Lord Shelburne and Lord Bolingbroke. And thus the right hon. Gentleman, when he proposed his commercial changes in 1842, announced at the same time that he was bringing all the influence of his justly powerful name, and of his singularly powerful Government, on foreign Courts, in order to obtain a reciprocal commercial intercourse between this and other countries. Sir, I gave to the right hon. Gentleman, on that occasion, an humble, but a sincere and hearty support. I never shall regret it. And I only allude, on this occasion, to a circumstance of such very slight importance, because, in a pamphlet entitled, Pitt and Peel, the author of which, for aught I know, may be sitting at this moment in the House, has done me the too great honour of referring to my conduct on that occasion; and therefore I tell him that I gave that support to the measures of the right hon. Gentleman, because they were founded on the principles which I have stated, and held out the promises to which I have referred. But, now we come to 1845—a period of time singularly glided over by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury, who seems not so much the advocate of free trade, as the late Administration of free trade. On the subject of our present debate, I address few observations to the Government. I have a great respect for the present Government, for many reasons; but with respect to principles on economical subjects they have none, or if they have any, they are embalmed in a very valuable budget, which the right hon. Gentleman near me prevented passing in 1841. The present principles of the Government on these subjects are mimetic—mimetic of the late Government; and again, the principles on these subjects of the late Government are not original, for they are converts. Therefore, when I discuss the principles of the new commercial system, I address myself to the Gentlemen opposite below the gangway. They were proudly responsible for those principles when it was supposed they would increase the prosperity of the country; and they ought not now to avoid the moral, although they may the official, responsibility of having advocated those principles. I must 417 therefore remind the hon. Member for Westbury, who was not in the last House of Commons, but who is so great an accession to the present, of what took place in 1845. It is very necessary that we should recollect that a great deal had happened in the interval between 1842 and 1845. During that period a great commercial confederation had arisen, very completely organised and conducted by very able men. They made great way in the country, and they promulgated opinions on commerce very different from those propounded by the late Minister in 1842. They were not the opinions of Mr. Pitt, of Lord Shelburne, or of Lord Bolingbroke. They were not the opinions of free trade, which I am prepared to support. Yes, I am a free-trader, but not a freebooter—hon. Gentleman opposite are freebooters. The great leaders of the school of Manchester never pretended for a moment that they advocated the principles of regulated competition and reciprocal intercourse; on the contrary, they brought forward new principles expressed in peculiar language. They laid down this principle, that you were to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market. I deny that that is the principle of commerce. Commerce is barter. The principle of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market is the principle of retail trade, and of a huckstering retail trade. Another principle laid down by these Gentlemen was, that you were to take care of your imports, and let your exports take care of themselves. These new principles were totally opposed to the principles of free trade. These were the principles, however, for which the country was agitated; and in 1845 the late Minister gave his adhesion to them. And here I must observe, that during the whole period that elapsed between 1842 and 1845, the late Minister never produced one of those commercial treaties which he promised us in 1842. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Because foreign Powers would not agree to them.] I want no more important admission than that which I have just received from a late Secretary of State. The attempt to induce foreign Powers to enter into commercial treaties failed; and, therefore, the late Minister adopted a principle which denied the expediency of obtaining such treaties. That was the state of affairs in 1845. Now, I maintain that the principles then acted upon, were not the principles of Mr. Pitt. However, by virtue of the new dogmas 418 which had been propagated by a powerful confederation out of doors, and which were directly opposed to the principles which Her Majesty's Government had theretofore professed, the House was again induced to renew the impost of the income-tax, and at the same time to cut off a revenue of more than four millions and a half of money. I have now stated precisely the difference between the Ministerial principles of 1842 and 1845. After having, as I believe, injured the revenue, or at least, as all admit, diminished the revenue to the amount of 6,500,000l., the late Minister came forward in the next year, 1846, and still acting, I suppose it will be said, in conformity with the principles of 1842, repealed the corn laws, and then again diminished the revenue by the repeal of other customs duties to the further amount of 1,200,000l., making a total diminution during his administration of more than 7,500,000l., and then he retired from office. And here it is due to the right hon. Baronet to refer to an apparently triumphant statement which he addressed to the nation, through his constituents, only a few months back, on the success of his commercial measures, which he sought to establish by a reference to the state of the revenue previous and subsequent to his great changes. Perhaps I may be able to make the Committee hesitate before they accord to this statement the epithet of triumphant. I believe in that vindication is involved a great fallacy. I admit that at the first glance, especially in the heat of a contested election, nothing would be calculated to tell better than a statement from the late head of an Administration that he had reduced imposts to the amount of 7,600,000l., and, that notwithstanding, the revenue (allowing for the effect of the reduction of the sugar duties by the Whig Government) had suffered only to the extent of about 700,000l., compared with the revenue of 1841, the period when he assumed office. That statement produced a great effect at the time, somewhat diminished since both our revenue has decreased, and our exports have fallen off. Sir, I believe that a great fallacy pervades the line of argument adopted by the right hon. Gentleman in his address of last July. I deny that the state of the revenue is a correct test of commercial legislation. The truest and indeed the only test of commercial legislation is commercial prosperity. A Minister may think fit to cut off several millions from the revenue of the 419 country, principally raised by duties on foreign articles; and yet the revenue may be supported by some peculiar internal and exceptional cause. The state of the revenue all that time would be no test of the state of the commerce of the country; and this will happen, that when the peculiar, internal, and exceptional cause ceases to operate, the Minister will suddenly find himself with exports on the one hand diminished, and revenue on the other rapidly falling away; and that I believe to be the real state of things in England at the present moment. Sir, I believe our foreign trade is declining, because our commercial system is founded on a principle injurious to our native labour, and opposed to the increase of the national capital. I remember once asking the late Minister, whether he were prepared to fight hostile tariffs with free imports; and I never could get a very definite reply from him on this head. Yet in the solution of that problem I cannot but believe the cause of our present commercial difficulties may mainly be discovered. Sir, I apprehend that the result of a trade carried on between a country which permits free imports, and one which maintains hostile tariffs, is, that the exports of the former are diminished in proportion to the amount of those tariffs, without diminishing, in the unprotected country, the demand for the productions of the people by which the duties are imposed. What is the consequence? The country of free imports is obliged to give more labour for the productions of the country which guards against interference with its labour by hostile tariffs. Thus England, by playing the game of free imports against hostile tariffs, entails upon the subjects of Her Majesty the necessity of labouring more to obtain the same foreign products; or, if labouring the same, receiving a less quantity of them in exchange. Our labour becomes less effective. What is this but the degradation of labour? But our new commercial system not only renders the labour of this country less valuable—it operates in another sense fatally on our fortunes, as we are experiencing at this moment. As it renders the cost of all foreign products, measured by our labour, more dear, it enhances the price of the precious metals, which are also foreign products. The same rule applies to gold and silver as to other foreign articles. Under the present system of free imports, the country is obliged to labour more to obtain the same quantity of the precious metals than it had to 420 do before. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester taunted me the other night with having said, that if the corn laws were repealed, all the gold would go out of the country; and yet, he added, the gold had come back again. Such observations may do very well for Covent Garden, but will scarcely suit the House of Commons. The gold has certainly come back; we know how it came back, and at what cost. It will go out again, and it will come back again, and by a process still more costly. On every occasion you will have to pay more for the precious metals; and the consequence will be, that gradually as your command over the precious metals diminishes, the range of your prices will proportionately lower, and the distribution of the precious metals throughout the world will be altered. I doubt whether, under such circumstances, you will be able to maintain those establishments, the expenditure of which is now so much criticised. I doubt still more whether under such circumstances you will be able to pay the interest on your public debt; I may even venture to suggest to you, whether in such a change you will be able to maintain your standard of value. At all events, two results must, in my mind, inevitably occur—the degradation of the national labour, and a new distribution of the precious metals opposed to all our previous economical relations. The Member for Westbury seemed to regret that foreign countries had not manifested a reciprocal sympathy with us in our commercial changes. But if the hon. Gentleman believes in his principles—if he really believes that we are to take care of the imports, and let the exports take care of themselves—why should he regret it? True it is that the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister, even in the fatal year of 1846, when he advocated the most extravagant doctrines of the Manchester school, and seemed to delight even in overstating his opinions, in order as it were to mortify us—true it is that even then the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have some slight misgivings on this subject of reciprocity; and, notwithstanding his dogmatic independence of the principle, was accustomed to hold out some cheering hopes of its occurrence. Did we not hear that Prussia was shaken? Did he not read to the House an address of Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury in the United States, promising a New Treasury Bill to Congress, founded on greatly reduced custom-house duties? Well, what has 421 been the result? Has Prussia been "shaken?" My answer is, look to the recent legislation of the Zollverein. Where is Mr. Walker's New Treasury Bill? What is it? I can recall a passage in the message of the President in December, 1846, describing that measure. The President said, the measure had been misconceived; and he assured Congress that by its arrangements, foreign commodities imported into America, in no case paid a duty less than one-third of the cost of the production of those commodities. That was in December, 1846. What has happened since? Look to the Message of last year. Read the comments on the President's congratulations on the prosperity of the manufacturing interest in the Government journal, which I have in my hand. The President congratulates the manufacturing interest on their fears being dispelled; and the journal shows them that the protection they have always enjoyed, though changed in form, is only rendered more effective—that it is only a redistribution of protection—and that there is an average ad valorem duty of 28 per cent. So much for Prussia and the United States, from whom we were promised so much. Well, then, how is it with France? Have our hopes there been better realised? I remember on this subject the right hon. Baronet making a very remarkable observation about France. He said it was not the people of France who were opposed to a more liberal commercial intercourse with us, but the manufacturing and commercial aristocracy of that country. Well, the French have got rid of their commercial and manufacturing aristocracy. The people are lords paramount in Paris; but I must be permitted to doubt whether their recent acts are indicative of that strong desire for reciprocal commercial intercourse for which the right hon. Gentleman gave them credit. We have not been favoured lately with any remarkable evidence of the kindly feelings of the French people for English industry. I remember a noble Friend of mine, unhappily no longer a Member of this House, Lord John Manners, warning the late Minister on that occasion that he might be deceived, and quoting the opinion on the subject of a writer who, my noble Friend rightly said, expressed the real feelings of the working classes of France. That writer was M. Louis Blanc. M. Louis Blanc is now a leading Member of the Provisional Government of France; but if I am to judge 422 from his speeches and his writings, he is not exactly the man who will come forward and propose such a commercial treaty with England as Franco was prepared to enter into with Mr. Pitt, in 1787. I make these observations in answer to the speech in favour of the late Government delivered by the hon. Member for Westbury. I must, notwithstanding his address, express my opinion that the present commercial distress, and the financial disorder that is so rapidly arising, are to be ascribed to the new commercial system—that, if that system be persisted in, our commercial distress and financial embarrassment will increase; and that if our financial embarrassment has not sooner arrived, it has been prevented by exceptional circumstances which have nothing to do with the new commercial system, but which, on the contrary, are of a character totally opposite to it. That is my position, and I am prepared to prove my case if the House will permit me. One advantage of discussing it fully now will be to prevent its recurring, and you will be able to pass your measures by those triumphant majorities that in a short time will ruin the country. I will not blink the question in the least. I will not bring forward a solitary item out of a tariff of 1,200 or 1,300 articles, and tell you that such an article was selling at so much before you abolished or lowered the duty upon it, and that you promised it would be so much cheaper, though that promise has never been fulfilled. I will meet the question completely—I will take as the territory on which I wish to investigate the consequences of your new system the very scene of that noble industry that produces the chief staple manufacture of the country. I will go to the province that is the fatal author of these pernicious principles, and I will show you the state of its population. I will show you the causes that have produced that state, and the hopeless condition which awaits them if you do not entirely change all the principles of your legislation. We will enter the county of Lancaster. It is scarcely necessary to enter into the general question of our exports. That there has been a considerable falling-off no one denies. I believe that they have been completely made up and published within these few hours by the Board of Trade, and that the falling off is somewhere about 2,500,000l. But, not to press upon that point, you recollect perfectly well that when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth made 423 his protection speeches, and carried every thing before him, and referred to the state of our exports, the Gentlemen opposite used to say, "You know nothing about it; the flourishing state of our exports to which you appeal is a proof of our poor condition—it is a proof of our manufacturing and commercial distress." If, therefore, I were now to press this point upon them, they might say that the state of our exports at present is the best proof of their prosperity. There is, as I have said, a decline to the amount of 2,500,000l.; and I am sorry to say that that great amount must be taken from the general exports of Lancashire. Here is a picture of the state of the principal districts, drawn by free-traders, for I quote from free-traders only. One of the most consistent free-traders states, that within the last month—I quote from the Morning Chronicle—unprecedented distress has become general; and it speaks of meetings of operatives being held in all parts of Lancashire, Derbyshire, and parts of Yorkshire. Among these meetings there is one of a somewhat novel character; for, instead of discussing the rate of wages, the meeting confined itself to a consideration of the means of emigrating the surplus hands among them to the United States. The project was adopted unanimously, and it was fixed to commence in a fortnight from that day. I am assuredly not surprised that it was adopted unanimously, as I have been favoured with a document that throws some light on the state of Manchester at the close of the years ending December, 1846 and 1847. The amount paid to the poor in the year ending December, 1846, at Manchester, to 48,000 persons, was 19,243l.; in the year ending December, 1847, there was paid to 149,504 persons the sum of 45,000l.; showing you the state of the operatives in that district. This shows the state of the trade and of the operatives. I will now enter upon the question of the cause of this condition. We have heard that the exports from Manchester have fallen off, and I am ready to show that there has been a decrease in almost all the foreign markets to which the goods of Manchester go. To Hamburgh—which port supplies Prussia and Hanover—there is a great decrease of all kinds of cotton goods (except cords and jeans) as well as of yarn. To Holland there is also a great decrease, and that without the exception of a single article. To Belgium there is a decrease of cotton yarn, thread, and cotton sundries, 424 but an increase of plain and printed calicoes, cambrics, and muslins. To Denmark there is a great decrease of goods and yarn, but a slight increase of thread. Sweden and Norway give exactly the same results as Denmark. To Russia there is a decrease of cotton yarn, cotton sundries, printed cottons, cambrics and muslins, cords and jeans, but an increase of cotton thread and plain calicoes. To France there is a decrease of every description of cotton goods, as well as of yarn and thread. To Naples there is a decrease in yarn and plain calicoes, and an increase in cotton thread and printed goods. To Sardinia, Tuscany, and Trieste, there is a decrease of every article except cotton thread. To Egypt there is a decrease of yarn and plain calicoes, but an increase of thread and printed calicoes. To Gibraltar and Spain there is a decrease in every article. To Portugal and Madeira there is also a decrease of all. To Chili and Peru there is a general increase. To Mexico there is a very great decrease. To Columbia also. To the Brazils there is an increase of cotton yarn and thread, of printed calicoes, and of cambrics, but a decrease of plain calicoes. To the British West Indies there is a decrease in all articles. To the foreign West Indies, and the neutral port of St. Thomas, there is generally a decrease. To British North America there is a small decrease in most articles. To India there is a decrease in the exports of every thing except cotton thread. The decrease in the exports of plain calicoes is upwards of 64,000,000 yards, and that of printed calicoes upwards of 4,000,000. The decrease in the export of yarns is nearly 6,000,000 lbs. To China, Manilla, and Singapore there is a decrease in everything except cotton yarn. To Mauritius and Batavia there is an increase in yarn and plain cottons, and a decrease in every other kind. To the coast of Africa and the Cape there is a great increase, both in plain and coloured cottons, and also in yarn. To Australia there is an increase of cotton sundries and plain calicoes, but a decrease of other goods. To New Zealand and the South Sea Islands there is a decrease of all kinds of goods, and also of yarn. Now, as to the United States: there is an extraordinary increase in the exports of all articles to the United States. Though the exports generally from this country show a deficiency of 2,500,000l. this year, I admit that there is an increase in the exports 425 of British manufactures to the United States to the amount of 2,000,000l.; but I am informed by one able to give correct information, that so far as the industry of Lancashire is concerned—and it is a rule that, I fear, will apply to every kind of British produce exported to America—the manufacturers of those goods have not received more than 67 per cent of their outlay. Now, what is the cause of this? I find that cause in what is called our free-trade legislation; and as an instance is worth a hundred arguments, I will take one of the most celebrated and, apparently, most successful measures of the new system, and trace in detail its working in the county of Lancaster, and its influence on profits and wages. I will take the last and most important alteration in our sugar duties—a measure from which very considerable benefit was anticipated both to commerce and the working classes. Now, I want to show the immediate effects of the change on the industry of which Manchester is the centre. For this purpose I will take two periods of 18 months; the first period being from February, 1845, to August, 1846; and the next from August, 1846, to February, 1848. During the first of these periods, and before the change of the sugar duties, there were exported to the British West Indies, Mauritius, Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta, goods to the value of 5,800,000l., and there was left for profits and wages 4,000,000l. In the second period there was exported goods to the value of 4,650,000l., and there was left for profits and wages 2,600,000l. To Cuba, Porto Rico, and Brazil, in the first period, the value of the goods exported was 2,400,000l.; and there was left, for wages and profits, 1,700,000l. In the second period the value of the goods was 2,800,000l., leaving for wages and profits 1,800,000l. If the whole amount of wages and profits during the second period be deducted from the amount during the first, that is, if we deduct 4,400,000l. from 5,600,000l., it will be found that, with the advantage of the change in the sugar duties, allowing a consumption of 23½ lb. of sugar per head, the factory population, 700,000 in number, while they have gained 68,542l. on the one hand, have lost in wages, on the other, no less than 1,161,695l. To that amount have you robbed the people of Manchester by giving them cheap sugar. Now, here is another equally significant statement on the same subject, for which I am indebted to a very intelligent gentle- 426 man, Mr. Burn, the author of that valuable statistical work, the Commercial Glance, of which I will give only the results. It is the statement of the exports of plain and printed calicoes to the sugar-growing countries during the same period to which I have already referred. And it appears that—while to the British West Indies, Mauritius, and the three markets of India, we sent in the second period of eighteen months, namely, the period subsequent to the alteration in the sugar duties, more than 62,000,000 of yards less of plain calicoes, and nearly 33,000,000 of yards less of printed calicoes than in the first period of eighteen months, namely, the period preceding the alteration—our increase in exports of plain calicoes to the Brazils, Cuba, and Porto Rico, was only 13,000,000 of yards, while the quantity of printed calicoes to these markets was stationary; so there was a total deficiency on all the exports to the sugar-growing countries on these heads, since the alteration of the duties, of 49,000,000 of yards. But I shall be told you are speculating on the industry of a district, the prosperity of which depends upon the supply of cotton, and that supply during the last year has been of an unprecedented scantiness. By no means unprecedented. In the first place, I do not mean to maintain that the quantity of the cotton crop is not an important element in the question. The cotton crop of 1847 exceeds that of 1839 by 440,000 bales. It was superior in amount, I apprehend, to the crops of 1841 and 1842. It scarcely could be the want of the raw material that arrested your manufactures last year, since you yourselves exported of that raw material double the quantity to the continent of Europe that you did in previous years. I admit, however, that the price of the raw material is injuriously high. What has occasioned it? Your free-trade legislation. It is the admission into this country, of slave-grown sugar, that has given a new impulse and direction to the energy and enterprise of the American planter. He has transferred to the production of sugar a considerable portion of the capital and labour that were before employed in producing cotton. Here is the trade circular of Wylie and Egana of New Orleans, dated the end of October, 1846, three months after the admission into England of slave-grown sugar. It tells you how that alteration in our tariff has roused the energy and enterprise of the American planters. Ninety-four new sugar estates 427 had been established, and many plantations were passing from cotton to sugar. Yes, it is the transference of American capital to the production of sugar that reduces the quantity of cotton, and that transference has been occasioned by one of the principal measures of your new commercial system. Now, here is a letter from a noble Lord, for a long time a Member of this House, and who has a personal experience of our plantations. It is dated within these three days. Speaking of the planters of the United States, he says—They are now withdrawing the slaves from the cultivation of cotton, and throwing their labour upon the sugar estates, owing to the increase of price on sugar. The consequence, and as beckoned upon, will be the running up the price of cotton from 5 cents to 10 cents or even 15
|PRICES OF COTTON WOOL IN THE LIVERPOOL MARKET|
|IN EACH THREE MONTHS OF THE FOLLOWING YEARS.|
|First Three Months||…||3⅜||to||5¾||4⅜||to||6¾||3||to||5½||3¼||5||5¼||7⅞||4||to||5½|
|Second Three Months||…||3⅜||5½||3½||6½||3||6||3¼||6||5½||7⅞|
|Third Three Months||…||3¼||6||3⅛||6½||3¼||5⅞||3½||6||5⅛||8|
|Fourth Three Months||…||4||6½||3¼||5½||3||6½||4½||7½||3½||7|
|First Three Months||…||4 9/16||5 9/16||4¼||4⅛||6 9/16||4¾|
|Second Three Months||…||4 7/16||5||4½||4⅝||6 11/16|
|Third Three Months||…||4⅝||4 13/16||4 9/16||4¾||6 9/16|
|Fourth Three Months||…||5¼||4⅜||4¾||6||5¼|
|*1848 is to March 6.|
Thus when the duty of 5–16ths of a penny was taken off, the price from 3d. to 5½d. mounted to 6d.; that is to say, instead of falling 5–16ths of a penny, it immediately rose 4–16ths of a penny per lb. While you are suffering from the injuries inflicted by your new system, you are attributing them to other causes. You are suffering under a grosser monopoly than any you have destroyed; for a greater monopoly than that of the American planters does not exist. You talk of free trade. Here is a very recent City Article of the Times, an advocate of free trade, which has always supported your views:—
There are very strong indications," it is said, "that planters will use every exertion to withhold their crops from market much longer this season than ever before. The high
§ cents per pound; thus increasing the cost of the raw material to our manufacturers."
§ And this leads us to another of the great measures of the new commercial system, and one of those which principally led to the continued infliction of the income-tax. When the right hon. Gentleman in 1846 fully adopted the deleterious doctrine of the Anti-Corn-Law League, that if we took care of the imports the exports would take care of themselves, he tried his hand on cotton. He took off the light duty on cotton, and at one blow deprived the revenue of 640,000l. Let us see how this change benefited the country. The duty was reduced on the 19th March, 1845. The duty was 5–16ths of a penny. The price rose in the first three months 4–16ths of a penny.
§ prices ruling during the delivery of the last two crops has placed planters in an unusually independent position, and it now seems a contest between the consumer and producer as to which can wait the longest; the former heretofore has always prevailed, but, if he only knew it, the latter has the power—he could, if he would, live without his cotton crop longer than the spinner could or would without annihilation lay on his oars."
Of course he could. You turned up your noses at East India cotton as you have done at every thing colonial or imperial. The American planter commands his price. His price is factitious; he regulates the supply, and transfers his surplus labour to the production of slave-grown sugar. We are always taunted with not proving our case; but I have taken you to your own district, and traced the conse-
quences of two of the great measures of your new commercial system. You say they have not had a fair trial. They have had a fair and a full trial, and an ample refutation. By removing the duty on cotton, you lost a great branch of revenue, and produced financial embarrassment: by changing the sugar duties, you have produced commercial distress. Are these not sufficient? What more do you want? Do you want the Manchester workhouse still fuller?—the poor rates still higher? Do you want cheaper sugar still? But though in the instance of the cotton duty we have lost so much revenue by the representations of the school of Manchester acting on a nervous Minister, we are told there is compensation for this fallacious and pernicious step, in the financial consequences of the measure respecting the sugar duties introduced by the present Minister in 1846, and which the late Minister somewhat grudgingly supported. The 640,000l. per annum which we have lost by permitting free imports of cotton, has been gained by allowing free imports of sugar. Yes, but in one of our ruined colonies, in one single colony, we have been obliged to supply rice for the support of the population, and to make advances on their coming crop, which are estimated at not less than 450,000l. What then becomes of the profit to the revenue? I say nothing of the merchants in this branch of commerce, who have failed in consequence of your legislation to the amount of 6,000,000 sterling. I cannot presume at this hour to enter into any other item of the tariff, although there are several which might be cited as illustrative of the pernicious tendency of our commercial system, and the consequences of which, if not so extensively disastrous as those to which I have referred, have yet proved economically as false and fallacious. I might take the trade in timber for instance. At this moment the class of Baltic timber mostly used in this country, which before the late Minister altered the tariff was selling in bond at 46s. 6d., is now selling at 59s. 10d., a rise in price which I do not think the most brilliant advocate of the late Administration will be able to account for by the stimulus given to trade by the altered Customs duty. I think I have now thrown some light on the causes which have plunged Manchester into distress. I think I have brought facts to bear upon the causes which have produced such false results in that confiding and ill-used district. I think
I have shown that those results have sprung from the operation of two of the greatest measures of the Manchester school. Now, in speaking of these subjects, it must not be for a moment supposed that I mean to visit upon the present Administration the responsibility of the peculiar circumstances which surround them. I look upon them in the light of the hero of a Greek tragedy—as the victims of overpowering necessity. That necessity, whether it existed in the shape of protection or of free trade, could not be resisted; Ministers were obliged to fulfil their destiny. Neither am I anxious to visit upon the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) the moral responsibility of measures which have proved so disastrous. The responsible parties, if they must be pointed out, sit yonder [referring to the free-traders]. As it is impossible to say what those parties will not do if they be not checked, I think it is important, after the experience we have had, that we should keep quite awake as to the measures which they may yet propose. At present, however, the question is, what is now to be done? My friends say, "Yes, it is all very well. We agree with what you say, that free trade is a great mistake, and the country is on the point of ruin. But what is to be done? We have a deficiency of 8,000,000l. to fight against;" the exact sum—and this is the moral of the Administration of the right hon. Baronet—this is the exact sum of which he deprived the revenue. This is the result of the doings of the great financial Minister who boasted of lightening the springs of industry. Yes, lightening the springs of industry. But the springs are broken. The machine no longer operates. We are told that the disasters which have overtaken us are a consequence of overtrading. Now, nobody can accuse the manufacturers and spinners of Manchester of having overtraded, because they have exported no goods, and have no stocks on hand; they have been the victims of a transatlantic monopoly, and your sugar legislation. We are told, however, that overtrading is the cause; but nobody can tell us what it is. I want to know before coming to the ways and means—I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) how it is, when proposing these fatal measures, which cut off an amount of revenue equal to the present deficiency—that he always recommended his measures on the ground that they would give an impetus to commerce? Why should he have adopted such a course
if there was already a fatal tendency to overtrading? When he addressed the electors of Tamworth, he congratulated them and himself—them, that they had him for a representative; and himself, that he had been able to lighten the springs of industry and give new wings to commerce; yet we find him, not more than six months afterwards, asserting that overtrading had been the cause of our commercial misfortunes. I do not believe that those misfortunes are to be attributed to overtrading. But I want to know if they are, who are responsible for it? Is it the Minister who boasted of having lightened the springs and stimulated the activity of industry? Or is it those who are the secret authors of all the mischief, who came to the Minister and complained that they were "cabined, cribbed, confined" in the exercise of their manufacturing and commercial industry, and who told him that all would be right if he followed their advice and made trade free. The Minister believed them. He imbibed their opinions. He gave freedom to commerce, and I want to know where it is? Free she may be, but she is wandering about, and no human being knows where to find her. Well, we have a considerable deficiency through your new commercial legislation; and I wish to state who I think the persons are who ought to supply the ways and means for that deficiency. I think the obligation of making good what has been lost falls upon the Gentlemen who have caused the mischief. Now, the mischief—I will not say the whole, but the greater part of the mischief—has been occasioned by a work which may be fairly styled the greatest work of imagination of the nineteenth century—the evidence taken before the Import Duties Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) will come forward magnanimously, and, instead of saying that he will never change his opinion—I always thought, by the by, that on economical subjects a man might be justified in changing his opinions—if the right hon. Gentleman, I say, were to come forward, and admit, for example, that the experience of the last three years had convinced him that he was wrong—if the noble Lord would come forward with the same candour—and if the school of Manchester would come forward and say that they have been ruined by their own act—why then I will agree to your income-tax. But if you obstinately adhere to your opinions—if the Government assert that its commercial policy is perfectly
right—if the Manchester school will acknowledge no change of opinion, I will take your assertions as your genuine belief; and I maintain that there is no necessity whatever for your income-tax, and that you have ample resources in the alleged consequences of your enlightened legislation. I find these resources in the work I have already referred to—a work certainly of the highest authority, for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth declared that it was the basis of his financial legislation. I should first notice the Gentleman to whom I have already made an allusion, as it would seem he challenges me to do so—I mean the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow (Mr. M'Gregor). He seems to think that on a previous occasion I grievously misrepresented his opinions. Now, all that I said was this, that the hon. Gentleman, in his evidence before the Imports Committee, stated, in substance, that if the corn and provision laws were repealed, it would be again equal to 100,000,000l. a year to the country, that is to say, about 2,000,000l. a week. [Mr. M'GREGOR: I did not say that.] I will tell you what the hon. Gentleman's words were. I find at page 80—[Mr. M'GREGOR rose]—I hope the hon. Gentleman will not interrupt me; I shall hear what he has to say with the greatest patience when he addresses the House. I can assure him he shall not be misrepresented. I shall quote his own evidence as reported by the shorthand writer, and corrected by the hon. Gentleman himself. I hope that will satisfy him. Mr. M'Gregor was asked—
Taking the gross amount of the revenue paid into the Treasury at 50,000,000l., have you been able to form an opinion of what proportion this additional tax upon the food of the country would be?
Mr. M'Gregor answered—
I consider the taxation imposed on the country by our duty on corn and the provision duties and prohibitions as far greater, probably much more, than double the amount of the taxation paid to the Treasury.
I know the hon. Gentleman said, the other night, that he included in his estimate tea, tobacco, and other articles; and wished to convey the idea that I had given too limited a meaning to his expressions. I am sorry to say, however, that I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to get off so easily. He was not content with giving his evidence—he was not content with his five days' examination. The hon. Gentle-
man favoured the Committee with a tariff of his own; and that tariff was considered so valuable that it was printed in the appendix. Now, so good an opinion had the hon. Gentleman of the duties on tea and sugar, that he left them untouched; and, as regarded tobacco, he actually added to the duty 6d. per lb. So the hon. Gentleman cannot ride off on that horse. I do not wish by any means to misrepresent him; and the reason why I have singled him out is, that he is one of the prime authors of those measures whose effects and consequences we are considering. Ever since I have had the honour of sitting in this House, I have heard the hon. Gentleman spoken of as one of the highest authorities on financial and trade questions. I believe that, as an author, the hon. Gentleman is the most voluminous in the English language. If you add the works of St. Thomas Aquinas to those of St. Bernard, you will scarcely equal him in number. I have always regarded him as the writer who had formed the statistical spirit of the age. I have read his works, but I will not say I have risen from their perusal "a wiser and a better," though perhaps a duller man. But the hon. Gentleman has done more than form the minds of Members of Parliament—he has actually formed the minds of Prime Ministers. He is confessedly and avowedly the author of the fatal measures of 1845 and 1846. I certainly have not for this statement the words of the hon. Gentleman reported by a shorthand writer, and corrected by himself; but I have his declaration, copied from his own newspaper, with the attention of the public called to it in a leading article written by a pen with which it seemed to me I was familiar. I must quote this declaration to the House, because, if I have a weakness for anything, it is for modest merit; and I like no man to be deprived of the fame which is his due, even though it be for burning down a temple. It appears that when the hon. Gentleman was canvassing the electors of Glasgow, a gentleman of the name of Andrew Gow relieved the tedium of a public meeting of the supporters of the hon. Gentleman by asking him if he had not prepared the tariff of Sir Robert Peel? It is stated in the report, that the abruptness of the question rather took the meeting by surprise, and that considerable uproar occurred, which was not allayed till the hon. Gentleman, against the wishes of the majority of the meeting, expressed his willingness to
answer the question, which he did as follows:—
If Sir Robert Peel had been in office, and if he (Mr. M'Gregor) had been in the office of the Board of Trade, no consideration would have induced him to answer the question. But as Sir Robert Peel was not in power, and as before coming to Glasgow he had resigned his connection with the Board of Trade—[The report went on to say that this remark elicited tremendous applause, which lasted for several minutes, and prevented the completion of the sentence. Silence was at length restored, and Mr. M'Gregor proceeded]—I say, that Sir Robert Peel being out of office, and I no longer in the office of the Board of Trade, I have no hesitation in informing the Gentleman who put the question, and this meeting, that I had the honour of preparing the whole of the schedules, the report, and the resolutions which were submitted to Parliament on the subject of the tariff, and in the arduous task I was assisted by no man but my private secretary, Mr. Lack.
I must own, that the reading of this report produced no little impression on me; and I regretted some things which had been said in connexion with those schedules and resolutions, and which originated in the erroneous impression that the professed author was the real author, and not merely the organ of another. It appeared that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth had not only not been the originator of the new tariff, but that he had not in its construction filled even as responsible a position as "my private secretary, Mr. Lack." Let the honour of the recent changes be attributed to their real author. When the hon. Gentleman made the statement which I have just read, he, perhaps, thought this country was in a state of great prosperity; but even now, when its great distress is rather more evident, and when, instead of being the great first cause of commercial reform, the hon. Gentleman has subsided during a late debate into "a simple journeyman" in the affair, the real author must not be forgotten; and, suffering under this mournful deficit, I want a portion of the 100,000,000l. which he said would be gained by his contrivances. Then there was another great name always introduced into discussion before the new commercial system was adopted. It was one of universally acknowledged weight, and exercised at the time an irresistible influence—that of the late Mr. Deacon Hume. This eminent Gentleman, in his estimates, was more moderate than the Member for Glasgow. Mr. Deacon Hume was asked by the Imports Committee—
Did you ever make a calculation" (they had
all made calculations) "as to the amount which might be saved from wheat and butcher's meat, if the existing landed monopoly was done away with?
He said he had, and that the amount was
—"36,000,000l. per annum, which the people are, in fact, paying as completely out of their pockets as though that amount was levied by direct taxation.
Now this is the evidence upon which those laws were passed which have ruined Lancashire. But it seems, that this estimate of Mr. Deacon Hume, though liberal enough, did not quite satisfy the Committee. There was a murmur of disappointment; and one of the Members, I apprehend my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose—always at mischief—whipped Mr. Deacon Hume up a little, and after this stimulus of cross-examination by his own friends, Mr. Deacon Hume was brought to admit that, one way or other, the loss to the people from the monopoly in question was equal to the whole revenue of the country. Now, I quote none but the evidence of persons who were in important official positions, or were Members of this House, because their evidence was the basis of legislation, and because they are the persons to whom in this moment of distress we may look for counsel and succour. There is the learned Doctor, for example, the Member for Bolton. He favoured the Committee with an estimate, too, of our loss from the corn monopoly. A very moderate one—only 11,000,000l. per annum; but still even that sum was an object to a ruined people. Then, too, as I returned to the House after dinner, I heard a voice in distress, moaning in the wilderness, for it was very thin, announcing that the country was ruined, and that we must "nurse our resources." It was the Member for Stirling. That Gentleman, too, in the then humbler position of Mr. J. B. Smith, had favoured the Imports Duties Committee with his valuable information. This is his evidence. Mr. J. B. Smith expressed his belief that the corn laws were a greater burden to the people than all the State taxes together. Pretty well! But the hon. Member for Glasgow and his 100,000,000l. per annum had spoiled the appetite of the Committee for anything so moderate. The hon. Member for Montrose took this witness in hand too—desired him to reconsider his estimate, and state the ground for his opinion. Upon which Mr. J. B. Smith, on reconsideration, admitted
that the loss could not he less than 60,000,000l. per annum, and might be 90,000,000l. These are the resources, I suppose, which he now calls upon us to "nurse." Ah! Sir, it is no laughing matter, when we remember that the country has been ruined by the legislation impelled by these opinions. And I am not at all surprised that the noble Lord, whom I am glad to see again, and whom, I am sure, we all hope for many years to see among us, should, when he recollects that he is governing a country whose laws are based upon such evidence, occasionally feel a little indisposed. This evidence gave the first impulse to the Manchester confederation. I need not, I am sure, remind this House of that picture of the brilliant future of England which was drawn by the great leaders of that confederacy. I never undervalued the talents, the energy, or the earnestness—I only wish there had been the same talent, energy, and earnestness elsewhere—of the hon. Gentlemen the Member for the West Riding and the Member for Manchester. These Gentlemen may be said to be the representatives of two great principles—Peace and Plenty. Yes! Peace and plenty amid a starving people, and with a world in arms. I must call the attention of the House to those Gentlemen, because after all their measures that have blown up, all their delusions which have evaporated, all the national distress and misery which they have occasioned, I find those hon. Gentlemen, not content with what they have done already, threatening us with another confederation, and another league. Now we are told there is to be a league for fiscal reform. I limit its object to what I have heard proclaimed in this House. I will not notice the more detailed programme which met my eye to-day in a respectable liberal paper. I see by that, that they do not mean to limit their efforts merely to fiscal reform, but to alter the law of primogeniture, to obtain a better representation of the people, and a variety of other measures, in respect to which, if I thought them formally responsible for them, I should have been prepared with the document to refer to. I notice, I will not call it the threat, but the promise of fiscal reform. The object of this confederation is to throw the taxes of this country upon what, according to the slang of the day, is called realised property, and especially the land of England. All I want to do is to take this opportunity of reminding those
Gentlemen who are so ready to throw the burden of taxation on realised property, and always on the landed interest, that by the most authentic evidence the fact is established, that the land is held by 200,000 proprietors, who divide among them a rental of 34,000,000l., leaving; them, on an average, 170l. a year; and of; those a great many must have, of course, much more so, and a great many must have much less. In fact, I believe, that if the question were examined, it will be found that the great fortunes are not among the landed proprietors of England, but in other classes of the community. And when they talk of throwing the burden of taxation on that body, I want to know what the statesmen of the north of England, the yeomen of the south, and the copartners of Lincolnshire, who have succeeded their fathers in the cultivation of the soil, and are as little competent to bear exclusive taxation as any class, will say. Nor can I believe it to be at all clear, if I turn to the other great branch of realised property, that it will be found a mere aristocratic element either. I need not remind the House that at the last payment of the dividends, 300,000 warrants were issued, of which one-third were for sums not exceeding 5l.; 50,000 warrants for sums not exceeding, and many less than, 10l.; and the very few large sums of which we hear so much, include the investments of banking and insurance companies, which is the capital of this commercial world. Therefore I can fancy nothing more fallacious, nothing more delulusive, nothing more unworthy of the talents and intelligence of the Member for the West Riding than the doctrine of exclusive taxation on what he calls the realised property of this country. But what does all this mean? Sympathy for the people, a deference to popular interests—a regard for popular rights? Let me remind the House, not of a chance expression used in the heat of debate, but of an expression which had been repeated, and in cool blood. Have we not heard it stated here, by no less a person than the hon. Member for Manchester, that the Gentlemen opposite to me are a middle-class Government—that they look to the middle class for power, and the middle class look to them for their advantage. A few years ago was it not held out as the greatest opprobrium that the agricultural interest was supported by class legislation? Were we not told on every occasion—on
every opportunity—in every manner—that class legislation was the great evil of the country? But now that they have obtained their ends—now that they have passed their measures—now that their beautiful commercial system is working its results—now that they think they have confirmed themselves in political authority and parliamentary power—they have the unblushing front to say the Government shall be a middle-class Government, and shall work solely for the middle classes. Sir, I do not believe that after all that has occurred, Gentlemen here are so dull in apprehension, or so dead in spirit, that they will submit, without a struggle, to this. No, Sir, if we have thought it wise to terminate those commercial distinctions which are supposed, I think erroneously, to have affected our social condition, it will be but a poor consolation for us to discover that the only return we have for a diminished revenue and a declining commerce, is the arrogant authority of a class who obtained power by false pretences, and now, possessing it, attempt to exercise it merely for their own advantage.
§ MR. W. GLADSTONE
I wish, Sir, that I could hope, in any degree, to sustain that lively interest with which the remarkable speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has been heard by the whole of this assembly. But, not attempting a display to which I feel myself entirely unequal, I shall think it my duty to pass most lightly over those matters of a personal description upon which the hon. Gentleman chiefly touched. I feel that greater interests demand our attention. We are called upon to give a vote in a critical state of the country and of the world; and although it may be well in its time and in its place to discuss the conduct of Administrations not now in office, and to expose the crude or exaggerated opinions vented at former periods by different individuals who could not have been expected to arrive at once at infallible truth upon so complicated a subject; yet, if I understand aright the character of the British House of Commons, these are not considerations which will influence mainly the ultimate decision on this question. I must, however, for a moment refer to what the hon. Gentleman has said of the late Government; and here I would address myself to Gentlemen on this side of the House. Let them observe what is the policy which is now assaulted. It is not merely the policy of 1846; it is not merely the repeal of the 439 corn laws. The very first steps that you toot towards the relaxation of the restrictive system, and the very first measure with that object that was adopted, have fallen under the withering censures, if censures they are, of the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman. It is true that the hon. Gentleman made a distinction between 1842 and 1845. In one of his parentheses the hon. Gentleman told us that had he the time sufficient for such a purpose he should lay before the House in detail the consequences—the fatal consequences—of the measure which was adopted in the year 1842 with respect to the timber duties; yet we heard him at the same time saying that the measure of 1842 was a reasonable measure, and had his support; but in 1845 he told us that it was essentially changed, and hence the evil results of which, according to the hon. Gentleman, it had been a most fruitful source, and he opposed it then. In the course of his speech, the House has heard the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire draw a distinction between the measure of 1842 and that of 1845, and while seeking to establish the difference subsisting between them, he spoke of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth as having adopted the doctrines of the Manchester school of economy, whence issued, if we are to receive implicitly the opinions of the hon. Gentleman, an incalculable amount of suffering and disaster to the country. Now, for the purpose of showing to the House in a manner which cannot be otherwise than satisfactory and conclusive as to the real opinions of my right hon. Friend, I propose to take the liberty of reading two brief passages from speeches of his; and I have no doubt that even at this hour of the night you will willingly hear them, when you remember that they proceed not from me but from him. The first of the two passages which I propose to read is in the following words:—I believe that in the general principles of free trade there is now no difference of opinion, and that all agree in the general rule that we should purchase in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest.That is something, I believe, like the Manchester school. The hon. Gentleman referred again to the negotiations for commercial reciprocity with foreign countries, in which I told him we had failed; but we did think the experiment should be made. We thought it well worth trying, and worth all the labour which it was at all 440 probable that we should be required to bestow upon it. We thought that to enlightened commercial men the principle of reciprocity would have been acceptable—that to remove all impediments which stood in the way of exchanging the produce of one country for that of another, would have appeared a reasonable and natural scheme. It is perfectly true that in those attempts we failed. For years together we laboured for their accomplishment. But when we came into debate with foreigners of affluence, when we discussed this question with foreign countries, any attempt to impart to them the views which we entertained, placed us in a hopeless position, and we were therefore compelled to act for ourselves; and the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire imputes to my right hon. Friend that he acted solely upon the Manchester doctrine, and not upon the opinions which my right hon. Friend avowed in 1842, and in the maintenance of which he had the support of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. In the course of the commercial discussions my right hon. Friend said—We have reserved many articles from immediate reduction in the hope that ere long we may attain that which would be just and beneficial to all, namely, increased facilities for our exports in return. At the same time I am bound to say that it is for the interest of the country to buy cheap whether other countries will buy cheap from us or no. We have a right to exhaust all means to induce them to do justice; but if they persevere in refusing, the penalty is on us if we do not buy in the cheapest market; but I believe firmly that the example England is now setting will ultimately prevail.Now, the whole charge against my right Friend is, that he held language in 1842 which was not consistent with that held by him in 1845. I beg the House to bear in mind that both the passages which I have read were delivered by my right hon. Friend in 1842. In both those passages during that year, my right hon. Friend plainly avowed the cautious and moderate opinions which at that time received the energetic and valuable support of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire: surely at a crisis like the present we are called upon to give our votes free from the influence of personal considerations. I hesitate not to affirm that public credit lies at the foundation of this question; our whole commercial system is, to a greater or less degree, dependent upon it. It does not merely affect the profits of capital, but it affects likewise the subsistence of the people, the peace and order of the people. In times like the 441 present we ought to show that all our minds are firmly set for peace. In a moment like this, when a revolutionary panic prevails almost throughout the world—when the firmest Throne in Europe has been shaken to its very foundations and overturned—when, in the language of Scripture, "men's hearts are failing them for fear"—in times like these, when we are called on to use our utmost endeavours to render men's minds steady in the midst of convulsions—in such circumstances we are called upon to separate from a discussion such as this every thing that does not bear essentially upon the measure in question. Acting myself upon this advice, I shall say, not that we have three courses open to us, for that phrase would probably not be acceptable to the hon. Gentleman; but, if I must not say three courses, I at least may affirm, that three plans are before us. In the first place, we have the plan of the noble Lord, which is supported by the hon. Gentleman, who would give us an income-tax for the purpose of driving on a particular system of taxation, not with the view of reducing the public expenditure, but with the view of reimposing the Customs duties. Next we have the hon. Member for Montrose concurring with the noble Lord only on the matter of the income-tax, and agreeing to it for one year, in order then to introduce and press upon the Government such reductions as will equalise the expenditure and income of the nation; and, lastly, we have the plan of the Government. The arguments of the noble Lord appear to me to be altogether founded upon an allegation that the system of commercial legislation proposed by my right hon. Friend has been unsuccessful. Now, we never undertook that it should be successful in all its parts. Such are the adverse allegations, and such is the first issue which the House has to try; and we have been far advanced in the trial of that issue since we have heard the speech of the hon. Member for Westbury—a speech not more to be admired for its dispassionate tone than for its enlightened array of facts and arguments; and we also have the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, in one of his most considerable efforts, opposing the hon. Member for Westbury; but in any attempt of mine to bring back the House to the true merits of the question under discussion, I am not only oppressed by the magnitude of the subject, but bewildered by the variety of topics which it offers to view, whether they relate to imports or exports, 442 or to revenue; but still, even against these disadvantages I am ready to abide by the trial. Looking, then, at the reasonable expectations that might have been entertained from my right hon. Friend's plan of commercial legislation—not adopting the views of sanguine or speculative men, but confining ourselves to reasonable expectations—I will say that no one ever promised equal and uniform prosperity from the measures of my right hon. Friend. We knew—as who did not?—that in commercial fortunes there must be an ebb and flood. It was enough if our proposed freedom of trade was calculated to heighten prosperity and to mitigate the sufferings of the people in the day of affliction. That, at least, has been effected by the legislation of the late Parliament. I propose to begin by applying myself to two articles—first, the timber duties, and, next, the duties on silk; and I wish for the present to pass by brandy. I will state, what indeed is perfectly clear, that when we speak of the alteration of the timber duties, essentially different questions are involved—the questions relating to colonial timber is distinct from the question relating to foreign timber. As regards colonial timber, it was resolved, and I think wisely, to cease from treating that as an article of revenue. It was a raw material produced in the British dominions, competing with the home-grown article; and the heavy sacrifice of half a million of revenue was involved. This is not a case that can be brought to bear on the principles of free trade. But let us try the question as regards foreign timber. On this subject I will make a very brief comparison, and will deal with timber exclusively, for, as the mode of reckoning other descriptions of wood goods was altered in 1842, and a different classification adopted, there exists no accurate means of comparison with respect to them. What are the tests of success in a question of this kind? If you find a great increase of import, and a gain also to the revenue, is not that all the success that was ever promised? In 1841, which I think the fairest year to take—for 1842 was a year of almost commercial collapse and paralysis—there were 131,000 loads of foreign timber imported into this country, and the revenue received thereon was 411,000l., after deducting 60,000l. paid on drawbacks for timber used in Cornish mines. With 1841 I am not afraid to compare the unfortunate year of 1847—though I do not think it is a fair compari- 443 son; and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Somersetshire justly observed, in a manner highly honourable to his candour, that it could not be fairly alleged that these measures which had been passed have yet had an equitable trial. Nevertheless, I am content to take the year 1847, and to try the question by that test. The duty in the meantime had undergone an immense reduction, from the amount of 56s. 6d. to the amount of 21s. With that reduced duty the quantity of timber imported had increased from 131,000 loads; the quantity in 1841 to 437,000 loads; and the revenue, whilst almost two-thirds of the duty had been taken away, had entirely recovered itself, and had even gone beyond the amount in 1841, which was 411,000l.; for in 1847, the revenue on account of foreign timber was 451,000l. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn seemed to think that, if at the same time the foreigner got anything, that was a sufficient proof that the measure had failed. I cannot help observing, with pain, what a false position hon. Gentletlemen place themselves in with reference to the foreigner, when they take these restricted views. In listening to such objections, one would suppose that commerce was but another kind of war, and that whenever the foreigner gained there must necessarily be a loss and a fraud upon us. But let the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn recollect, when he speaks of the foreigner, and describes the extreme pain and horror with which he views the foreigner reaping any portion of the profits of this arrangement, that in three cases out of four the foreigner that he alludes to is as good an Englishman as himself. [Laughter.] The noble Lord may laugh, but is it not indisputable that the importations from many foreign countries are effected by English capital and on English account? I hope, therefore, the noble Lord will allow me to administer to him some little consolation, and to assure him that not all of that which he thinks passes into the pockets of the foreigner is lost to Englishmen. I will now refer to the article of silk. On this subject the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn had made a most doleful and moving statement. He said that a deputation from the Spitalfields weavers had called on him, who stated that in 1836 they had 14,000 looms working, and in 1845, after their trade had been dabbled with, only 10,000. I will here observe that there is a most unfortunate 444 chronological error in this statement. The noble Lord is totally wrong in saying that the trade was dabbled with, to use his expression, between 1836 and 1845. It was not touched in any important particular until 1846. But the noble Lord made a stronger point, for he went on to say that on last Saturday week there were but 3,500 looms in operation in Spitalfields and Bethnal-green. Of course the meaning of this statement was, that in consequence of the measures which had been adopted there had been a great decrease in the silk trade in England. Now, I so far agree with the hon. Member for Buckingham as to think that we may refer to the revenue as an important test of the operation of these measures; yet we must not make it an exclusive test, or regard it as of uniform and mathematical certainty. We must look partly to the bearing of these measures on the revenue, partly to their bearing on trade, but most of all to their bearing on the employment of the people. How does the question stand with respect to the employment of the people? I will endeavour to take a criterion which the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn will not think unfair; I will take the years 1846 and 1847, which are the only two years of the reduced duty, and I will compare them with the average of the ten years from 1834 to 1843, which I find printed in a recent Parliamentary return. Let the House observe whether the figures given by this return do not make out the most complete case on every point for this very reduction of duty, in respect to the silk trade, which has always been chosen as the most vulnerable point of the system adopted of late years, by those who are devoted to the restrictive system in commerce. The importation of raw silk on an average of ten years, from 1834 to 1843, was 3,742,000lbs., and the average importation during the two years of the reduced duty, 1846–47, was 4,265,000lbs. The average importation of thrown silk for the first period was 265,000lbs., and for the latter 371,000lbs., being an increase of 106,000lbs. The silk goods imported on the average of the first period amounted to 219,000lbs., and on the average of the latter period to 408,000lbs., being an increase of 189,000lbs. This last item certainly shows that we have imported more foreign silk goods in the latter period than in the former period on the average, by about 200,000lbs.; but, at the same time, we have imported 630,000lbs. additional 445 raw material to work up in our country, adding so much thereby to the domestic labour of this country. Therefore, when the noble Lord speaks of a diminution of the looms in Spitalfields, that may as much be referable to the competition between Spitalfields and Manchester, as to the competition between Spitalfields and France. I touch upon these points very unwillingly, but I shall not advert to anything that is not absolutely necessary. Well, then, the revenue from silk goods in the first period of exclusion was 220,000l. a year; while during the first year of reduction it was somewhat under 233,000l. But, Sir, the noble Lord—I have done now with figures of this kind—the noble Lord has spoken of the cruel and grinding operation of the measures relating to timber on our fellow subjects in British North America; and he said, if I understood him rightly, that there had been a ruinous depression in the value of colonial timber. Why, the noble Lord must have been grossly misinformed. In the first place, colonial timber has not decreased in import, for there are the same number of loads of colonial timber as there were in 1840 and 1841. But as to price, I beg the noble Lord to observe that the long price—that is, the price including the duty—has only decreased between the years 1840 and 1848, by 3s.; that is, from 95s. to 92s., while the duty of 10s. 6d. has been taken off. So that, in point of fact, this ruined colonist, upon whose case the noble Lord sought to touch our sympathies, is a man now getting 7s. more for his timber than he got in the year 1840. But, Sir, discussions on these particular articles are singularly wearisome, and I will now point out, in a very few words, what have been the results to the colonies of the financial measures of my right hon. Friend. And, first, I must say that I think it is due from all those who were Members of the Government of my right hon. Friend to retain a lively sense of gratitude to those who supported them during the years 1842 and 1845, and to prove on their behalf, against the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire—to prove on behalf of the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman, and against themselves, that they were right in the support they gave to those measures, and that they are only wrong in the vituperation which they now cast upon them. From the year 1842 to the year 1844, in round numbers, two millions and a half of taxes were repealed; and half a million—I do not now 446 speak of the income-tax—were imposed; so that there was a balance of reduction of nearly two millions—namely, 1,963,000l. Now, let the Committee compare the progress the revenue of the country had made in those three years between 1841 and 1844. It was a very short period for any deficiency to be filled up; but my right hon. Friend was bold enough to say, that probably in five years, possibly in three years, after we granted the income-tax, such would be the relief to the springs of industry—a phrase that I am not even now afraid to refer to—that you would find that the reviving trade and industry of the country would replace nearly the whole amount derived from the income-tax. Now, two millions of Customs duties were repealed in 1842 and 1844. In the year 1844 the whole amount of Customs duties removed since the year 1841 was 7,600,000l. I ask you whether that is success, or whether that is failure? But I have spoken only of Customs duties, and I will now speak of the revenue at large; and I say this—that in the year 1844 you actually had, by the revival of trade, and by its action on the revenue—not in the Customs alone, but on all branches—you had recovered the whole of the income-tax. Your revenue in the year 1844, deducting the income-tax, was 48,427,000l. and your expenditure was but 48,500,000l.; so that with the exception of a trifling sum of about 80,000l., you had, between the years 1842 and 1844, under the influence of these disastrous measures, recovered the whole amount of taxation which the country consented to boar in the form of an income-tax. Well then, Sir, how does the case stand in the year 1845, in the false glow of these principles? I have shown pretty effectually that these false principles came in the year 1842; and I do not now speak of the measures of 1846, but of the measures of 1845, which were simply an extended application of the principles on which the measures of 1842 had been founded. What was the state of the revenue in 1846, after the immense reduction of 1845, only the first year after those reductions were effected? Why, Sir, it has been shown by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth, in another form, that the revenue of 1846, without the income-tax, only fell short of the revenue of 1841 by the small sum of 363,000l., and in the mean time you had reduced 7,600,000l. of taxation; and when the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire talks 447 of our having cut off eight millions from the revenue, I only wish he would wind up the sentence by saying that we had also added 8,000,000l. to the revenue, by the operation of these commercial measures. Well, Sir, now with regard to the year 1847, I must not, I am afraid, push this subject further; but I will say this, that even in the year 1847, disastrous as that year was, and I do not shrink from trying the case by that year—even in the year 1847—I give you these facts without giving you the figures on which they are based—if you compare the Customs and Excise in the disastrous year of 1847 with what they were in the year 1841, before the changes began, you will find that out of the 7,500,000l. of taxation that were repealed—even in 1847 five millions and a half had been replaced, or somewhat more than the whole amount of the income-tax. So that even with this tax—even with a double famine to assist you, for you are not content with the famine in corn, but you must likewise have the aid of the famine in cotton to make out your argument—even with that double famine, the one affecting the first article of the subsistence of the people, and the other affecting perhaps the first article of their employment—even in that disastrous year, and with the broken springs of industry, you have paid to the Customs and Excise, by the earnings of the labour of the country, which really sustains that revenue, five millions and a half more than you paid in the year 1841, before the false principles were heard of, and before any of those changes had taken place. Well, Sir, what shall I say to the hon. Gentleman? I am in a dilemma, for I have made a promise not to touch figures at great length, yet is it difficult for me not to do so, because the hon. Gentleman has really founded a large part of his argument—the whole of his argument respecting cotton, I think, resting upon a misapprehension with regard to the state of supplies. He shows a very considerable decrease, from various causes, in the export of cotton manufacture, and he further justifies himself for the approbation with which we met the extraordinary proposal to replace the tax on the cotton of America, because the removal did no good. How does he show that it did no good? Why, he does it by showing that the removal which took place in 1845 had caused the price of cotton to rise so much as to cover the difference in the duty. He says that this removal did no good, because in 448 October, 1845, the British merchant did not pay so much for his cotton. Now, I put it to him as a reasonable and intelligent man, did the British merchant pay the American merchant, as the buyers of other countries? Did he or did he not? If he did—the hon. Gentleman will not give me an answer, and we know what that means—if he did, then it is perfectly plain that the British merchant bought like any other buyer, and therefore if he had had anything of duty to pay, the price of the cotton would have been enhanced by so much; and under these circumstances I beg the hon. Gentleman, when next he returns to the subject, as no doubt he will return to it, will show that, in the month of October, the British merchant derived no benefit from the repeal of the cotton duty. I claim the vote of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, because the hon. Gentleman said he was horrified at the idea of reimposing the duty on cotton, unless from the repeal could be demonstrated that the British merchant and manufacturer had derived no benefit whatever. Sir, with regard to the export of manufactures, I do not flinch from the contest. If you compare the exports of last year—I will not read the figures—if you compare the exports for the average of the four years ending the preceding, you will find, notwithstanding the corn and cotton famine, that there is a tendency on the average to increase. Now, Sir, there is one fact connected with the cotton trade which it is impossible to overlook, and that is, that one-third of the importation of cotton in 1846, namely, the crop of 1845, had fallen off. Why, it was a matter of course, under these circumstances, that you must have a great increase in price, and consequently a decrease in the exports. Now, I put it to the hon. Gentleman to show, if he will allow me to remove the single article of cotton yarn from the exports of 1847—the time of the cotton famine, as it has been expressively called—I put it to him to show what were the results of our disastrous experiments. Why, it was this, that although the year 1846 was a year of enormous trade, yet, if you remove the single article of cotton yarn, there is positively an increase in the year 1847 as compared with 1846, amounting to no less than 16,950,000l. Now, Sir, I hope I have shown the Committee, that if I refrain from giving them more figures at this late hour of the night, it is merely out of respect to them, and a consciousness of 449 my own deficiency, and not from any disinclination or fear to sift to the bottom any one subject of this troublesome case. We are not prepared to shackle industry. We are not to go back to a principle which I hoped had been long since given up by every one—I mean the principle of taxation of raw material. But I observe an inclination on the part of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn to make a retrograde movement. When the question was formerly before the House, the noble Lord was willing that a duty of 5 per cent on the raw material should be imposed; but he now proposes to saddle raw material brought from abroad with a duty of from 10 to 15 per cent ad valorem. I will not follow the noble Lord through his details. I am contented with comparing his charges with the charges of the right hon. Gentleman. I will not go into the question of sugar. But I now come to a point which I confess affected me with a good deal of surprise in the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. Whilst he was delivering that speech I bethought myself of and speculated upon the question, "How will he connect this reasoning with the vote he is preparing to give upon the question?" At last he came to the link of connexion. He said, "Give up free trade and I will give you the income-tax. But if you will have free trade, you must not have the income-tax." And that was the only reference which he made to the vote he was about to give in the whole course of his speech. But I should not object to his giving his reason for his vote in a single sentence, if the reason were at all tenable or consistent. But is this an argument for a distinguished Gentleman such as the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire to give? Why, Sir, his premises ought to have brought him to an exactly opposite conclusion. He has a duty, to maintain public credit, totally independent of the freaks or vagaries, if he likes to call them so, of other Gentlemen. If free trade has broken the springs of industry, and cut off 8,000,000l. from the revenue, it is not the less, it is the more, necessary for the hon. Gentleman to vote the income-tax. I put this without asking the hon. Gentleman to go beyond a single sentence in giving the reason for his vote out of a speech of two hours' duration. He will find that he has founded his determination upon reasons which should have led him to a directly opposite conclusion. Now with 450 respect to the vote he is going to give. The hon. Member for Montrose says he will vote for the income-tax for one year; and in the course of that year he will make reductions so extreme in the scale of expenditure, that at the end of the year you will be able to do without the income-tax altogether. Now, what are the estimates of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose? He has not given us his figures. But so far as I can judge, without having his statement before me, he ought to effect a reduction in the course of the twelve months of not less than from 8,000,000l. to 10,000,000l. I will not speak slightly of reduction or retrenchment. I will say on general principles that a great country like this ought periodically—whether every eight years or ten years I will not say—but it ought periodically to have a thorough and searching revision of its public expenditure—such a revision as took place about fifteen years ago. And I think that, on general principles, it is high time we should revise the entire system of expenditure. I say this entirely irrespective of the fact that we have had an extraordinary increase on the subject of our finances—an increase amounting to nearly 7,000,000l. in our expenditure since the year 1835, and to 4,500,000l. since the year 1844, on the items of Navy and Ordnance—amounting to 2,850,000l. since 1845; and to 1,638,000l. since 1846. This increase affords in itself a strong primâ facie case for revision, and that, too, without diminishing the effective means of defence, which I presume you would not at present dare to diminish. But without doing so, you might effect a considerable saving. But I think our own consciences might tell us, that, not entering into the share which may fall to the Government of the blame, nor entering into that which may fall upon the House of Commons, but merely regarding the miscellaneous estimates of the country, not only on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but on that of every one else who has had a voice in the matter, there has been a considerable laxity in the matter of expenditure. There is always a tide setting against the public money. Every hon. and right hon, Gentleman has a predilection for some one subject which sways one very much, another very little. But the knowledge of the existence of such predilections shows the necessity for instituting searching investigations periodically. And although 451 I should not say anything against the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I must admit that I was very much dissatisfied with his expression on the subject of the possible reductions. I thought he was not sanguine enough as to the possibility of effecting reductions; and he spoke of several articles which he seemed to think were not subjects for reduction or revision, but which, I think, are. He seemed to think, for instance, that all the charges upon the Consolidated Fund were matters which should be exempted from revision. Now, the reason of his so treating those charges I believe to be that when matters are once made chargeable upon the Consolidated Fund, all the parties connected with it feel, so to speak, landed, and beyond the reach of further scrutiny. They think they are placed under cover of an Act of Parliament. Now I think as regards those charges which are placed upon the Consolidated Fund, the presumption is, that they require a strict revision quite as much as those charges which have to come under our view from year to year. I think also that the charges for collecting the public revenue should be revised. I am told I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. But when he spoke of those things upon which reductions might be effected, he mentioned the Miscellaneous Estimates, the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, with the exception of the charges for the ineffective portions of the forces; and I think he spoke of 18,000,000l. being the total sum on which we should have to work. Now, from those other subjects to which I have alluded, may be added a sum of pretty nearly 5,000,000l., or nearly 23,000,000l., and giving, with the Consolidated Fund charges, not short of 30,000,000l., as a basis on which to found your proceedings in reduction. The hon. Member for Montrose believes, that out of that you can save 8,000,000l. to 10,000,000l. in the course of the next twelve months. But you ought to remember, that in the next year you will have a deficiency of 4,000,000l. according to the estimate: that is to say, nearly 3,000,000l., besides the 1,100,000l. for the Caffre war. But besides that, 4,000,000l. to be provided for, you will, I am afraid, have new charges to pay for that Caffre war next Session. And then that mysterious vote "the Navy excess" may again appear. But besides that 4,000,000l. or 5,000,000l. of deficiency, the hon. Member for Mon- 452 trose proposes to add 5,000,000l. more by the reduction of the income-tax. Now, is it consistent with common prudence in the present state of public affairs to place so large a portion of the public means at the hazard of all contingencies which may intervene between this time and that? This appeal is one which I think may be made with justice to the representatives of the most popular constituencies. It amounts to this, that no retrenchment which may or can be effected can possibly compensate for the effects of tampering with the public credit. Now, Sir, does this Motion touch the public credit or not? I do not mean that the hon. Gentlemen who support the Motion have the slightest intention of endangering the public faith. Far from me to propagate such a notion. I only propound an opinion, but I do so with considerable firmness. My belief is, that though hon. Gentlemen do not intend it, the Motion they make will shake the public confidence. If it were to go forth—but I am well persuaded that it will not, I only put it for the sake of argument—but I ask if it were to go forth to-morrow, that this House of Commons had adopted the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose, what answer, I ask, would that barometer of the feelings of the country—the Stock Exchange of to-morrow—make with respect to the effect of such a Motion. I venture to form an opinion—I think a legitimate one—that if you were to vote to-night, with a deficiency of 4,000,000l. or 5,000,000l. in the public expenditure, not for any proposal to supply it, but for a Motion that at the end of twelve months you will not continue the income-tax, producing 5,500,000l.—I am of opinion that if you were to do this, the confidence of the public in the wisdom of the Legislature, at least with regard to financial matters, would be very seriously shaken. I could have made an appeal with some confidence to hon. Gentlemen opposite, holding extreme popular opinions; but I confess that it is with great astonishment that I feel I have also to appeal to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, of whom—to whatever extent I may differ from their views on some matters of legislation—I think I may say that it will be accorded to them that as a party they have at all times shown a disposition to adopt every measure that tended to keep the public credit in the most stable condition. I will not go into a discussion at length on any matters relating to the large question of a 453 reduction of expenditure in connexion with our colonial policy. I shall only say, that we must in a very short time make a large reduction in the expenditure on account of the colonies. One of the main reasons which I see for placing the affairs of the colonies, when they have reached any tolerable state of security, and when no seriously disturbing circumstances exist, in the hands, to a considerable extent, of the colonists themselves is, that it makes the colonists responsible in a greater degree than they now are for the expenses of these portions of Her Majesty's dominions, as I know that it is very difficult to do that, unless we make a frank recognition of their rights—entrusting to their own hands the decision on all matters connected with their local affairs. It is extraordinary to see the extent to which we have altered the basis of our old colonial system. That system was framed mainly with a view to a monopoly of markets. That has been abandoned; but it was also framed with a view to enable the colonists to attend to their own affairs. I think you were quite right to abandon the monopoly; but I think also that circumstances obliged you to take into your own hands in this country too much of the business of places situated in the most distant parts of the world; and I think that it would be well to leave to the colonists, wherever practicable, a very large power indeed over the regulation of their own affairs, and at the same time to impose upon them the obligation of contributing to the defences of that portion of the empire to which they belong. I have detained the Committee very long, and I feel sincerely indebted to them for their great patience in listening to me at such length at this late hour. I shall cease to address you without the slightest apprehension as to the result of this debate. I am perfectly confident that the vote which we are about to give will be accorded to Her Majesty's Government, without any regard to party feelings or considerations. They are entitled to our support, especially at such a crisis as the present; but they are entitled at all times to claim the aid of the House in their honest endeavours to maintain the finances of the country. I am confident that what they are now asking for is not an excessive or unreasonable demand, though I feel that it would be unreasonable unless accompanied by a most searching revision of the public expenditure, with a view to a considerable reduction of 454 its scale within the next few years. But I am sorry to say that you are not now proposing to provide for the expenses of the year within the year. You are, without disparagement, submitting to circumstances which require you to tolerate the great evil of deficiency for two years successively, perhaps I should say three years—and that too in a time of peace. You are abandoning the intention which you entertained last year, when you seemed to think that you could this year begin to liquidate the large loan which was raised in addition to the capital of the public debt. You are throwing over that—you are consenting to go on with a deficiency in your exchequer—you are not pursuing altogether that high and masculine duty, which, unless under overruling necessity, it is most desirable to adhere to. The very least amount that can maintain the public business, the very minimum of revenue, is all you now ask; and I am sure this House of Commons will prove itself to be worthy of the Parliaments which preceded it—worthy of the Sovereign which it has been called to advise—and worthy of the people which it has been chosen to represent—by sustaining this nation and enabling it to stand firm in the midst of the convulsions that shake European society—by doing all that pertains to us for the purpose of maintaining social order, the stability of trade, and the means of public employment; and by discharging our own consciences, on our own part, under the difficult circumstances of the crisis, in the perfect trust that if we set a good example to the nation—for whose interest we are appointed to consult—they, too, will stand firm, as they have done in other times of almost desperate emergency; and that through their good sense, their moderation, and their attachment to the institutions of the country, we shall see these institutions still exist, a blessing and a benefit to posterity, whatever alarms and whatever misfortunes may unfortunately befall other portions of civilised Europe.
§ Debate adjourned. House resumed. Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned at half-past One o'clock.