§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, I find, in consequence of a few words I said the other night when the order of the day was called on, that there has been a sort of expectation in the minds of some hon. Members that it was my intention to make some attack or offer some opposition to the passing of this Bill. I wish, therefore, to explain the circumstances under which I said what I did on that occasion, when this Bill stood as the first order of the day for second reading. The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked me whether I understood that it was likely that any opposition to the passage of the Bill would be made, as he had imagined that it would be unopposed, and he was anxious that it should pass at once. I answered that I understood there was no intention to oppose the passing of the Bill, but that it was a measure on which, probably, some observations would be made, and that I myself intended to make a few observations on it and as, I believe, there were reasons why it was inconvenient for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the other Ministers to be detained in the House, the Bill was put off but I gave no intimation that I intended to oppose the progress of the Bill. Nothing was further from my intention. At the same time the House will observe that the Bill is one of great importance. It gives the Government taxes to the amount of between £20,000,000 and £25,000,000 sterling. These taxes are of different kinds—the income tax, the tea and sugar duties, and some minor taxes; but all are put together in one Bill. And not only does the Bill thus deal with nearly one-third of the whole revenue of the country, but it grants these taxes to the Crown only for a single year. Now, that is rather remarkable. For the last two or three years it has been the practice to grant large amounts of taxes for a single year; but I doubt whether the House of Commons will be inclined to continue this course of keeping year after year no less than one-third of the whole revenue of the country in what I may call a provisional condition. The course is inconvenient, and the reasons given for it show its inconvenience. The reason which induces the Government to ask for those taxes only for the space of one year is, that they and the House are not entirely satisfied with 1362 the condition of our taxation. I believe that no one is satisfied with the sugar or tea duties as at present levied, and certainly no one is satisfied with the income tax at its present high rate. This Bill, then, is professedly of an exceptional character, and it naturally calls for some remark. With regard to some of these taxes there are commercial interests at stake; and it is undesirable that we should continue to keep the duty on tea and sugar in a state of uncertainty. There is great inconvenience too, as every one will admit, in keeping the income tax in a state of uncertainty. When the tax is every year brought under the consideration of Parliament, the principle of the tax is every year brought in view and challenged. This is one inconvenience. Another objection that I have to voting the income tax frequently at varying rates, and from year to year, is that it affords too ready an opportunity of adding to the expenditure of the country, because nothing can be easier than putting on a penny or two pence on the income tax to meet that expenditure I think it is high time, therefore, that we should come to an end of this provisional system; and if the matter had merely rested there, I should have thought it my duty to say a few words to the House on the occasion of the second reading of this Bill. But there is another reason which induces me, under the present state of things, to call on the House to pause before proceeding with a Bill of this magnitude. That reason, however, is of another and a different kind from anything that has passed in the walls of this House, for it relates to what has fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place. I do not mean the other House, but I allude to some remarks which he addressed to the people of England in the Manchester Chamber of Commerce during the Easter recess. Now, I think great importance is to be attached to the words of a Minister of State having charge of a particular department; and when that Minister addresses an important commercial body on the subject of the department over which he presides, and that at a time when he is engaged in passing financial measures through this House, the whole country will naturally watch with anxiety whatever may fall from his lips. The speech of my right hon. Friend certainly created some surprise in my mind and created surprise in the minds of some other persons. The main propositions laid down in that speech were 1363 these—in the first place, the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed the country that the finances were in an unhealthy state; and he went on to state that the reason why the finances of the country were not in a healthy state was because our expenditure was too large. He added further, that it would be perfectly easy—or at all events, would be by no means very difficult—to bring the finances into a healthy state by reducing the expenditure; and, lastly, he said that that task which he represented as so necessary and easy was one, nevertheless, that this House appears not able to accomplish, and which the Government cannot accomplish, and which can only be accomplished by the aid of what is commonly called pressure from without. Now, I think that those propositions are very serious. It is a very serious thing when the manager of our finances comes forward and says that the finances of the country are in an unhealthy state. It is a very serious thing when he tells us that it is impossible, or practically impossible, for the Government themselves to put them upon a better footing; but it is a still more serious thing when he goes on to say that the difficulty arises, not from the intrinsic difficulty of the situation, but from the incompetence of this House and the Government to deal with questions of finance. Such a statement appears to me to involve a serious reflection both on the Government with which he is connected and on this House, and is a statement which I think calls for some remark. I do not consider myself bound in any way to take up the cudgels for the Government. If they are satisfied with the statement as it affects them, of course I shall not quarrel with them. They are perfectly right to take any step they may think will be conducive to their reputation with the country; and if they think they add to that reputation by going down to Manchester and announcing that in the space of three years they have contrived to bring the finances of the country into an unhealthy condition, of course I cannot quarrel with them. But though I am not disposed to be jealous of the reputation of the Government, I am disposed to be jealous of the reputation of this House, because I think we are included in this charge, and are as it were put upon our defence. Why are we returned to this House? What is the main object of the House of Commons? Our duty, perhaps our principal duty, is to look after the 1364 finances of the country; and if our constituents are to be told that we are not doing our duty, or that we are not competent for our duty in this matter, then the whole course of our Parliamentary proceedings is called in question, and the character of this House is very seriously impeached. I think it is our duty to justify ourselves, and we should be acquiescing in our own condemnation if we did not attempt to justify ourselves by earnestly applying our minds to the consideration of the problem which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given us to solve.
With regard to the propositions laid down by my right hon. Friend at Manchester, I entirely agree with many of them. I entirely agree with the first proposition of my right hon. Friend—that the finances are not in a healthy state; and if I have any fault to find with it, it is not that he has overstated the case, but that he has rather understated it. He represented the finances of the country as not being in a healthy state because our revenue barely exceeded our expenditure. I think he might, without going too far, have put it a little more strongly, and he might have said that we were unable to meet our expenditure. What will happen this year he did not say, though I for one think I can form a very shrewd guess. In the last two years we have had two very large deficits; and therefore when my right hon. Friend was speaking at Manchester, he might have said, with perfect truth, that our revenue did not meet the expenditure of the country. My right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire the other night showed what the deficits of the last two years were. He showed that besides an acknowledged deficit of £4,000,000 there has been a very considerable expenditure of capital in the way of forestalling resources; so that the ordinary revenue of the country must have fallen short of the expenditure by £7,000,000 or 8,000,000 in two years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us in his budget speech that the deficiency last year was between £1,100,000 and 1,200,000; and according to his way of putting it that was not ah unfair statement; but since then a paper has been laid before us which shows that on the usual principle of calculation the deficiency is rather more than double the amount he stated. That paper is signed by the Secretary to the Treasury, and it shows, that including the money paid for fortifications, which was not included in the 1365 statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the money paid by the State last year exceeded the revenue by more than £2,400,000.
Now, I should like to recall to the recollection of the House—it is forcibly impressed on my own recollection—the condition of the country twenty years ago, at the time when Sir Robert Peel took charge of the finances of the country. At that time the finances were in much the same condition as they are now—that is, everybody admitted that they were not in a healthy state. We had had several large deficits one after another, altogether amounting to something like £8,000,000. Those deficits were run up in four years. The present deficit of £8,000,000 has been run up in two years. There is another curious parallel between the two periods. The particular deficit in 1842, with which Sir Robert Peel had to grapple, was £2,400,000; the deficit last year was of the very same amount. It appears, therefore, that after twenty years of great national prosperity and wise financial legislation we have come back to the point from which we then started—the accumulation of a deficit, and a deficit of precisely the same amount as that of the year 1842. That circumstance, even if it stood alone, would be rather unsatisfactory. But that is by no means the whole state of the case. The deficit with which Sir Robert Peel had to deal was a deficit in our ordinary income as compared with expenditure; but we have now a deficit, not in our ordinary income as compared with expenditure, but in an income supplemented with £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 of income tax. Sir Robert Peel had at that time a great reserve on which he could draw; he had not yet resorted to the income tax; and, moreover, he had a great work to perform in the way of improving our financial and commercial system, for no one will deny that our finances and our commerce were hampered at that period by many restrictions which it was well to remove. Very little of that work remains to be done, and yet you have called on your reserve to a very considerable extent. We are always told that it is important to keep the finances of the country in a strong condition, because we may at any moment find ourselves engaged in hostilities? But what would happen if under present circumstances you were engaged in hostilities? Where is the financial reserve on which you could fall back? 1366 When you went to war in 1853, you incurred an addition of at least £25,000,000 a year to your annual expenditure. I suppose the cost of carrying on a war now would not be less than it was in 1853; it would probably be even greater, because all the instruments used in warfare, and all kinds of military processes, are more expensive at present than they were at that time. It is quite conceivable that a longer and more expensive contest than the Russian war may break out; and how, in that case, could we provide for an additional expenditure of £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 a year? There are no means of doing so except through the income tax, which amounts to £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 already. This tax might, indeed, be raised to 1s. 6d. in the pound, but that addition would only produce £10,000,000 or £11,000,000. You cannot add to your spirit duties or your malt duties. You might certainly by possibility increase the tea and sugar duties; but the House would hardly look with great favour on such a proposition, seeing that those duties are at a war rate already. It would be difficult to provide so large a sum as would be neccessary, and I say, then, that you have not by any means a satisfactory or a healthy state of finance. But while I point out these things to the House, and while I say that these are considerations which ought to make us ponder seriously on the financial state of the country, it appears to me that there are other elements in our condition of a still graver character. That which I think the most alarming feature in our position is the peculiar nature of the financial doctrines which appear to be in the ascendant. Those doctrines are much in vogue among a portion of the Members of this House and of the people of this country, and are believed to be recommended by very high authority. They were, as I understand, put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Manchester, and they go to the establishment of a new theory of ministerial responsibility in regard to the question of our national expenditure. My right hon. Friend at Manchester gave pretty plain utterance to an idea which he has, I think, more than once broached in this House; or, at all events, which he has allowed to be broached by lion. Gentlemen below the gangway without having ever thought it right to repudiate it—I mean that he has given countenance to the idea that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) is in some 1367 way or other not responsible for the expenditure which is recommended to this House by the Government. I do not know whether it is the intention of my right hon. Friend to put forward the doctrine to which I am referring, but I think it is only due to him that I should tell him what is the impression generally produced by the language which he has himself held, or which he has allowed to be used in his presence without correcting it. That impression is, that he considers the expenditure which he and his colleagues recommend to the House as an expenditure of which he may wash his hands, and that he thinks the responsibility of checking it rests not with himself, but with this House, and still more with the country. Now, I say that, serious as is our deficit and dangerous as is our position in other respects, I consider that the admission of such a doctrine is a far greater evil. It involves what is certainly a new theory of constitutional and Parliamentary Government. Let me ask the House to bear in mind what takes place at the beginning of every session, what it is the Ministers of the Crown advise her Majesty to tell us upon that occasion; and I will then ask whether we are to consider that the language so employed is true or not. At the beginning of every Session the Ministers advise Her Majesty to tell us in the speech from the Throne that she has caused the Estimates for the coming year to be prepared with a due regard for the exigencies of the public service and a proper observance of the principles of a judicious economy. But if the doctrine put forward by my right hon. Friend at Manchester, and stated by other persons elsewhere, be a true and sound doctrine, Her Majesty ought, I think, to be advised to change those expressions; and instead of saying that the Estimates have been prepared "with a due regard to the exigencies of the public service," she ought to say that they have been prepared with a due regard to what she understands to be the wishes of the people. If that were told us plainly, we should know what we were about. But if the new doctrine be correct, we do not know what we are about when we are allowed to believe that the Cabinet recommends the Estimates on its responsibility. This is a very serious matter, and one which calls for our most earnest consideration. The Government, as we all know, have special opportunities of ascertaining what are the requirements of the 1368 public service—the relations of the country with foreign Powers, what new inventions are ripe for adoption, what other nations are doing, where economy may be practised, and where heavy expenditure must be incurred. These are matters which the Members of this House know but very imperfectly, and which the public in general do not know at all. Under those circumstances, what is the duty of this House, and what is the duty of the country? We all feel that when Ministers in whom we have confidence come down to this House and recommend certain Estimates, although we may criticise those Estimates and require explanations with respect to them— we all feel that we should incur a very heavy responsibility if, without withdrawing our confidence from the Government, we were to refuse to sanction their proposals. There is great force in what the noble Viscount said the other night on this subject, though I do not quite agree in the particular application given to the argument—namely, that when the House interferes in administrative details the result will often be to increase expenditure and diminish efficiency. But, at the same time, the Government ought to feel that the responsibility of proposing the Estimates rests, not with the House or with the country, but with them; and if so, neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor any other Minister can be allowed to free himself from the liability which belongs to the rest of his colleagues; and, indeed, if there is any one Minister more responsible than any other in such a case, it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. What is the position of the House and of the country in this matter? The House and the country do not desire extravagance for its own sake; what they desire is efficiency; and when the Government declare that the grant of a certain Bum is necessary to ensure the attainment of that object, the House are usually prepared to accept that statement. Now, if that were merely the declaration of an individual Minister, zealous for the efficiency of his own department—if, for instance, the Secretary for War or the First Lord of the Admiralty were to state merely on his individual responsibility that he required a certain sum, we should be more vigilant, and exercise greater caution, than we now think necessary; we should regard him, in a certain sense, as a partisan, and we should deal with him accordingly. But as we know that the Estimates submitted to us are the 1369 Estimates of the whole Cabinet; and as we know there are in the Cabinet men—and foremost among them is the Chancellor of the Exchequer—of great ability, with a very decided leaning towards economy, free from any predilection in favour of any particular branch of the public service; and as we feel persuaded that they would not sanction any outlay which they did not believe to be absolutely necessary, we give our sanction even to very large Estimates. Those Estimates are accepted, not upon the authority of the Secretary for War nor of the First Lord of the Admiralty, nor even of the First Lord of the Treasury, but upon the authority of the whole Cabinet; and in that Cabinet we include more especially the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he must have satisfied himself that those Estimates are right and proper, and must also have considered the mode in which the demands they will occasion are to be met. If we allow any member of the Government to withdraw himself, directly or indirectly, from his responsibility, or allow it to be supposed that he withdraws from it, we are guilty of a grave offence against the interests of the country. But there are other doctrines which I think are at present in the ascendant, and which appear to me to be extremely objectionable. I have pointed out what I believe to be one of the most dangerous of the number, and one with respect to which I think no Member of this House, whatever may be his opinion on other subjects, will disagree with me. But I will venture to touch upon a rather more delicate point. I am going to mention another doctrine, on which I do not expect such a general unanimity of opinion, but which I think it is well worth while to examine and to criticise, because it is, as it seems to me, the foundation of a good deal of our extravagance, not only in the way of the remission of taxation, but also of our expenditure. I shall read to the House a passage from the speech delivered by my right hon. Friend at Manchester, bearing upon the subject to which I am now about to refer. He said—Now, there are those who tell you that this state of our finance, which I hold forth to you as unhealthy, is owing to the delinquencies of the Government, and almost entirely, perhaps, to the delinquencies of a particular individual.Here I must do my right hon. Friend the justice to say that I consider that state is not due to the delinquencies of a particular individual, because, as on the one hand I 1370 hold him responsible for his share in the preparation of the Estimates, so, on the other hand, I hold his colleagues responsible for the sanction which they give to his proposals for the remission of taxation. My right hon. Friend proceeds as follows:—There are those who would say, If you had imposed some more taxes, or if you had reduced fewer, we should have been able to show a better state of the account.' Gentlemen, with all the conviction of my mind, and in the broadest sense, I deny that statement. The taxes we have reduced have been taxes in which the receipts of the Exchequer bore no proportion to the burden imposed upon the people. Even if, at the moment, they are not fully replaced, it is our business not to confine our view to the moment. After the lapse of one or two years we know that the result of such measures wisely chosen has ever been to make the Exchequer richer: and also, that in the mean time, their effect is, under a great, weight of taxation, to induce, dispose, and enable the people to bear its pressure.That doctrine, translated from the language of my right hon. Friend into common English, seems to come to this, that provided the taxes you take off press more heavily on the people—take more from the people than the amount they bring into the Exchequer, it does not signify whether you produce a deficit in the revenue by their removal. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER expressed his dissent.] My right hon. Friend challenges that interpretation of his language. But he said that, "with all the conviction of his mind," he denied the statement, that if the Government "had imposed some more taxes, or if they had reducer fewer, they would have been able to show a better state of the account," and he goes on to declare that "the taxes they had reduced were taxes in which the receipts of the Exchequer bore no proportion to the burden imposed upon the people." Does he mean to maintain that statement? I take the case of the paper duty, and I say unhesitatingly, that if he had not repealed the paper duty last year, we should have a smaller deficit than we now have, and we should be able to look forward this year to the prospect of a surplus of £1,500,000, instead of to a surplus of only £100,000; and I further say that that would be a better state of our public accounts than the present. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that the taxes which were reduced were taxes "in which the receipts of the Exchequer bore no proportion to the burden imposed upon the people." What does that mean? I do not know exactly what he means by "the burden imposed upon the people." 1371 I know what the receipts of the Exchequer were. The Paper Duty brought into the Exchequer £1,200,000 or £1,300,000 a year. He says that sum here no proportion to the burden which the tax imposed upon the people. But if the burden imposed upon the people can be measured by the amount of the tax at all, as it must be if it can be measured by money at all, it bore some proportion to it, and the only sense of the passage is either that the burden was infinite, or else that it amounted to nothing. I do not suppose that my right hon. Friend will pretend that it was infinite, and I am not prepared to say that it amounted to nothing. The proposition is, in fact, inadmissible. I suppose, however, that it was a mere figure of rhetoric, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant merely to state that the amount of the relief afforded to the public was very much greater than was represented by the sum paid into the Exchequer. It was something like the statement which we used to hear years ago, that the repeal of the Corn Laws would give the country a sum of £100,000,000 a year. The purport of the doctrine, as I understand it, is that you need not be very particular about a deficit in your revenue, if that deficit is produced by taking off taxes which weigh to a considerable extent on the industry and wealth of the people. That doctrine is not new; it has already been brought forward in various forms in this House, and appears to underlie both our system of revenue and our system of expenditure. We have heard it very recently applied to the case of expenditure. It was said the other night, on the question of harbours of refuge, that half a million might be easily borrowed for the construction of harbours the sum was not very great, and the general benefit it would produce would more than make up for any deficiency which the expenditure might cause in the revenue. That is the way in which all expenditure is defended. I venture to take exception to this doctrine, not on my own authority, but on one which I am sure will be listened to with respect by every Member of the House—that of Sir Robert Peel, I will quote the language held by Sir Robert Peel on the 6th February, 1832, when he was referring to opinions which he understood had been uttered in this House, and which seem to me to be very much the same as those which my right hon. Friend delivered at Manchester. I may be wrong; my right hon. Friend may tell me 1372 that I have misunderstood him; and I hope I have; but all I can say is, that I am not endeavouring to give any wilful misrepresentation of his sentiments, and that I shall be very glad to find that he disavows the meaning which I attach to them. On the 6th of February, 1832, Sir Robert Peel, commenting upon some speeches on the budget of the year, said—The principles were more alarming than even the deficiency itself. …. The Secretary to the Treasury declared, that even if he could have foreseen this deficiency, he should have felt satisfied that a reduction of taxes ought to have been made. His doctrine would not only apply to the present case, but to every tax that could be repealed; and was the right hon. Gentleman ready to assert that, whatever deficiency might occur in the revenue, taxes ought to be repealed? …. The doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman that a tax ought to be repealed because it would be a relief to the people, without reference to the obligations for the fulfilment of which that tax was a security, was a most dangerous doctrine for a Government to act upon or avow. The strongest apprehension that he had entertained from the infusion of democratic power into the House of Commons by the measure of Reform was that the House would hereafter find it very difficult to resist proposals for immediate relief at the expense of good faith and of the true permanent interests of the country…. He was still more astonished at what fell from the Vice President of the Board of Trade. That right hon. Gentleman had a theory perfectly novel. He said that we ought to regard with something like satisfaction the deficiency of £698,000 in the revenue, because it was not in fact money lost, but was in the pockets of the people ready to be extracted on any occasion that might require it. This speculation in finance the right hon. Gentleman designated by a name which would not soon be forgotten, which would, he hoped, ever continue to belong to the right hon. Gentleman without a rival claimant. He called it the' fructifying principle.' Thus, should the Government not have the money to pay the interest of the national debt, the creditor would have no right to complain of his loss, because the money, was 'fructifying' in the pockets of the people. If the right hon. Gentleman could but establish this principle generally, he would stand a chance of being the most popular man in the three kingdoms among that numerous class of the King's subjects the debtors of the country."—[3 Hansard, ix. 1343.]If the principles which Sir Robert Peel called dangerous are not exactly those of my right hon. Friend, they are closely related to them. I have quoted Sir Robert Peel's language; but I can also quote what is more important—Sir Robert Peel's mode of dealing with the finances of the country—in support of the view which I take of this subject. This is one of the questions on which hon. Members on this side of the House are frequently taunted, as being opposed to a course of policy that 1373 has proved beneficial to the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is supposed to stand in this House as a sort of representative of the financial principles of Sir Robert Peel. But I utterly deny that he is in any true sense the representative of those principles. I say that he represents them in the most dangerous way—that he represents only half of them, I say that Sir Robert Peel's principle was twofold—that the first and most important of his principles was, that you should always take care so to arrange your finances as to have a good surplus of revenue over expenditure. That is a principle which, it appears to me, is far too much lost sight of in the policy of her Majesty's Government. The second principle of Sir Robert. Peel's financial policy was, that after having provided a good surplus of revenue over expenditure, you ought as soon as possible to take off injudicious taxes, lighten the burdens of the people, and endeavour to remove restrictions which had the effect of crippling the industry of the people. Now, I do not in any degree deny that my right hon. Friend follows the example of Sir Robert Peel in the second portion of his operations, but it is one of those cases in which we may say Decipit exemplar. All the time that Sir Robert Peel was making his great changes, and dealing with the taxation of the country in that magnificent manner, he took care on every occasion to provide a large surplus; he never estimated for a surplus of less than £500,000 of revenue over the expenditure of the year; and whilst he was doing this, and whilst he held the income tax as a means of covering his operations, he was judiciously, slowly, and gradually removing those restrictions which pressed upon the people and affected the revenue. But my right hon. Friend, whilst he is removing restrictions, takes no care to provide a surplus of revenue over expenditure. He runs things fine, he postpones the payment of bonds and liabilities, and, running one year into another, undertakes operations which Sir Robert Peel would have thought excessively rash and imprudent. I say that Sir Robert Peel would have thought these operations of my right hon. Friend excessively rash and imprudent. ["No, no !"] I do not wish it to be understood that there is anything in the operation? themselves to which I object, if they had been done at the right time, in the right way, and with proper precautions, I do not believe that you will find a single 1374 instance in which Sir Robert Peel postponed the payment of bonds and liabilities falling due at a particular time in order to take off a tax like the paper duty, as we did in 1860, or any case in which he added a penny to the income tax to do so. I do not know what volume of Hansard my light hon. Friend has just sent for, or whether he means to challenge my assertion, that Sir Robert Peel always provided for a surplus of half a million of revenue over expenditure, but I will take my chance. Perhaps it is the case of the year 1845 that he is looking to. Sir Robert Peel said that he began that year with a surplus of £72,000; but he did not begin it with a surplus of £72,000 —but really with a surplus of £672,000— for, with his extreme caution in reckoning Estimates, he struck out a certain sum of £600,000 of the Chinese indemnity which he knew was coming in. So cautious was he that he refused to take that sum into his calculations, because it was not a permanent source of revenue, although he knew that it was certain for that year and for the year following. Sir Robert Peel then laid down the principle that such extraordinary sources of revenue were not to be calculated in the ordinary Estimates, and from that we may judge how he would have condemned a doctrine that to provide a surplus in order to repeal the paper duty it was right to call up a large portion of the malt credits. I do not say that Sir Robert Peel would not have taken off the paper duty, but I venture to say that he would not have proposed its repeal in the manner in which it was carried out.
I have ventured to go into this question, on which I have the misfortune to be very much at issue with my right hon. Friend; but, I am now going to say a few words upon another question, upon which I am happy to say that I am much more nearly agreed with him. I agree with him in thinking it is high time that the attention of Parliament should be called to the excessive expenditure of the country. I cannot pretend in this discussion to divest myself altogether of party feeling; but I do hope that in discussing so great a question as the present position of our revenue in relation to our expenditure, I may be permitted to say that I have tried in every possible way to divest myself of such feelings, for I consider it highly important that we should take into our most serious consideration the condition of the relations which at present 1375 exist between that revenue and that expenditure. I do not know that this House can do all that the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks it can do. All that we can hope to do is, to express in general terms what our ideas and. views on the subject are, but we must leave to the Government the responsibility of giving effect to them in a cautious and judicious manner. I am quite aware that it is a most serious responsibility to incur, if we attempt rashly to deal with the enormous expenditure which has been undertaken. I do most earnestly desire, however, to impress on the Government, who must undertake that responsibility, that, as a mode of clearing the way to the discovery of the principles on which it is to be done, they should come to some conclusion as to the real truth in respect to what they tell us is the exceptional character of the present times. My right hon. Friend tells us, whenever he is censured for the results of the last two years, that those years have been of an exceptional character, and I quite admit that he makes out a sort of case to prove the accuracy of that statement. But the question I wish to put to him and the Government is this—Does he consider that this year 1862–3 is an exceptional year? In one sense, no doubt, he will tell us that it is—namely, as regards the prospects of the revenue. We cannot deny, unfortunately, that the prospects of the revenue are unhappily uncertain on account of the depression hanging over the manufacturing districts; but do the Government consider that the condition of the country in relation to the expenditure is exceptional at the present time? I will say at once I refer alike to the civil, the military, and the naval expenditure, because in a matter of this kind we must leave neither the one nor the other out of sight. If they do, then I say that it is highly important that we should have a direct answer to the question, What principle has been laid down in regard to the taxation and expenditure of the country? The principles I would venture to lay down are these. We ought not to keep up the income tax as a fluctuating tax—a sort of make-weight between expenditure and revenue from year to year. We ought not to keep the income tax in ordinary times of peace at that high rate at which it at present stands. I am not prepared to say that you ought to cut it off entirely, but you 1376 ought to make exertions to bring it down to a low rate—to such a rate, in fact, as would not cause inconvenience even if it were a fixed tax. It might be convenient to maintain it at a low rate as a fixed tax, because, as a source of revenue in case of war, it could then be more immediately called into operation. Upon that, however, I speak with some diffidence and hesitation, as upon a subject with respect to which I have not quite made up my mind, but I think we ought to make exertions to bring the income tax down to a low rate. If, then, we lay down that principle with respect to the income tax, I say you ought to settle your ordinary expenditure and revenue in such a way as to make them balance at the end of the year. If there is a difference between the ordinary revenue and expenditure of £10,000,000 or £11,500,000, of course I should not propose, either by the rash diminution of expenditure, or by the imposition of new taxes, to bring about such a result, although eventually both might be had recourse to; but the first thing is to see how far it is possible to cut down and bring within reasonable limits the expenditure of the country, and then how far it is possible to bring up our ordinary revenue. I am not going to weary the House by entering into the details of this question at any great length; all I wish to point out in regard to our expenditure is, that it has latterly been increasing at an enormous rate; indeed, I believe that since the year 1842 we have added at least 95 per cent to our naval and military, and 78 per cent to our civil expenditure. Well, then, I ask, are the circumstances of the present year exceptional or not; and if so, in what particular respect are they exceptional? Exceptional circumstances are generally of two kinds; they either arise, we are told, from the state of our relations with foreign kingdoms, or from the necessity under which we are placed of availing ourselves of all those great inventions and improvements in the mechanism of war which are the distinguishing characteristics of the present age. There is a great deal of truth, no doubt, in that assertion; but let issue say a few words—and I admit that I ought to apologize to the House for touching upon such a subject—with reference to the present condition of our foreign relations. Do you consider that the position of our relations with foreign nations this year is such as necessitates a recourse to an exceptional 1377 expenditure; and if so, why? I do not mean to say that even in ordinary times a different expenditure is not required now from what was required ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago—far from it. I know very well that the state of the world is now wholly different from what it was when we were lulled into a belief that there would be no interruption of the peace of the world, and that this country might safely disarm. I do not suppose that anybody now would be foolish enough to compare the state of the world, with reference to taxation, with what it was a few years ago; but what I ask is this, is there anything in our relations with foreign Powers which is materially different from what you may expect them to be next year, and, indeed, year after year; because if you are now on a footing with foreign Powers which you have every reason to expect will continue for the next five, ten, or fifteen years, you have no right whatever to treat this as an exceptional year, but must rather treat it as one approaching to an ordinary state of things; and you must therefore prepare to adjust your financial system accordingly. I confess that, looking to every quarter of the world, I can see nothing whatever to justify any remarkable and exceptional preparations on the part of England. Looking at the condition of the country, the vast interests which are involved, the uneasy state in which the world has been in for some years, I admit that it is our duty, and, above all, the duty of the Government, to be prepared for self-defence. In the observations which I am making I am not at all advocating the slightest remissness in that particular. I am not going to say one word which can be construed in favour of disarming or relaxing any exertions or necessary preparations for self-defence. I speak of the ordinary state of self-defence in which we ought always to be found, and which is all we need prepare for, unless there is reason to apprehend immediate attack. But is there the slightest reason, from the present appearance of the world, to suppose that any Power whatever meditates an attack upon England, or that any Power is in a condition to make such an attack? Is there any Power whose interests would be served by such an attack? Is there any Power, on the contrary, whose interests would not rather be served by keeping on good terms with England? If, therefore, we make such preparations only as are necessary to keen up our mili- 1378 tary and naval strength—in other words to keep our weapons ready—I see no reason for any exceptional preparations. Whatever preparations you may see necessary to make this year, you will probably have to make next year and the year after. I am not saying whether they ought to be greater or less, but what I do say is that we ought not to look upon them as exceptional. It is very unlikely that we, of all others, should attack any other nation. What interests or object have we to serve by any such proceeding? Our policy is, and has been for many years, a policy of non-intervention. That policy in my opinion is sound and just. It is quite consistent with cautious, deliberate, and sustained measures of defence; but how can it be reconciled with a blustering and ostentatious appearance of arming? I cannot for the life of me conceive of whom we are afraid. It is sometimes said that it is necessary to arm to keep us in a position to command the respect of Europe, and to give us that due influence in its councils that it is necessary we should possess. I quite admit that, but I wish first of all to know whether you agree with me as to what is meant by keeping the country in a position of strength. I quite admit that it is our duty to make this country influential in the councils of Europe, but I ask what is best to adopt in order to make our advice listened to and our counsels acceptable to the rest of Europe. Take the case which the Government is always thrusting in our faces upon every occasion, in season and out of season; take the case, I say, of Italy. What is the relation of this country to Italy? We all know the value which is attached by the Italians to the expression of our sympathy with the cause of Italian freedom and our desire for the general welfare of that country? It is admitted upon all hands that we desire to see her under such a form of Government as may be best for her own interests. I go further than that, and say that we should deeply sympathize with the exertions of any other people who were struggling for the adoption of a free and constitutional government; but, at the same time, there is no disguising the fact that great difficulties exist in respect to the present position of Italy. Well, Sir, these are matters which call for advice and counsel on the part of England, and how do we give it? Do we tender it agreeably to the principles of peace or the princi 1379 ples of war? If you desire to make it more acceptable as well as more useful you should tender it in the garb of peace rather than in the panoply of war. Your advice would be attended with much more real effect if tendered in that way than it will if you arm yourselves, make vast preparations, and make it appear to be your intention to enforce your opinion by something like armed intervention. I apologize for touching on this question, and I assure the House that I have only done so for the purpose of explaining my view of the question on which I seek an answer from the Government. I wish the Government to tell us what it is that they see in the present attitude of foreign Powers to necessitate an exceptional preparation on our part.
There is only one other point to which I shall allude, because I feel that I have trespassed upon the House at a somewhat unreasonable length. We are told that there is another reason why this must be considered an exceptional year. We are asked to look at the enormous progress in military and naval inventions. Well, do look at it, and it is precisely because I do so that I entertain a doubt whether you can call this an exceptional year. It has been justly observed that the age in which we live is distinguished not as an age of great poets or painters, or orators, or even great statesmen, but that it is an age of great engineers. Vast engineering skill has been called into existence by the works undertaken since the discovery of the properties of steam, and within the memory of man. Do you suppose, then, that these eminent engineers, who year by year are making new discoveries in the science of destruction, are next year or the year after to be stopped in their career, and not rather stimulated to fresh inventions, especially when they are received with so much applause? I believe that what we have seen within the last few years is what we shall continue to see for a good many years to come, and that guns and ships upon improved principles will be continually brought forward. That is a very serious consideration. I am not for a moment saying that you ought to neglect such inventions when they are made. On the contrary, you ought to avail yourselves to the utmost of those inventions—it is your duty to do so— but I warn you that you will not be able to do so if you do not take care that the finances are in a proper condition, and 1380 that something like an equality between the revenue and expenditure is maintained. In this respect it is the duty of the Government on all accounts—for the sake of civilization, for the interest of the whole world—to keep this country strong and in the foremost rank of nations. But we cannot do so if we are hampered in the great race. Bear in mind I am not asking you for a moment to abandon what you are doing in the way of adopting systems of defence the value of which have been tested by experiments; but what I do seriously and earnestly ask you is to consider the whole system, so as to know that what you adopt will be permanently useful to the country. In the first place, I ask you to keep our finances in good order; and, in the second, to make our expenditure go as far as it can be made to go. What is the peculiar advantage that we possess over other nations at the present moment in times of war? It is that we are able to endure the heavy drain of a war without oppressing the people, and it is most important that, besides being able to endure the heavy drain of a war, we should know how to make the year's expenditure go as far as possible. You have done a great deal within the last ten years in this matter. When we look back to what has been done in the organization of our military and naval services, the progress has been immense. Consider what you have done. You have called out the whole of the militia, you have raised that noble band of Volunteers which is the admiration of all who have seen them, and in the navy you have that magnificent force the Naval Reserve. These are three enormous steps; but besides this you have simplified and improved the whole organization of the military system; you have learnt how to augment both the comfort and the efficiency of the soldier. You have put upon one side a great deal of what I may term superfluous, and wrong, and bad. In the Crimean war you exposed to the world both the elements of your strength and the elements of your weakness; you have still those elements of strength that you then possessed, but you have divested yourselves in a great degree of the elements of weakness. Whatever may have been said by Europe and the world with respect to the condition in which this country went into that struggle, one thing is certain, and hat is, however unprepared we might have been at first, at the time when 1381 other nations were thoroughly exhausted we were in a state of preparation and in the possession of resources that would have enabled us to carry on the struggle with undiminished vigour. That, Sir, is a lesson that will not soon be lost by Europe and the world. I do not disguise from the House that at that very time when you exhibited to the world the elements of your astonishing strength you also exposed some elements of weakness; but what has taken place since will convince the nations that of those elements of weakness you have purged yourselves, while you still retain in all their pristine vigour the elements of your strength. You have evinced that, not only in the progress you have made in military organization, and in the increase of the strength of the country, as shown in the Volunteer force and the Naval Reserve, but you have shown in India, you have shown in China, and you have shown in the wonderful and rapid preparations that were made to meet apprehended hostilities with America, that England has learnt to organize and to make use of her force in a manner that will make her respectable in the eyes of the most military country on the face of the earth. I say, Sir, with the greatest confidence, that England has learned a lesson that will long continue to make her respectable in the eyes of Europe and of every nation in the world; and the position she has gained she will continue to hold, unless by the unwisdom of those who govern her she throws her advantages away. Let us take care that we do not weaken the elements of our true strength, let us take care that we do not discourage and weaken the spirit of the people, as you may do by unwise financial legislation. We have had periods of prosperity. It is possible that that prosperity may come to an end; for although there are many improvements which have been made within the last twenty years, upon which we can look back with pride and satisfaction, there are others upon which we cannot reflect with the same feelings. In the latter category must be ranked the state of our debt. In spite of all our great commercial activity—in spite of the discoveries of gold—in spite; of the reduction of the general rate of interest, which has enabled you to reduce the interest of your debt, and in spite of the falling-in of a large amount of terminable annuities—in spite of all these advantages, the capital of your debt stands higher now than at the commencement of those twenty years. You have done 1382 nothing in the way of paying off that debt, but, on the other hand, have rather increased it. I may be thought to undervalue the importance of improving our naval and military resources for the purpose of keeping up the strength of the country; but I ask, what will you have to fall back upon if it becomes necessary to provide for war expenditure? The income tax is drawn upon almost to its full capability, and other sources of taxation are hardly available. You will he obliged to have recourse to loans, and then there will come upon you years of trouble in which the reduction of the debt will be a thing unknown. Those years will be like a judgment for our recklessness in having thrown away our surpluses instead of applying them to the reduction of our liabilities. In conclusion, I must apologize for having trespassed upon the attention of the House at such length. I think them for the kind attention I have received; and if I have not been able to divest myself of all party spirit, I assure the House that I have been animated on this occasion with a deep sense of the vital importance of the question.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he hoped that as an independent supporter of the Government he might be allowed to state his opinion of the speed made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Manchester, in regard to his position as the Minister chiefly responsible for the taxation of the country. He confessed he found it rather difficult to understand why the hon. Baronet objected to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; for himself, he must say he thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the speech he had made. It appeared, however, that his objection was not so much to the contents of the speech as to its delivery by a statesman holding the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer; but that argument hardly applied, because the right hon. Gentleman, as steward of the public money, was right in reminding them of the fact, that the expenditure, and chiefly the military expenditure, was greater than the country in time of peace had ever to bear before. The right hon. Gentleman reminded them how much less the expenditure was in 1853, and again he (Mr. Forster) thanked him for the hope which that reference suggested that there might yet be a possibility of approaching, if not arriving at it. But he admitted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer went further than that. He stated, that if there was any reduction of 1383 expenditure, it could only come from the people, and they must call for it. He did not suppose that that would be denied by the hon. Baronet or by any hon. Gentleman opposite. He thought it possible that some of them below the gangway, who still clung to the hope of reform because they thought; we were a self-taxing people rather in theory than in fact, might have objected to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but the objection could hardly come from the other side. The right hon. Gentleman said, he hardly knew where the reduction of expenditure was to come from, except from the people, and where else was it likely to come from? The speech he had just heard gave him some hope, that if the hon. Baronet had charge of the finances of the country, they would have some reasonable expectation of the reduction of expenditure. He attributed that speech to the strong suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman in Manchester, and that was an additional reason for setting value upon his speech. It must have entered the mind of the hon. Baronet that they were spending too much, and might spend more, and that the people might call upon them for the reduction of expenditure, or they would not have been favoured with such a speech from him that evening. The feeling was spreading through the country that the public expenditure was larger than it should be, and the sentiments of the hon. Baronet would be hailed with satisfaction by men of all classes. The speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer excited a hope that the expenditure might be reduced, and that hope would be strengthened by the speech they had heard that evening. He trusted that the feeling of the House, as well as of the country, would be tested, and that before the close of the Session they would have an opportunity of considering the naval and military expenditure and urging its reduction as far as was practicable with a due regard to the safety and honour of the country. If not, those hon. Members who had the honour to represent large constituencies would assuredly have awkward explanations to give them. They would be asked why, in the present state of the country they voted those enormous Estimates; and therefore it was desirable that they should not separate without taking the subject into consideration. He (Mr. Forster) would display the worst possible taste if he were to attempt to de- 1384 fend the hon. Gentleman, but he must say that he thanked him for having asked them, as guardians of the purses of their constituents, to consider whether they were not insuring too highly; and if hon. Gentlemen opposite thought they were insuring too highly, it was their duty to tell them so. It was reasonable to suppose that the statement of the hon. Baronet that evening was made with the full approval of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon. He confessed that he thought that they were paying too great an insurance for the risk to be run. The population were in the most orderly state, although suffering great distress; the colonies were contented and loyal; those great Powers from whom they sometimes apprehended the possibility of danger were pre-occupied with their own affairs. A great social question was in process of solution in America by a civil war; Russia was struggling ardently, and he hoped successfully, to solve a similar social question in peace. France had also social questions of importance to settle, and its Government was as anxious at that moment for the reduction of expenditure as the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Baronet opposite. With their Volunteer army, and with the probability of a mutual disarmament on the part of themselves and France, it was both reasonable and desirable they should pay less for insurance. If there was less ground for alarm, was there not more ground for economy? If it were an exceptional year, so far as the means of raising money were to be considered, it was also a year for reflecting how the expenditure could be diminished. It was said that such statements as had been made by the right hon. Gentleman were likely to create discontent; but, apart from the consideration that no words uttered by the Statesman who, following the example of his great master, had rendered distress lighter to be borne by opening up new markets, were likely to cause discontent among those who were suffering, it was assuredly true that a threat of the imposition of taxes was much more likely to create such discontent than was a promise of their remission. It was so thoroughly understood that this year at least hon. Gentlemen opposite had bound themselves by a self-denying ordinance, that the attacks made upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not be referred to party feeling. At 1385 the same time, the only conclusion at which he could arrive with regard to the recent speech of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire on that subject was, that it was intended to show how much the country would have benefited by the substitution of himself and his friends for the present Ministry; and, as it appeared from that speech that the only result of such a change would have been the continuance of the present expenditure, and the imposition of additional taxation to provide a surplus which would have I been spent in the same way, he was glad to learn from the speech of the hon. Baronet, that if the country lost the services of I the present Ministry, they would be succeeded by a Government pledged to reduce the expenditure, which was admitted to be at present unreasonable and unnecessary.
§ MR. HUBBARD
said, that the subjects included in the Bill were very various, and that great inconvenience would, in his judgment, result from including provisions imposing Customs duties and income tax, fixing licences to sell stamps, altering stamps, and repealing the duty on dice in a single measure. He would therefore suggest that some of those matters should be dealt with by separate Bills. He had expected that the income tax would be renewed in exactly the same way as in former cases; but he found that by the twentieth clause of the present Bill the assessment of 1861 was to serve as the basis for the assessment of 1862. He would suggest that that clause should be withdrawn. The effect of the clause would be that increasing incomes would be assessed at a loss ratio than that at which they should be assessed, whereas the decreasing incomes would be deprived of the relief which under the present law they are entitled to.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford gave me notice on a former evening, on his own part and on the part of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, that it was intended to make comments upon a speech delivered by me at Manchester. It being the common practice that when the conduct or language of a Minister is to be challenged, he should hear the charge before he is called upon to reply, I waited until the Question was put from the Chair before rising to address the House; and as the prediction of the hon. Baronet has been but partially realized — only as regards himself and not as re- 1386 gards his leader—I am left to conclude that for once he has prophesied in error. At any rate, after what has been said by my hon. Friend, it is my duty to request the patient indulgence of the House while I refer to some of the principal portions of his speech. I shall not comment at any length upon the closing part of that speech, interesting as it was; I mean that part which related to the expediency of considering, with a view to a prospective reduction, the state of the public expenditure. For my own part, I heard that portion of my hon. Friend's speech—though it was necessarily a good deal balanced with reserves this way and that—I heard that portion of the speech of my hon. Friend with considerable satisfaction. But my hon. Friend could not fail to perceive that the ready cheers which had accompanied him through nearly an hour of critical attack entirely failed him, and left him to ply his wings and his oars as best he could without support, the moment he began to preach the unpopular doctrine of public economy. I will not dwell on that portion of the speech of my hon. Friend, but it is due to him and due to the House that I should refer to the charges which he has made against myself. His accusations were that I had said at Manchester that our finance was unhealthy; that it was unhealthy because our expenditure was too large; that it might be reduced; and that it could not be reduced by the Government or by the House, but by the people.
Now, Sir, in the first place permit me to say that it is not my practice to go to Manchester or elsewhere for the purpose of stating anything except what is a repetition of my declarations to this House. It is in this House that my duties as a Minister principally lie; nor is there one word that I am aware of, certainly not one sentiment, that has escaped from me in any other place upon subjects connected with my office, which has not been a repetition of what I have said much more at large in my place in Parliament. The hon. Baronet says I laid down the doctrine that the Government and this House have nothing to do with the reduction of expenditure, but that this depends on the people. Sir, I have laid down no such doctrine; and I disclaim entirely the exaggerated and high-coloured views and statements which the hon. Baronet has described. In not one single instance has he been able to point to the words which he quotes out of my mouth. He says "I understand this, 1387 when translated into plain English, means so and so." I do not want to be responsible for the plain English of the hon. Baronet. I am perfectly willing to be responsible for ray own English, such as it is; although I may have no very high estimate of its merits, I still have that love for it which everybody has for that which belongs to himself. It is my own child; it is my own offspring; and I greatly prefer it to the construction so liberally attached to it by my hon. Friend. He deforms, and transforms it, and makes it wholly unlike what it was; he mutilates and mangles it so that I cannot recognise it. I entirely reject it, and throw it back to him across the House, with all possible courtesy, but with all possible decision. My hon. Friend says that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has laid down the doctrine that he is not responsible for the estimates proposed by his colleagues, and he says that I laid down what amounts to the doctrine that taxes may be taken off, if they are of a highly exceptional character, although the repeal may be reasonably expected to create a deficit. I understand the charges of my hon. Friend against me to be three in substance. First of all, that I disclaimed the responsibility of the expenditure for which I was called on to provide, or, if I did not disclaim it, that I did what was worse, that is to say, that I endeavoured to evade it. Secondly, he says that I did not provide a proper surplus of revenue to cover the public expenditure; and, thirdly, that I have taken away, or induced Parliament to take away, the funds by means of which such a surplus would have been provided.
The first of these propositions requires me to do that which I am reluctant to do —namely, to endeavour to describe to the House my idea of the duties incumbent on the person who holds the office which I have now the honour to occupy with regard to the public expenditure. It is not well or convenient for any of us that we should be called on to deal with these matters in the abstract; but after what has been said I wish to state frankly the view which I entertain of the obligations resting upon me. I do so because, while my own view of those obligations is clear and strong, and while it is my full and fixed intention to persevere in their discharge in the same sense and manner as I have hitherto done, I admit that I am not infallible; and it may be that on particular occasions I have failed to give effect to my real sentiments, and 1388 that I am therefore responsible for some part of the misapprehension that subsists in the mind of my hon. Friend, and possibly in the minds of other Gentlemen. I will not accept my hon. Friend's definition of the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer further than it may be embraced in what I am about to say; because when my hon. Friend stated that all the charges of all the departments were to be rested mainly on the credit of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he being the only impartial witness, and having just as good means of knowledge as the Minister in each department, it must have struck the House, that if that were a true account of the duties and powers of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, we might at once effect a very material economy by dispensing with a great many of the existing Ministers. If I subscribed to that doctrine, I should proceed ruthlessly at once to abolish the offices of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and my noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty; for he who forms a conclusive judgment as to the expenditure required in each of these departments does in reality administer the department. My hon. Friend much overstated the duties and powers of a Chancellor of the Exchequer when he carried them so far into detail. But I will tell my hon. Friend what I consider those duties to be. In the first place, it is the duty of a Chancellor of the Exchequer to offer resistance to all expenditure which he may deem improper. In the second place, when as a Member of the Government he has agreed to an outlay on particular objects, he has no right, directly or indirectly, to disparage that expenditure. He has no right, directly or indirectly, in the smallest degree to attempt to escape from the responsibility that weighs on his colleagues; and while there is some portion of the public expenditure for which he is specially and almost solely responsible, his responsibility for departmental expenditure—not connected with his own department—I hold to be such that it is beyond that of all his colleagues, except two—one the head of the Government, and the other the Minister of the particular department. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, I fully admit, is exceedingly to blame if, in speaking of prospective reductions of public expenditure, he holds out exaggerated and extravagant expectations of which it is not possible to expect a realization. I lay that down as a principle of the utmost importance, although 1389 I must say my hon. Friend has made no such charge against me. In translating my speech at Manchester into what he calls his "common-place English," he did not ascribe to me that I had held out to persons there or elsewhere any hope of sudden, or what I may call revolutionary, changes.
There is another thing which I must notice, though I shall not dwell upon it, because I do not wish to assume the character of a critic more than I can avoid. I am bound to say, that it is a great offence on the part of a Chancellor of the Exchequer if he knowingly becomes a party to proceedings in this House which single out and stigmatize great branches of the revenue as fit to be repealed before he sees his way to repeal them. Measures of this kind, in my opinion, do nothing but delude the nation and embarrass the Government. It is just as much his duty to avoid making any exaggerated statements of the condition of the finances; if he represent the existing inconveniences and dangers as greater than they are, it is undoubtedly a very serious offence. My hon. Friend, however, has not brought any charge of that nature against me. The Chancellor of the Exchequer likewise deserves all the criticism and attacks of my hon. Friend, and even more than those attacks, if he satisfies himself with standing protestations year after year against the evils of an expenditure which, instead of undergoing mitigation, are increasing from year to year; if no extraordinary circumstances enter into the transaction, then most certainly such a Minister is not consulting I what is due either to his public obligations or even to his personal honour. I will say, further, that he is wrong if at any period he recommends a course of policy systematically different from that of the Government to which he belongs. All these conditions I lay down to restrain his action with regard to whatever general declarations he may make in respect of public expenditure. But I say, subject to these conditions, not only is it his right, but his duty—his highest duty, irrespective of criticism, and in the teeth of criticism, to inform, and to the best of his ability to advise, the country with regard to the relations, the course, and the prospects both of revenue and of expenditure. He is fully responsible for what has been proposed to the House in the Estimates; but the proposals that are made to the House do not embrace the whole expenditure. On the contrary, some of the most 1390 objectionable parts of the national expenditure are carried on under the sanction of Acts of Parliament—I am sorry to say under the sanction of very recent Acts of Parliament; and if occasion arises, I shall be ready to point out those objectionable items. The heads of expenditure to which I allude are those incurred under the obligation of contracts, which deserve a more minute and careful consideration than they have yet received. The expenditure proposed by the Government for the financial year, with reference to the circumstances of that year, is subject not only to the judgment which I must form on the necessity of every detail, but to the judgment which generally prevails among persons of weight and authority both in and out of this House, and the well understood convictions of an intelligent people, such as it is our duty to govern. I disclaim altogether the doctrine, imputed to me by my hon. Friend, that expenditure and revenue are for the people to manage, as contradistinguished from this House and the Government. I admit and assert the responsibility of the Government; admit and assert the responsibility of this House; and therefore I say out of doors, as I say indoors, that in this country of free institutions, where thought and feeling pass and circulate freely, vigorously, and powerfully between the people and their representatives, it is in vain to think materially of influencing the policy of Parliament unless persuasion be carried home to the minds of the people.
I said not a word at Manchester or in this House with respect to the expenditure of the moment; but I did say, and it is my intention to say, so long as I hold this office, or so long as I have the honour of a scat in Parliament, what I may deliberately think concerning our prospects, concerning our acts, and the duties which we have to perform in respect to future income. I make my hon. Friend the admission that it would be absurd and monstrous of any Minister to substitute idle protests for practical measures. I shall not quarrel with the epithets which he or any other man may use against the Minister who would pursue that course of conduct; but in the sharp and microscopic examination which my hon. Friend made of certain topics and details he appears to me to have overlooked some very important parts of the case, bearing on the whole impeachment. The expenditure of the country he said is an increasing ex- 1391 penditure. I have said—and I will point out the reasons why I have said it—that in order to preserve a sound state of finance it is necessary that our expenditure should undergo a diminution. It has, however, been undergoing a certain diminution already. My hon. Friend has overlooked that fact. I am not recommending that we should enter on some course entirely new. I am not acquiescing in one policy, and advising other people to take upon themselves the trouble and responsibility of bringing into action another policy. I have no means of comparing the expenditure of this year with that of former years without having recourse to the Estimates for 1862–3; but, taking these, and comparing the estimated expenditure with the expenditure of former years, I find that, without deducting the sums which were paid for expenses in China and America, the expenditure for the year is less by £943,000 than that of 1859–60; and though I do not at all mean to say that the latter was an extravagant expenditure, it was one for which the last as well as the present Government were responsible. Again, the expenditure for 1862–3 is less by £3,304,000 than that of 1860–1, and less by £1,738,000 than the expenditure of 1861–2. Those figures, however, include the expenses of the China war and of transmitting troops to British North America, and therefore I have endeavoured, as well as I can, while maintaining the rectification of the account, by giving to each year what belongs to it, and striking off what would have been given by Votes of Credit in former years, to give a view, as nearly correct as possible, of our expenditure; and it stands thus:—The expenditure in 1859–60 was £69,193,000; in 1860–1, £69,461,000; in 1861–2, £68,835; while in 1862–3 the estimated expenditure is £68,100,000. These figures show a reduction for the year 1862–3 of £1,093,000 on the year 1859–60; of £1,361,000 on the year 1860–1; and of £735,000 on the year 1861–2. A reduction, then, has been effected, though my hon. Friend fails to see, what the House and the county have Been, that we must—slippery and ambiguous as I grant the word to be—still describe the present time as a period of "exceptional" circumstances. It is a period of exceptional circumstances when we have on our Estimates at least £1,000,000 of pure war expenditure; it is a time of exceptional circumstances when 1392 we have great distress existing in the country from causes such as have never before been known, I believe, in the records of history; it is a time of exceptional circumstances when great military movements in China, North America, and New Zealand are of such a character as must, of course, act in a greater or less degree on the expenses of our establishment? Yet, in spite of all this, I am enabled to point out to my hon. Friend what he does not seem to take into consideration—namely, that we have to some extent reduced the expenditure of the country. That is what I venture to recommend we shall continue to do with as much vigour as circumstances may permit, but at the same time with every caution. Have I gone beyond my duty in that statement? If any language of mine in regard to the public expenditure can be considered as evidencing a desire to separate myself from my colleagues as respects responsibility, I propose at once and entirely to disavow that language. So far from separating myself from my colleagues, I at once not only accept my responsibility, but confess my share of the fault, if any fault there be, in respect to the control of that expenditure. When my hon. Friend says I was throwing the responsibility on some unknown Member of the Government, thereby endeavouring to escape from my responsibility as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am sure my hon. Friend represents with sincerity whatever he has heard; but he has been grossly taken in by some vendor of scandalous stories who has stated what is not worthy either of his notice or the notice of Parliament. So much for the actual state of things which my hon. Friend supposes to be a state of growing expenditure which we are called on to consider and to redress, but which is, in point of fact, a state of gradually sinking expenditure. That is the process in operation, and that process is one which I wish to continue and accelerate as much as a due regard to the public interests will permit. Now, do the circumstances or do they not call for and justify this proceeding on my part? Is it, or is it not, my duty to call the attention of Parliament and the country to the relative state of our resources and our charges? My hon. Friend referred to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire as a striking exposition of the financial position of the country. I am sure my hon. Friend will do me the justice to say that 1393 in the clearest language I could make use of, and with the most ample illustration afforded by the figures at my disposal, I endeavoured to point out to the House what the state of our income and expenditure really was. I do not think it is my duty as Chancellor of the Exchequer, on all occasions, to call attention to this or that detail; because this or that detail cannot always be decided by a positive theory, like a mathematical problem. Such matters must frequently be dealt with in accordance with the opinion of a particular authority, or with facts derived from the superior knowledge of others; or again, an opinion may have been expressed by Parliament in favour of an expenditure in this or that particular direction. There are some occasions when there is a positive obligation on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to refuse his sanction to a proposed expenditure; for instance, when two years ago my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) proposed to expend £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 on harbours of refuge, I felt no doubt on my mind that I could not be the organ of the House in giving effect to such a Vote. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has to keep in mind totals, to look to the bearing of those totals on each other, and to bring under the notice of the House the relations of revenue and expenditure. It is the balance of revenue and expenditure with which he is more immediately concerned. I have endeavoured, therefore, on several occasions, to call attention to that relation between income and expenditure which my hon. Friend now tells us he thinks demands our serious attention. What are the signs which lead me to think with him that grave attention should be given to the subject? One of them is this. I believe that Parliament never will, on any great occasion, refuse to support the Government in doing what the country requires; but we may perceive in this House on minor I and secondary questions a disposition to urge expenditure, and, at the same time, to take away the means of meeting that expenditure. My hon. Friend knows that I have had no sharper contests in this House than those which I have had in my endeavour to maintain taxes in order to meet the expenditure. I shall not now say whether those taxes were good ones or the contrary. Only two nights before the financial statement was to be made this Session a majority of the House of Commons, in ignorance of the state of the 1394 public finances, voted for a measure the effect of which would be to repeal a particular tax. That majority was, I think, composed principally of hon. Members who sit on the other side of the House.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I would much rather see such a Motion merely moved than carried by this side. However, two nights before the financial statement the House of Commons thinks it necessary to introduce a Bill for the repeal of a particular tax, and thereby stigmatize that tax. I am not so presumptuous as to censure the conduct of the House of Commons for so doing. I will only say it is clear that our finances are in a critical state when the representatives of the people come to such a decision on the very eve of the financial statement. The complaints made about taxation also induce me to think it most desirable that at the present time our attention should be given to the expenditure. There is much more in expenditure than is supposed by those who look slightly at it. The expenditure of this country embraces £70,000,000—it embraces not merely the question of maintaining this or that establishment, but it embraces an enormous amount of questions with regard to the maintenance of purposes that we have in view, which are of the utmost importance. I am bound, however to say this, and the speech of my hon. Friend this evening, and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire on a former occasion, make it more desirable that I should refer to the circumstance—that for the last three years we have been maintaining the national expenditure by the exhaustion of temporary resources. I do not say that these are causes of public danger, but they are causes of public inconvenience, and they are occasions which justify a Chancellor of the Exchequer in warning the House, and the country of the necessity for a cautious diminution of our expenditure. What I lay down is, that it is the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to confer with his colleagues on the expenditure which the moment demands; and he has also the special duty, separate from the other Members of the Government, just as their departmental duties are separate from his, of exhibiting to the country the pro- 1395 spective state of our finances, and of indicating the direction which he believed it necessary for our financial policy to take. I do not believe I am hereby promulgating any novelty in doctrine. On the contrary, I believe it is the more A B C of the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is not every Chancellor of the Exchequer who has to provide for an expenditure of £70,000,000 in time of peace, but the principle is one that is common to the whole of our financial administration; at any rate, I give fair notice to my hon. Friend and all whom it may concern that this is the conviction of my obligations which I entertain, and I should have been guilty of a gross betrayal of duty if I had failed to point the mind of the country and of this House towards the future as well as to the present, and in making these endeavours at the proper time, and upon proper occasions, it is my intention to persevere.
The second charge which my hon. Friend has made against me is that I have not provided a proper surplus of public revenue over expenditure. My hon. Friend, acute and ingenious as he is, has never had practically to deal with questions of this nature. It appears to me that my hon. Friend does not apprehend or state correctly the duty of the Finance Minister of this country in its application to varying times and exigencies. In the first place, when he spoke of the late Sir Robert Peel, it must have provoked a smile from those whose happiness it was to sit by his side and to contend for and with him through all the vicissitudes of his commercial policy, to hear my hon. Friend, belonging as he does to an after-generation, undertake excathedra to pronounce, without the smallest difficulty or hesitation, what under certain given circumstances Sir Robert Peel would have said, thought, and done. My hon. Friend has not even gone through the preliminary processes of his apprenticeship; he has not even read the debates which exhibit the financial measures of Sir Robert Peel, for he thinks that Sir Robert Peel never proposed to repeal a tax so as to produce a deficit.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I said Sir Robert Peel never proposed the repeal of a tax without providing a surplus for the end of that year.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
That is precisely what I stated. My hon. Friend said Sir Robert Peel never proposed to repeal a tax without supplying something more than was necessary to 1396 make up the deficit caused by that repeal. Why, Sir Robert Peel proposed in 1842 the repeal of about £1,600,000 of taxes, and at the end of the year he had a deficit of £2,400,000; and not only that, but Sir Robert Peel's own calculation in 1842 distinctly bore on the face of his figures that there must be a deficit. Sir Robert Peel's object was the restoration of the revenue from year to year, and the figures showed that he was to get £3,700,000 from income tax. But he was not to get £3,700,000 in that particular year, but only half of that sum. His object was to establish a thorough equilibrium, and something better than an equilibrium, between the revenue and expenditure; but he did not bind himself to do it in that particular year. My hon. Friend says how different was the conduct of Sir Robert Peel in his application of temporary resources in 1843. If he will read the debates on the Budget in that year he will find that Mr. Goulburn, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated that there was a payment due from China to meet the opium claims of the East India Company, but that the Government intended, nevertheless, to apply the money to the revenue, and to meet the claims of the opium merchants by means of a Vote of Credit. My hon. Friend has really not got up the elements of the case on which he sets himself up as the prophet, the high priest, the Pope, who is to instruct us as to what Sir Robert Peel would have said, thought, and done. My hon. Friend, in my opinion, misapprehends the true doctrine of an annual surplus. It is perfectly right and sound to say that in all ordinary circumstances we ought to provide a clear and considerable surplus of revenue over expenditure, with a view to the reduction of the national debt; but that doctrine is subject to modification by circumstances. No person, for example, dreams of applying it in time of war. When you have a war, you at once altogether abandon the attempt to carry out this principle. Then you say you will take your revenue at so much, and make good the rest by loan. What my hon. Friend fails to see is this, that these last years, although they have not been years of European war, yet have been years not far remote from it. Since the outbreak of the China war they have been years entirely different from the course of our ordinary expenditure. Our ordinary expenditure has risen to an extraordinary height; and when he 1397 says it is our duty to provide a surplus, I join issue with him; and when he or those near him occupy my place, and when he or they have to find £70,000,000 a year in time of peace, he will not do it, and they will not do it. It is not sound doctrine, when people are called upon to pay £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 for a war in China, or to send 12,000 or 15,000 men to America—it is not, I say, true or sound finance, or the finance of Sir Robert Peel, to require the Government to disburse large sums for the reduction of the national debt. It is as much as you can or ought to do at such times to provide a balance on the right side, and, of course, if you can only do that under favourable circumstances, it follows that if you have a bad harvest or bad trade, your balance will be on the wrong side. Only apply my hon. Friend's doctrine to private life— apply it to a man struggling in business at a time when there is a scarcity of material or a slack demand, and tell him that is a time for clearing off his engagements. Any prudent man, or I might say any man in the possession of his five senses, would avoid all entanglements, would hold on steadily until the period of prosperity, and then, if he could, put himself in a better position. I tell my hon. Friend that if, instead of being a critic, sitting in comfortable opposition on those benches, he had to deal responsibly with this state of things, neither he nor any one else would attempt to persuade this House to give them, on their Budget, a surplus on his bare promise that he would be in the possession of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 at the end of the year. Of course there is always a margin, which will amount to about £2,000,000, according as trade is good or bad, or the harvest is favourable or otherwise. My hon. Friend's doctrine is unsound and bad. It is speculative and critical—a doctrine to come from Opposition benches, but not a doctrine which has ever had acceptance from those who have been responsible for the management of public finance.
I now come to my hon. Friend's third charge, that we have taken away the funds out of which a surplus might have been provided. I deny that proposition. My hon. Friend refers simply to our having proposed the repeal of the paper duty. He does not object to our repeal of the 1d. of the income tax. Although I, for one, greatly desire to see the reduction of the income tax, and if I could see my way, 1398 desire to see more than its reduction, yet no one will say that the repeal of part of the income tax has the same effect on the reproduction of revenue as the repeal of a tax, and especially an Excise tax, affecting trade. My hon. Friend, therefore, takes rather a one-sided view of this matter. However, his charge is that by repealing' the paper duty we took away a fund that would have given us a surplus. I do not believe that the House would have consented to let us retain that surplus, or even that they ought to have let us retain it. Would the House of Commons, which is so sensitive to the presure of taxation upon the people that it voted down a tax only two days before the Budget, without knowing whether there was a surplus at all—ivouid such a House permit a Minister to come forward and say, "I want to keep a surplus of £1,000,000, or £1,200,000; you might repeal the paper duty with it, but I ask you to leave this aura in my hands, because the expenditure of the country is high; the people are much distressed; and it is requite that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have a great deal of money in his bands?" I am sure that the House of Commons would never consent to such a proposal. I am sorry to hear my hon. Friend express the opinions to which he has given utterance on the whole subject of the paper duty, although I can understand that those opinions are very acceptable to a certain number of the gentlemen among whom he sits, who have always been consistent opponents to taking off the shackles from trade. ["Oh! oh!"] I hope I am not misrepresenting any hon. Gentleman. I said a certain number, for I am quite aware that there are some hon. Gentlemen on the other side who have consistently followed the opposite course; and I do not wish for a moment to include them by too sweeping a description in a category to which they do not belong. But surely my hon. Friend cannot deny that we cannot treat the question of the repeal of the paper duty as it presented itself last year merely us an isolated fact? Does he really think that after what passed in 1860—aye, and before 1860—the Government, having £1,000,000 in hand, could have refused to apply that money to such a purpose as the repeal of the paper duty? Sir, I must say again that the first blow dealt at the paper duty was struck by the Government to which my hon. Friend himself belonged. They selected that duty to 1399 brand it with a stigma, and that, too, at a time when the tea duty and the sugar duties were not so branded. It is in vain to attempt to escape from that solemn and unanimous Vote of the House of Commons —it is in vain to say that you meant nothing by it. If you meant nothing, you should have done nothing. But it stands upon record as an act of the Commons' House of Parliament, and of its consequences it is impossible for the House of Commons to get rid as long as the character of Parliament is esteemed by the people, and esteemed also by Parliament itself. Well, that was an important element in the mind of Her Majesty's Government when at the beginning of the 1860, before the outbreak of the China war, they took into their consideration the question whether they should devote the £1,000,000 which they conceived was at their disposal to the repeal of the paper duty. Sir, my hon. Friend and some other hon. Gentlemen in this House are now very severe upon the repeal of that tax; but let us go back a little. In 1860 it was not the repeal of the paper duty that they so much denounced, and there was only a modest proposal then made by my hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire (Sir W. Miles) to the effect that we ought not to repeal that duty at the expense of imposing a tenth penny in the pound of income tax.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I dare say you did. I am speaking of what took place at the beginning of 1860, and my hon. Friend will see the importance of what I am about to say. The only question raised in this House before the second reading of the Bill for abolishing the paper duty was, whether it was worth while to purchase that benefit by the laying on of an additional penny of income tax. The House of Commons heard that argument, and decided by a large majority in favour of the abolition of the paper duty. Well, I am astonished again that my hon. Friend does not see that after such a vote as that—unless the House of Commons were to lay down principles wholly novel, most dangerous, and, in my opinion, most discreditable in regard to fiscal legislation —it had, by a renewed proceeding, come under a solemn engagement to the country, at least to do this—to take the very first opportunity of extinguishing that duty. 1400 Why, I do not believe there is a single case to be found ever since the year 1815 in which, through a course of reduction of taxation amounting in all to £70,000,000, the Government and Parliament have, by concurring in the second reading of a Bill, given a promise to the country that a tax should be repealed, and in which that promise has not been subsequently redeemed. And does my hon. Friend, who comes down to this House to preach high doctrines, and tell us what he thinks dangerous and discreditable, suppose that it would become us to disregard the prescription so established, and the understanding so created between Parliament and the people, who have been accustomed to look upon the votes of this House even more than upon its declarations and solemn proceedings as entitled to their implicit reliance, and thus to produce in the country a feeling of mistrust that must be perilous to the character of the Legislature, and fatal to the confidence which ought to be reposed in its decisions? These were considerations which we could not shut out from our view; and it was impossible for us to hold that surplus with which my hon. Friend now deludes us as he dangles it before us. He appears, however, to think that the revenue surrendered by the repeal of the paper duty is lost revenue. I believe he is in favour of free trade, and yet he says we should now have £1,200,000 more of available revenue if we had not abolished the paper duty. Again, I must point out to him that the repeal of the paper duty must be regarded as part of a system. It is not possible, when you abolish any duty, to say how much its abolition will be worth to you in the subsequent recovery of your revenue; or, if you do say how much that will be, you must say it merely by conjecture, because you have not statistical information sufficient to enable you to trace the operation. But, Sir, what I hold to be the sound method of dealing with this subject is this:—We introduced in 1860 a very large remission of taxes not under the most favourable circumstances; on the contrary, under a very heavy pressure of public expenditure, with the calamity of a very bad harvest in 1860, of a rather short harvest in 1861, and the cotton famine in 1862; and yet I showed that under these adverse conditions the revenue had indicated an elasticity which restored it at the rate of from £800,000 to £1,000,000 a year. But is that not in great part—aye, in the main, 1401 the consequence of the system of legislation adopted by this House? We say that it is such a conquence; and therefore, although I cannot define the moment or the mode in which you will have replaced in your exchequer, through the medium of extended trade, enhanced employment, and an improved condition of the people, the precise amount surrendered by the repeal of the; paper duty, I say, in the face of the figures that I have presented to you, that your revenue has been retrieving itself, even under unfavourable circumstances, at the rate of from £800,000 to £1,000,000 per annum; and therefore the revenue of this year, judging by averages, may probably put you in possession of the money you have lost. But it was not against the repeal of the paper duty that a vehement and fervent opposition was directed in 1860. The early part of that year was occupied by energetic and keen party fights, not about the paper duty, but about something else, upon which a careful silence is now kept. My hon. Friend's eyes are exceedingly acute, and yet there are many things which he does not see. His memory is excellent; but the great facts of the financial history of 1860 he totally forgets. He has wholly lost sight of what happened in the early part of that year and before the outbreak of the China war, when a new element was introduced into the case. The fights upon fiscal policy in 1860 turned upon the merits, not of the paper duty or its repeal, but of something much more atrocious—I mean the commercial treaty with France, that treaty with France which offended so much the exquisite sensibilities of many Freetraders on the other side, who could not endure an instrument of that kind, so totally at variance with the unadulterated principles of free trade— that treaty with France which proceeded on the ridiculous principle that it was desirable to give to the mass of the people of England, as well as to the wealthier classes, some option of saying whether they would drink wine or not. [Cries of Oh ! oh !] Let that inarticulate objection be spoken out. I am in the recollection of the House whether it was not the constant burden of the song of those with whom the battles of February, March, and April, 1860, were fought, that we were wantonly throwing away valuable revenue by the removal of duties upon articles consumed only by the rich, while we mocked and insulted the poor. Our answer was, "Yes; they are only consumed by the rich, be- 1402 cause you have laws which prevent their being consumed by the poor, and we ask you to alter those laws, so that the comforts and enjoyments of the few may be brought within the reach of the many." That treaty with France, we were told, threatened to sacrifice the coal of the country, and thereby to impair in a vital point the efficiency of our national defences; while, on the other hand, in its negotiation, Mr. Cobden, by his intolerable negligence, had forgotten to stipulate for the exportation of French rags to this country. But really, Sir, it is not necessary for me to say more to show to the House the blindness of my hon. Friend, with his little paltry criticisms. ["Oh !"] Yes, but I beg you to observe that he forgets that the tariff has been cleared, that the trade of the country in 1860 was enormously increased; he forgets that the patronage of the Government was largely diminished by the reduction of establishments; he forgets that the bonds of amity with the French nation have been strengthened—that the sources of our revenue have been recruited, that the means of employment have been enlarged by the enlargement of our commerce, and that the ability, and yet more the disposition of the public to bear a weight of taxation by no means light in its pressure when their duty to their country requires them to bear it, have been confirmed and extended by the liberal legislation of Parliament. Sir, I cannot presume to give him advice, but I do not think my hon. Friend, in bringing forward: his objections to the repeal of the paper duty is consulting the real interests of himself and his party. At any rate, on the part of my colleagues and myself, I may I say that we can have no objection to the repetition of these discussions. Looking; at the results produced by this course of legislation, and which I may say have consecrated it in the eyes of the country, I confess it appears to me—I do not presume to interfere with the judgment of my hon. Friend—that attacks upon the consummation of that policy are ill-judged on the part of those who make them, and can really have no other effect upon the public judgment except to deepen in the recollection of the nation the fact that there are statesmen in this country who have dissociated themselves from the whole of the beneficial process which has been in progress during the last twenty years, who resisted it as long as it could be resisted, cavilled at it when it could be resisted no 1403 longer, although it is, I believe, one of the greatest boons which have ever in the history of man been conferred by a wise and prudent Legislature upon a great and intelligent people.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I am not sorry that my momentary absence from the House should have induced the right hon. Gentleman to make observations which showed that he had been for some time lying under a considerable misconception, that I, either directly or indirectly, had given notice that I should take this opportunity of making some remarks upon his speech at Manchester. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he is perfectly mistaken. I had no intention at any time of making any observations upon any speech which he may have made anywhere but in this House. I believe my hon. Friend near me (Sir S. Northcote) did intimate to the right hon. Gentleman that he felt it to be his duty, when occasion offered, to make some observations upon that expression of opinion at Manchester. But he had no authority from me to speak on my part, and I know very well from him that he made no such representation to the House. It is to me a matter of very little importance what the right hon. Gentleman may say at Manchester or any other place, since I have the opportunity of meeting, when necessary, the right hon. Gentleman in this House—the proper place for discussion. But as he has alluded to his visit to Manchester he may permit me, in passing, to give my impressions of what then occurred. It appears that the right hon. Gentleman, wishing for some relaxation after his arduous duties, made a visit to the provinces, in which he apparently assumed somewhat of an agitating character. The right hon. Gentleman upon that occasion touched upon two very important subjects. He touched upon the future prospects of Parliamentary Reform. Now, recollecting that the only speech upon Parliamentary Reform—so far as my memory serves me —the only speech ever delivered by the right hon. Gentleman, was delivered when I had the honour of proposing a measure to effect that object. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No.] Well, then, the most recent speech, one made only three years ago, the most authoritative statement of the right hon. Gentleman upon that subject, was when he vindicated what, more than eighty years ago, one who was a chief 1404 ornament of this House described as "the shameful parts of the constitution," the rotten boroughs, the memory of which I had thought no man of sense or spirit in this day would have cared to revive. When I remember that, I do not think he has laid a very promising basis for successful agitation upon this subject. Upon that occasion the right hon. Gentleman also adverted to the subject of retrenchment, and certainly he gave expression to an opinion which I highly disapprove, because it divorced the right hon. Gentleman from that responsibility which he ought to share with his colleagues. But I should not have noticed those observations, for I have heard him over and over again, according to my feeble powers of conception, put forth similar opinions here, which, in my view, are highly to be deprecated, and I have taken opportunities in this House of stating my opinions concerning them. I am glad to receive now from the right hon. Gentleman an authoritative statement that we in this House, and the people of this country, have for a long time been labouring under an entire misconception of his declarations at Manchester; that the right hon. Gentleman shares entirely the responsibility of the Government; and that the principle of limited liability, which I thought so dangerous and inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution, is not held by him. I am content that, whether it be from the speech of my hon. Friend or from any other motive, we have at last an authentic and authoritative declaration from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he approves the expenditure, and that he is prepared to bear his responsibility for that expenditure; and if the question of that expenditure be raised before the House, he is there to defend and to vindicate it.
There were one or two points in the speech of my hon. Friend to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer particularly adverted. He found fault with my hon. Friend on account of his doctrine as to a surplus. It seems that my hon. Friend has still the ancient, and, I think, very healthy prejudice in favour of having a surplus in matters of finance. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that is quite an old-fashioned mistake; that, although we are at peace, we have in fact a war expenditure; that in war we cannot have a surplus, but that we raise as much as we can by taxation, and for the rest of 1405 the expenditure we must have recourse to loans. That is the orthodox mode during war of managing our finances, and a more ardent advocate of it than the right hon. Gentleman I never heard. But what were the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman when, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Russian war was earned on? I thought then that war was to be conducted with the taxation raised in the year. But now we have the right hon. Gentleman coming down and saying, "No one ever heard any thing so monstrous as the opinion of the hon. Member for Stamford in favour of the maintenance of a surplus;" and that at no time—if we are fairly to interpret the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman—at no time, if a great financial object be in question, is a surplus of more than secondary consideration; and that in times of war, or quasi war like the present, he never heard of anything so absurd as to think of a surplus. This, too, from the Minister of Finance who, when we were embarked in a real war, laid down the disastrous doctrine which fructified—to use a modern phrase—to the injury of the country, that war was to be carried on solely with the resources arising from the annual taxation.
There was only one other observation of moment made by the right hon. Gentleman upon the speech of ray hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman says we had a surplus in 1861, and that he disposed of it in repealing a tux which he does not deny would, if it had remained, have been now flowing into the Exchequer; but he says, "The House knows well that with a surplus of £1,000,000 it was impossible to have retained it." The right hon. Gentleman forgets that when he was in imaginary possession of this imaginary £1,000,000 of surplus which he did not know what to do with, he had £1,000,000 of Exchequer Bonds that year which he did not pay off; and having that £1,000,000 of Exchequer Bonds which he did not pay off, he went and repealed a tax to that amount. That is financial management. These are the only points which the right hon. Gentleman has urged in answer to my hon. Friend. All the rest refers to his general management of the finances, or are allusions to some observations which I made a little time ago, observations founded upon facts the accuracy of which the right hon. 1406 Gentleman does not question, and which remain unchanged and unaltered. The right hon. Gentleman does not pretend that we have a surplus. He does not deny that he has realized a deficiency in two years of more than £4,000,000. He does not deny that he has exhausted the extraordinary resources of the country, moreover, to the amount of £3,500,000. Ha does not deny, that having the good fortune to be Chancellor of the Exchequer at a time when £2,000,000 a year of terminable annuities fell in, he made such "ducks and drakes" of those £2,000,000 that in the year in which he commenced with a million and a half surplus, in addition to which he had more than £2,000,000 of terminable annuities fall in, he concluded with a deficit of more than £2,500,000. The right hon. Gentleman does not in any way attempt to deny or to question these statements, which, indeed, it would be a vain task to undertake. I should wish to say nothing more under the circumstances. I laid before the House a clear statement, and with as much brevity as I could, as to the real financial condition of the country. The right hon. Gentleman says he had given all the facts of that statement beforehand. Be it so; but the result was that there were not five men in this House who had any clear conception of what the financial state of the country really was. We do understand it now. The right hon. Gentleman does not seek to alter it, nor has he contradicted a single statement I made, and therefore I have nothing to add. It never entered into my mind to call attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman at Manchester, after having already commented upon what I thought the perverted principles which led to those remarks, and which the right hon. Gentleman now disclaims, nor should I have thought it necessary again to advert to the subject of finance. The conduct of the finances of the country by the Minister is an important subject, no doubt; but there is a question far more important, and that is the state of the finances and the causes that have led to that state. The only fault I have to find with the admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford is, that he should have thought for a moment that any excuse or apology was necessary for an hon. Member rising upon this occasion for the purpose of expressing his opinions upon the state of the public finances.
1407 Now, what is the Bill before us which is to be read a second time this evening, and as to which Her Majesty's Government are quite pained and astonished—at least, the right hon. Gentleman is—that it was not permitted to be read a second time last Monday? It is a Bill for imposing on the people of this country the largest amount of taxation that ever yet was submitted in an annual Bill. Here is a sum of nearly 24,000,000 sterling of annual taxation to be imposed merely for one year. Is that a Bill which should pass as a matter of course, like a Mutiny Bill or a Bill of Indemnity? Is it an every-day thing to submit to this House Bills imposing taxes to that amount—these, remember, being in great part war taxes? I cannot conceive any subject which more requires the calm consideration of the House than a proposal of this kind. Why these taxes are imposed; why they are imposed in this temporary and provisional form; what the prospects of the country may be with regard to taxation; what are the prospects of our revenue; what of our expenditure —surely these are questions which, if they are ever to arise, must naturally and necessarily arise upon a proposition of this character. We have heard to-night from the Chancellor of the Exchequer what I hoped we should never have heard again. My hon. Friend had adverted to the subject, and I trusted that with his observations the subject would have been finally dismissed. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer has repeated that the expenditure of the country is an exceptional expenditure. Now, what does this phrase mean? After all our discussions, after all the attention which Parliament and the country have bestowed on this (to them) greatest and most interesting subject—the state of their fortunes, for it really comes to this—is there anybody who fairly comprehends what the Government mean by such an epithet? And yet, unless we have some clearer and more precise definition of it, how can the House of Commons form any proper conception either of their present position or future prospects? I ask the question—it is a Socratic mode of reasoning which is sometimes convenient when one is perplexed—why are we arming? If we ask that question, we shall probably be able to discover what there is exceptional in our expenditure. My hon. Friend commenced the inquiry, and, as I thought, touched upon it with great ability. Why are we arming? I 1408 throw out of consideration the Civil Service Estimates, for no one pretends that they are exceptional. I think it is possible to reduce them. But you must remember that more than one Government has severely investigated them, that this is an expenditure arising out of the natural development of the country, and that he would deceive the country who would declare that any great reduction could be effected in these Estimates. You come, then, to your naval and military establishments; and I say, when the Government tell us that the expenditure is exceptional, let us ask why we are arming. My hon. Friend made more than one pertinent inquiry under that head. There are three causes for which England may arm. She would arm, as my hon. Friend said, for self-defence. She might arm to obtain a great object of material importance. And she might arm, to use a phrase which has been introduced in this debate, to maintain her due influence in the councils of Europe. I think that my hon. Friend completely disposed of the first question. If this country is arming for her adequate, and I will say her complete defence, there are very few in this House who would question the propriety of such an expenditure. But all would admit that such an expenditure is not exceptional. What may be considered adequate and complete defence is, of course, a question of degree, on which there may be a variety of opinion. For my part, I think that in addition to our customary garrison a perfect organization of our Militia, the encouragement of that force which the martial manhood of the country itself called into existence —the Volunteers—and a Channel fleet, or at least a defensive force equal to a Channel fleet, constitute a complete and satisfactory condition of national defence. But all will admit that that which is to be the general and constant means of self-defence is not exceptional expenditure.
Then I come to the next point for which this country may be incurring the cost of these armaments—namely, to obtain some great point of material importance. Now, I am quite at a loss to fix upon any point of material importance which this country aspires to. It appears to me that England is in possession of everything which a free, a proud, and a rational community can desire, and I entirely dismiss from my mind any consideration under that head. It may be said, indeed, as was observed by my hon. Friend, that although the 1409 means of our defence may be adequate for ordinary purposes, there may be a fear of some act of invasion or aggression which requires extraordinary means of defence. I quite admit the accuracy of the remark, but I agree with my hon. Friend, and, I should think, with the great majority of this House, that we are quite at a loss to fix upon the enemy who is meditating to attack us. Who is the foe, and why should there be a foe? Therefore, although, no doubt, expenditure on that head would be exceptional, I think that it would not be justifiable. It may, indeed, be said by Her Majesty's Government that the disordered and disquieted state of Europe requires that this country should be armed; that war may break out between other Powers to-morrow, and that England, as the phrase is, may be drawn into the war. Now, speaking generally, I should say, that if a war between two other Powers broke out, it would be an indiscreet and a wanton act to attack England, and if England enters into that war, not because she is attacked, but from some: political considerations of her own, that; will not be self-defence. When, therefore, you turn the matter over and over again, it ends in this—are we preparing and keeping up these armaments in order to maintain our influence in what is called the councils of Europe? That is the question which the House will have to consider. After I had made some observations on the financial state of the country the other night, an hon. Gentleman said that, however just those observations were, I had expressed no opinion in favour of reduction and retrenchment. Now, that was an inaccurate observation. I was not called upon to give any opinion respecting reduction and retrenchment or that occasion. Mere abstract and declamatory opinions in favour of reduction and retrenchment are of no use whatever. I have so often maintained it in this House that I am almost ashamed to repeat it, but, unfortunately, it is not a principle which has yet sufficiently entered into public opinion—expenditure depends upon policy. If the House of Commons sustains the Government in a policy which necessarily induces a certain expenditure, it is not in the power of the House to interfere with the expenditure. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we should accurately comprehend the policy which this country is pursuing, and how far that 1410 policy influences our expenditure. There never was a time, when it was more opportune and more necessary to consider this question. You have, on authority, an announcement that there is no surplus. So far as human calculation can guide us, we have the prospect of a deficit—of a third deficit—a deficit, therefore, following upon exhausted resources and upon a declining trade. It is quite clear, then, that if the expenditure of the country is to be maintained at its present rate, there must be an appeal for fresh taxation. In a time of peace you have, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, indulged in a war expenditure; but all that time you have also, from the same hands, had a financial system founded upon a peace expenditure. You have been increasing your expenditure to the war rate, while at the same time you have been gradually and continuously destroying sources of permanent revenue. What is the result of all this? Why, that if you maintain your expenditure, you must increase taxation; and on whom will that taxation fall? It must fall upon that much, cow—the landed interest. Disguise it as you may, you will have an income tax; and what supplies the greater portion of the income tax of this country? The answer is obvious—it is supplied by the veal property of the country. This, therefore, is no longer a mere theoretical question; it is pressing at our gates, and unless; we come to some clear conception of what our position is, we may find ourselves brought to a pass which very few in this House will think either agreeable or profitable. You cannot meet this question with the vague expressions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because, whether he speaks at Manchester, or whether he speaks in this House on the subject of reduction and retrenchment, he gives us nothing but pure declamation. He never shows you where there can be reduction. Eulogizing his own policy, he tells you that he has passed a French treaty in defiance of us, although, by the way, I am not aware that to the principles of that treaty I ever joined in the slightest opposition. But he says he has passed a French treaty in spite of us, and that treaty has secured to us the cordial friendship of Franco. The right hon. Gentleman, however, is generally followed by the Secretary of State for War, or the First Lord of the Admiralty, who calls for an immense expenditure in armaments, which the noble Viscount at the head of the Government told us only a 1411 short time ago are to guard us against the hostile operations of that very ally. There may be something unhealthy in our finances, but certainly there is in our policy, when such contradictory statements can be addressed to us. I repeat, then, that this great expenditure is going on to maintain what is called our influence in the councils of Europe. Our self-defence is adequate and complete. There is no fear of invasion. No human being can see the cause or the excuse of such an act. No one pretends that England is desirous to carry out any object of aggrandisement. The inference, therefore, is plain and palpable—our vast expenditure is intended to maintain our influence in the councils of Europe. Since that is the object which is entailing upon Us this warlike expenditure in time of peace, and which, so far as human calculation can guide us, must lead to increased taxation, let us see whether or not we can associate with that policy some clear and definite idea.
Since the settlement of 1815 England has had no cause to complain of the influence which she has exercised in the councils of Europe. Almost on every occasion her suggestions, when offered, have been listened to with deference, and only on one occasion, when it was intimated that if her advice were not followed it would be enforced by war, has that advice not been adopted? But great statesmen during the last forty or fifty years, not satisfied with the natural influence which England exercised in the councils of Europe—holding that, though that influence was considerable, it was not a complete security for peace, which is the natural policy of this country—have believed that in an alliance with France the great object in view could be consummated; and, more or less, you have had. what is termed a cordial understanding—at present you have a direct alliance with that power. At this moment the councils of Europe consist really of only England and Trance. The other great Powers are at present in a state of collapse or reconstruction, from which I trust they will arise with renovated vigour to enjoy a prosperity founded upon sound principles and used for benevolent purposes. Meanwhile I repeat, the councils of Europe consist of England and Prance; and such being the case, and a cordial alliance having been established between them, there could not be a fairer opportunity for reduced armaments, or a state of affairs in which a moderate military expenditure could 1412 be more practicable. Well, then, I ask why is that not the case? If one might judge from the opinions which are expressed in this House by great authorities —by the First Lord of the Treasury, by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he was one of ourselves, and by other influential Ministers—one would suppose that between England and France there is a feeling of great animosity. We have had invectives delivered in this House by Ministers against the Government and people of France. Only a short time ago we were told, that though the right hand was proffered in friendship, the left hand was upon the hilt of the sword. We have been told that we must look for other friends. We have been told that it is idle to disguise the hostile policy against England which is encouraged and fostered in France. I want to know, if there is what is called a cordial alliance with France— if, from circumstances which could not have been foreseen, England and France are at this moment the only two great Powers that can influence events—how it is that these feelings should have arisen, developing themselves necessarily in immense armaments? That question the House can no longer conceal from themselves the necessity of investigating and considering. The French alliance is not the boast or the glory of any party. All the leading statesmen since the settlement of 1815 have more or less worked for the same end, and it is equally to the credit of the Duke of Wellington, Earl Grey, the Earl of Aberdeen, and those who succeeded them, that they were always of opinion that an alliance with France, which they regarded as a security for the general peace of Europe, was a natural and proper alliance, for two reasons—namely, that not only the material but also the political interests of the two countries were the same. The identity of our material interests used to be a matter of theory, and statesmen of philosophical minds frequently argued to show that each nation produced the articles which the other wanted, and that this fact formed a sound foundation for commercial intercourse. But the matter is no longer one of argument, and we need pass but lightly over these grounds, for the very reason to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently adverted—the existence of the commercial treaty with France. That treaty was not opposed on this side of the House on any ground of policy. It was a question of opportuneness and of our finan- 1413 cial ability; but with the exception of some Gentlemen on this side, who, as well as some Gentlemen on the other, are entitled to the assertion of individual feeling, there was no general opposition to the French treaty in point of principle. But I must remind the House that for the alliance with France the people of England have made great sacrifices. They joined with France in the Crimean War, which but for the alliance they probably would not have engaged in; and for the sake of the same alliance they carried through the commercial treaty at some loss to themselves. No one, however, would grudge the loss of treasure or of blood if it has brought about so important a result as a cordial alliance with France. Still, it is very hard on the people of England, having fought in the same field with France, and having entered at a great sacrifice into commercial relations with that country, to be told immediately afterwards that they must submit to be taxed for armaments to guard this country against the hostile operations of our ally on the other side of the Channel. So much for our material interests.
It was likewise the opinion of statesmen whom we all honour, that the political interests of the two countries were identical; and I have ever been myself of that opinion. I will test it. I shall not travel over the World, and touch upon all the points where England and France have co-operated, but shall take what at this moment are the most interesting points in European find American politics, and endeavour to ascertain whether England and France have not only an avowed but a real identity of interests both in Italy and in the United States. First, with respect to Italy. It is the policy of England and France that there should be a powerful State in Italy, and this policy may be proved, not by phrases, but by facts. In 1815, when England exercised a very great influence over the destiny of Italy, she enlarged the territories of the King of Sardinia by the port and city of Genoa and by the whole of the Ligurian territory. If England did that in 1815, at the Treaty of Vienna, France, in 1859, at the Treaty of Zurich, enlarged the territories of the same King of Sardinia by the whole of Lombardy. Then England and France have the same policy of establishing a powerful Italian State; and the same two countries have: since recognised the King of Sardinia as King of Italy. Their policy, therefore, in 1414 Italy is the same. Now, as to America, I think no one can doubt that the interests of England and France are identical with regard to what has taken place in the United States. A great portion of the population of both countries are dependent on the supply of the raw material that America produces of the best quality and at the cheapest rate. Therefore both England and France have an equal interest in tranquillity and order in that part of the world. How does it happen, then, their policy being identical in the most interesting portion of Europe and in America, that, if we may judge from the declaration of their Ministers, there is everything between the two countries but avowed hostility? And as with regard to Italy, so with regard to America. I never introduce gossip into our debates in this House, but secrets are not kept with the same delicacy at Washington as at St. James's and the Tuileries; and I believe it is understating the case to say that the representatives of the two Powers at Washington, instead of acting in that cordial and friendly cooperation which the present crisis demands, are rather acting as if they were accredited by rival Powers to the court of some capricious despot of the Levant, or some arbitrary tyrant of the Indian Ocean, and endeavouring by intrigue and misrepresentation to establish a superiority of influence. This is the state of affairs; and I ask how is it to be accounted for? How is it that there exists all this jealousy, distrust, and complete misunderstanding, leading to increased armaments and increased military expenditure, between two Powers who ought to be, by identity of interests, firmly and cordially united, and whose union would certainly permit the administration of affairs in both countries to be conducted in a manner that would weigh more lightly on the exertions and resources of their people? I can only account for it in this way—that although England and France may hate the same objects, they are apt to contemplate them from a different point of view. But this ought not to be the cause of hostility; it should rather lead to more mature counsels, and induce a more prudent line of conduct. In private life few persons can thoroughly master both sides of a case: and, probably, any mat who did master both sides of a case would be utterly unfitted for action. But he consults a friend; they advise together; they compare notes; and from their joint 1415 council a prudent and profitable resolution is generally arrived at. That England and Prance therefore, having the same objects, may contemplate them from different points of view ought not to be a cause of misapprehension between them, but of wiser and more salutary co-operation. But is it so? Is it not notorious, is it not avowed and declared, almost ostentatiously that great distrust exists between the two Governments? The noble Lord himself (Viscount Palmerston) takes every opportunity, when the affairs of the two countries are mentioned, either of denouncing the policy France is pursuing, or dictating a policy to France, and talks of France not conforming to it. This is a state of things that ought not to exist. Still less is it a state of affairs that ought to be encouraged by this House, leading, as it does lead, to immensely increased expenditure, and that is fast bearing us to renewed and increased taxation.
I will take the case most difficult probably to deal with, and in which the greatest prejudice has been raised in this House against the conduct of France. I will take the question of Italy. Although I have shown to the House that the principles of the Italian policy, in the main, of France and England are the same, there are two points with regard to Italy which leave fruitful sources of misconception between the two countries. The first is Naples, or rather the south of Italy. It appears that the Emperor of the French entertains, or did entertain, views with regard to Southern Italy different from those now entertained by Her Majesty's Ministers. The Emperor of the French was of opinion—I do not know whether it is his opinion now—that what is called Italian unity is not necessarily an element of Italian strength, and he questioned the wisdom of absorbing Southern Italy in that great Power he himself mainly constituted in the North. That opinion of the Emperor of the French may be right or wrong; it is a question fairly open to discussion; but it is not one that should lead to hostile and irritating feelings between the two Governments. If they are of the same opinion on the main principle, they should not permit a question of detail to produce misunderstandings of such a character as to envenom the two nations against each other, and lead to a great military expenditure. All will agree to that. But is our Government entitled, under any circumstances, to make those views of France with regard to the 1416 south of Italy a source of envenomed dissatisfaction? Why, members of Her Majesty's Government themselves but very recently held the same opinion as the Emperor of the French on this subject. The noble Lord, the present Prime Minister, as head of the present and of a former Government, which we can scarcely separate on this subject, had had the advantage of the advice and counsel of two eminent statesmen as Secretaries of State for Foreign Affairs. One of them had attended the Congress at which all the most celebrated statesmen of Europe were present, and in which the affairs of Italy were minutely discussed. What was the opinion of that Secretary of State? Having acted under the immediate advice and with the approbation of the first Minister—having heard the Italian question discussed by the most able European statesmen, among them the great Italian Minister Count Cavour—the Earl of Clarendon, when he came back from the Conference of Paris, declared his opinion in the august House of Parliament to which he belongs that Italian unity was a bubble. I do not blame the Earl of Clarendon for that opinion. I am not imputing anything to him in the way of approbation or the reverse. But when so eminent a statesman, acting under the advice of the noble Viscount, gave that as his matured and experienced opinion, I think we ought not to look in a spirit of hostility to an ally who agreed in the main with us on the Italian policy, if he disagreed in some point of detail. It may be said that the Earl of Clarendon is not the present Secretary of State. I believe I may say it is not the fault of the noble Lord opposite that the Earl of Clarendon is not the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. We have another statesman in his place—one I have often opposed—one who has in the course of his life committed considerable errors, none so great as proposing that Resolution which virtually turned us out of office and himself out of the House of Commons. But still he is an eminent statesman. I should rejoice if I could see him sitting again on that bench, for in losing him I think the House of Commons lost something of its lustre and authority. Well, Lord John Russell became Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. And what was his opinion of Italian unity? Though by inference acceding to the policy of which the noble Lord at the head of the Government was the real representative, the 1417 policy which the Earl of Clarendon had expressly disclaimed in the House of Lords, Lord John Russell was hardly warm in his official seat when he hoard that a person named Garibaldi was preparing at Genoa an expedition to attack the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The noble Lord felt it his duty to inform Francis II. of the expedition, and, in the manner customary between the Ministers of friendly Powers, to put the Government of Naples on its guard against an act as illegal as it was outrageous. A Minister with these feelings ought to view with some charity—call them, if you will the prejudices of an ally who, on the subject of the south of Italy, shared so accurately the same opinions. But is this all? Do not the words ring in our ear at this moment of a despatch indited by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs when he had a seat in this House—a despatch with which every one is familiar— in which our interests in the Adriatic were duly considered, and in which a policy exactly the same as that now favoured by our cordial ally was vindicated and approved in those terse sentences, in the expression of which the noble Lord stands unequalled? This being the case, it appears to me most extraordinary that the question of the south of Italy should have been allowed to become a source of irritation between two Governments in whoso case original identity of view and principle prevailed, and that hostile feelings should be engendered, when, in fact, nothing but events and circumstances which no one could foresee could have modified the opinions of the English Government. Now, I do not seek to blame the English Government for having modified their opinions on the subject of Italian affairs as regards the south of the peninsula; but if the alliance with France was so precious —if a cordial understanding with that country was so prime an object of their policy as their antecedents would seem to show—if for that alliance such sacrifices as those to which I have alluded have been made, it appears to me not to be excusable that we should approach France on the topic to which I am adverting in a spirit of irritation and of a dictatorial character. This question of the south of Italy will, however, I hope, settle itself. I hope that ideas in the shape of Zouaves, and non-interference in the shape of Marines, will not make their appearance in that country. I am, nevertheless, 1418 afraid I am indulging in a hope rather than in a conviction of the subject, because, from all that reaches us, England, which so favours the excellent doctrine of non-interference, may probably see it endangered in that quarter.
Now, there is another question with respect to which the greatest misconception exists between England and France. It is a question of a very urgent character, because it has not settled itself, and may lead to consequences which we should all deprecate—I allude to the question of Rome. I want to know, England and France being perfectly in accord as to the main principles of Italian policy, whether what has occurred at Home justifies the course which our Government have taken with regard to France, and which has, I believe, if not mainly, at all events in a great degree, led to this increase in our armaments. I venture to speak on the Roman question, not as if I were living in the Middle Ages, and, at the same time, not as if I were assisting at an auto da fé of Guy Eawkes. The question is not altogether devoid of interest even for Englishmen and Protestants. What is called the temporal power of the Pope seems to me to be a matter of small importance. The temporal power of the Pope is no more than the temporal power of a petty Italian Prince; and, so far as it is concerned, I do not see that it need interest us more than the power of the Duke of Modena or of Tuscany, There is, however, a question connected with Home which I apprehend interests the world generally, which is, I think, peculiarly interesting to a Protestant Power like England—and that is, not the temporal power, but the independence, of the Pope. They are two things entirely distinct, although they are always mixed together, partly through blundering and partly owing to intentional misrepresentation. Now, suppose the Pope were to quit Rome to-morrow, and to establish himself permanently at Seville or Avignon, or in any of the great cities of the Danube, you may rest assured that the Roman Catholic Power in whose dominions he happened to find a permanent settlement would not at all care to assert his independence. On the contrary, that Power would very cheerfully accept the increase of influence and authority which the permanent residence of the Pope in its dominions would lend. That would not be the case of a Protestant Power, especially a Protestant 1419 Power having many millions of Roman Catholic subjects. We in England would look with great jealousy on the Pope's becoming a permanent resident in the dominions of a Roman Catholic State; because we know very well, that although as a temporal Prince he is of no more account than any Italian Duke, he is a spiritual Prince, exercising great power in every country, and in every country represented by an organized and intellectual body. It is therefore a matter of very great consideration for English statesmen that the potentate exercising this authority should be placed in a situation in which he should not be unduly influenced by any other Power in Europe. It was this consideration which made the great statesmen of Europe agree to the restoration of the Pope in 1815. Lord Grey, Lord Grenville, Lord Liverpool, Mr. Canning, Lord Castlereagh, and Lord Wellesley, and others of equal eminence, I suppose, were not bigots—they certainly were not fools—and they could find no other solution of the difficulty at the time, for this reason, not that they believed it was advisable or desirable the Pope should exercise the authority of a temporal Prince, but that they saw no other means at the moment of securing his independence, and so they agreed to the restoration of his states and power. But, if the complications which surround this point are considerable in the case of a Protestant Power, what must be the difficulties which beset our cordial ally, the Emperor of the French, in dealing with it? He knows that, whatever may happen, England and the world will never agree that the Pope should be permanently settled in Trance, or that the influence which he exercises over every country by means of the disciplined and intellectual organization to which I have alluded should be exposed to the dictation and under the control of the Tuileries. The French Emperor understands that perfectly well, and he is also aware, that if the Pope were to be resident in any other Catholic State, great embarrassments to himself might be the result. His own influence, and the authority which he now exercises, or partially possesses, might as a consequence be lessened, while that of another Sovereign might be proportionately increased. But, in addition to this, there is another difficulty. The French Emperor knows very well, that if this question were settled in the offhand manner which some seem to expect and desire, and 1420 the Pope were to-morrow a fugitive, an exile, or a prisoner, he who is the ruler of France, whatever may be his name, or family, or dynasty, could not afford to view that circumstance with, indifference, perhaps not with impunity. That being so, is it not right that any demand proceeding from us, who affect to be his cordial allies, should not assume the shape of insult, menace, or of open invective in a popular assembly like, the House of Commons? Surely the spirit of conciliation should rather guide our counsels. The spirit of friendship should animate us, and we should endeavour by our united efforts to see whether some solution of a difficulty so transcendent could not be brought about. Every European Power, be it Roman Catholic or Protestant, must consider, that if the disruption of the Pope from Rome takes place, and is effected by force, disquiet and a most dangerous feeling will be produced in every nation in Europe. Statesmen who have the Government of any country, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, cannot be insensible to the possibility of such a contingency; and, of them all, he who must feel the greatest anxiety on the subject— he who must meet the brunt of this difficulty the most directly—is the ruler of France. Well, then, Sir, I say this subject of Rome is one that, of all others, should have led to the most friendly and confidential feeling between France and this country. Yet the noble Lord, and those of his colleagues who have addressed us on the subject, have imported into it a sort of personal feeling, and talk as if the French army had been led to Rome owing to the mere ambition of the Emperor. Now, if there be a fact with respect to which there is a general concurrence of opinion, I should have thought it was that the occupation of Rome by France—I do not now care to enter into a discussion as to whether it was a political mistake or not—was an act, not of ambition on the part of the Emperor of the French, but one of self-defence; and that if the occupation had not taken place at the time at which it did, disorder, discontent, and revolutionary movements, which it alone prevented, might have been rife throughput Europe. The result of all these circumstances convinces me, that recurring to the image I have thrown, out we have not allowed ourselves in this question of Italy to see the two sides of the case; that France has viewed 1421 it from a different light, and, arriving at a different conclusion, has not seen her views received by us in that spirit of friendliness which the cordial alliance of the two countries would demand and would authorize. It has led, indeed, to constant misconception, embroilment, jealousy, and mistrust, and in all matters connected with Italy we are practically opposed to that ally, with whose active co-operation we theoretically endeavour to secure the peace and administer the affairs of the world. Let me remind the House that the policy of France and England has been the same, and that they have both largely increased the kingdom of Sardinia. Both have acknowledged the King of Sardinia as King of Italy. With regard to the Duchies in the centre of Italy, whatever was the original policy of the Emperor, he yielded, and did not insist upon it. With regard to the south, his policy has been the same as is avowed and declared by our own Minister. And with regard to the question of Rome, of difficulty to all, of immense difficulty to him, it is one which cannot be satisfactorily carried to a conclusion without the consent of this very ally whom we are irritating and insulting. When we talk of retrenchment; when on analysis we find that our expenditure is not for the sake of self-defence; when on analysis we find that any fear of invasion is absolute illusion; when we find that there is no material point which England wishes to assert and maintain; when we find that it comes to maintaining our influence in the councils of Europe, and that the councils of Europe practically mean only the councils of England and France, it ends in this — that we are arming against our cordial ally. Then, how is this? We are always assured— whether in the speech from the Throne or in the statement of the Minister—that the cordial understanding between England and France is complete. Theoretically it exists; practically we find we are always acting in a contrary sense. And to what has this led? It has led to England managing the affairs of the world, not by a cordial alliance with France, but by a new process, called the exercise of moral power. What is this moral power, the exercise of which is now the policy of England? I will tell you what moral power means. It means warlike armaments in time of peace. It means garrisons doubled and trebled. It means squadrons turned into fleets. And, in an age of mechanical inven- 1422 tion to which there is no assignable limit, it means a perpetual stimulus given to the study of the science of destruction. That is moral power. But is that all the consequences of governing by moral power? I can easily conceive that a Gentleman may rise and say, "Well, if we are to choose between a cordial alliance with France and governing by the moral power of England, the latter may be rather more expensive, but still it is a noble occupation. Ours is a strong country. We are showing our strength, and, upon the whole, that is the policy which I approve." I can understand and to a certain degree honour those sentiments; but if I believe, as I do believe, that, instead of securing the strength of England, it is securing the weakness of England, then I cannot approve a dictatorial policy, which is dogmatical and overbearing, which under the specious name of moral power is burdening the people of this country with taxation, now pushed almost to its limits, and which, worse than all, is sapping the true strength of England as I think I can show to the House.
The consequence of the policy of what is called moral power—that is to say of warlike armaments in time of peace, of a dictatorial policy, never conceding, scorning conciliation, shrinking from compromises, and never adopting forbearance—is that you find yourselves involved in war. Your armaments lead to rival armaments, and it is an inevitable necessity that any country which is obliged to incur a warlike expenditure in time of peace for any considerable period ultimately takes refuge from the insufferable condition in which it at last finds itself in the attempt to realize some results by a state of war. I assume as almost a certainty, but at least as a probable result, which should guide statesmen, that four or five years of governing by moral power will lead this country necessarily into European war. And how do you find yourselves prepared for war? With your financial reserve exhausted. There is no fleet and there is no army which gives England such power and influence in the councils of Europe as the consciousness that the income tax is in a virgin state. The very knowledge that our Sovereign by levying a single tax in time of war can annually raise without any considerable burden on the people (for in time of war such an appeal would be cheerfully responded to) a sum superior to those loans which military empires 1423 raise with difficulty at ruinous rates, and which they can seldom repeat, alone exercises in the councils of Europe an influence which no extraordinary armaments will ever accomplish.
Sir, I hope the House will now express some opinion upon this subject. The time is very apt for a representation by the House to the Government. We are placed with regard to the Government in a position which cannot easily be misrepresented by the arts of factious rhetoric. We have voted the supplies, and there is no one here, I should think, who would refuse the ways and means for those supplies. But it does not follow that because we have voted the money the Government should spend it; and it is in the power of the Government, acting upon the friendly suggestions of the House, to review and revise their policy. Very great reductions, partially now, perhaps, but certainly in time, may be made by attempting to conduct public affairs in the manner in which we profess to conduct them—namely, by a cordial understanding with our ally, and not by that new system which is called moral power—meaning, as I have said before, warlike expenditure in time of peace, which has brought our finances to the difficult position, which the Secretary of War acknowledged last night, and which, if we have, as is more than possible, a third deficit, will bring upon us a burden of taxation, which I do not think Gentlemen, and especially Gentlemen on this side of the House, will be willing to bear. I speak to the House generally, but I make an appeal to my friends here to consider their position. I speak to the country gentlemen, to county Members, among whom the confidence of my neighbours has placed me. It is my duty to impress upon them that our present financial state is of a very critical and dangerous character; that, if fresh burdens are called for, they are the class who will suffer, and in suffering will inflict additional burdens upon classes who have enough already to bear, and with whose prosperity the greatness of the country is intimately connected. Sir, I say to the noble Lord, that the spirit in which he conducts his connection with France, unless he changes his course, and no one can change it with more admirable versatility than the noble Lord, is one that presents no security for a continuance of peace. It is conducted in a spirit totally different from that contemplated by the great statesmen of all sides, who 1424 looked upon that cordial understanding as really the only security for the continued peace of the world; and the peace of Europe never has been broken except when circumstances have occurred which have led other nations to believe that a cordial understanding did not really exist. Now, those statesmen who introduced and endeavoured to establish in the public mind, after the settlement of Europe in 1815, the necessity of recasting our old French policy, and who looked with sympathy at a connection with our neighbours, were not blind to the difficulties of attempting to carry their views into effect. Certainly they laid the foundation of their policy on a belief which, I think, I have shown was well grounded—a belief in the identity of the material and political interests of the two countries. But in the complication of affairs which must necessarily occur in the transactions of two of the greatest kingdoms of Europe—knowing well that there would arise frequent circumstances and contingencies in which, though the same interest might exist, yet it might not exist in the same degree, and that France and England co-operating together must co-operate sometimes in countries where one had a preponderating interest and the other a less interest; where one had some interest, and perhaps the other had no interest; that they might even contemplate—nay, more than contemplate, might profess co-operating together in a country where one had a certain interest, and the other had an adverse interest—those great statesmen knew that such an alliance must be founded on mutual forbearance, carried on in the spirit of conciliation, and must be fortified on both sides by occasional concession, and even by frequent compromise. Is that the way in which it is conducted at the present day? No; but by constant jealousies, constant distrusts, frequent misunderstandings, occasional insult — and this to a high-spirited ally. And then you are surprised that ships are built and armies recruited. Why, it is the necessary consequence of the course we pursue; but I hope this course will be at an end. I observed just now that the occasion was favourable for an English Minister to act, not under compulsion, be it observed, but with the House of Commons, for the noble Lord is sitting on the bench opposite by virtue of the confidence of a majority— not very great—who deemed his occupation of that position the best security for 1425 Parliamentary reform and public economy. That is an immense advantage. The noble Lord has the advantage of having supplies granted cheerfully, and he may feel assured, that however the propriety of the course he is pursuing may be doubted, his ways and means will not be refused. Therefore, a man of generous mind would not, under these circumstances, allow any petty feeling to prevent him from, meeting a House of Commons so disposed in a fair spirit.
And what is the situation as regards France? France is not the old Franco, and she is not even the former France of 1852 or 1858. That spirit of military restlessness which so influenced France in past times, which upset so many dynasties, and occasioned so many vicissitudes and revolutions, is appeased. The blot on her escutcheon is erased. Her eagles fly. In the year 1852, whatever might be the opinion of English statesmen with respect to the character or disposition of the Emperor, you had before you the great fact of the revival of the Empire, which was the type of aggression and military con quest. You had then the absolute necessity imposed upon you of putting your House in order. In the year 1858 you had the choice of a general European war, the seeds of which were sown at the Congress of Paris; and it was only with great difficulty, and by great good fortune, that a European war did not then take place, while your own navy was in so unsatisfactory a position that not one of the inventions of modern science had been applied to it. It was in fact obsolete. On those two occasions the expenditure which we incurred was not only called for by the people, but was recommended by the Government from conviction. But that is not your position now. The military restlessness of France is more than satiated. France requires repose; France requires peace; France requires economy: France requires commerce. Commerce, economy, and peace constitute the natural and normal policy of England, and say this is an opportunity for the noble Lord possessing the confidence of this House, and armed with the resources of this country, to appeal to one who still in official parlance is our ally, and who might, under the noble Lord's influence, still become our friend—it is, I say, in the noble Lord's power to come to some really cordial understanding, sensible as well as cordial, between this country and 1426 France—the only two nations at present forming the councils of Europe, and to put an end to these bloated armaments which only involve States in financial embarrassment. However necessary may have been on two occasions of great danger that expenditure which has brought us to this condition, we can now extricate ourselves from the pressure if the councils of the noble Lord are animated by those principles which he professes. The defence of this country is complete.
I know, whatever I may say of the policy of the noble Lord, there are opposite to me hon. Gentlemen below the gangway who seem to think that there is no security from great expenditure and impending taxation but by the adoption of the views they entertain. I do not wish to obtain the support of those Gentlemen by any misconception. The doctrines professed by them have been expressed by one than whom no person can place before the country opinions in a more clear or captivating style. I hold that those opinions bold by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), to whom I now refer, may be ranged under three heads. The hon. Member for Rochdale believes that the self-defence of this country is carried on upon an exaggerated scale. I cannot agree with him. I think that the permanent organization of our militia, the encouragement of our volunteer force, the maintenance of the Channel fleet, or a power equivalent to the Channel fleet, in addition to our usual military garrison, are necessary to this country. I think they constitute the defence of this country, which ought to be supported without the slightest respect to the question of who may be our neighbour, or what policy may be pursued by him. I look upon that as the natural defence of this country, and anything less would not satisfy me.
The next position of the hon. Member for Rochdale, and one which, if adopted, he believes would lead to a great reduction in our expenditure, is that our connection with our colonies should be terminated. There I differ entirely with the hon. Gentleman. No one is more sensible than myself of the anomalies existing in the present relations between the mother country and the colonies. I have always thought that at the time when independent or self-government, call it what you like, was accorded to the colonies, there was not maintained a sufficient reserve of the military prerogative of the Queen, 1427 which might have been the basis of an arrangement, giving in a great degree to the colonies the means of defence, and yet sparing the purse of the taxpayers of this country. But, as in private life, there is no greater mistake, and nothing more unwise, than, after entering into a contract, to cavil with the conditions you have signed, so I think the time is too late for us now to do anything more than to regret the loss of that opportunity. Still I believe that by the development of the feeling of self-respect in the colonies, and by the prudent adroitness of the Colonial Minister at home, we may gradually arrive at a result more satisfactory to English taxpayers. Nevertheless, however that may be, the ties between the colonies and ourselves I am not prepared myself to sever. I look on our colonial empire as a great trust which has beep, delegated to us by Providence, and which is therefore full of moral as well as of political responsibility. I cannot, consequently, agree with the hon. Member for Rochdale; and even if the income tax were to be doubled, I could not agree with him in endeavouring to obtain relief on such terms as he proposes, because, whatever might be the pecuniary relief, the result would be detrimental to the character of our country. At the same time, let me remind the hon. Gentleman and the disciples of his school, who take advantage of a period of distress to remind us that Rome four millions a year are spent in maintaining our colonial empire, that it was maintained at that cost in the year 1858, when our expenditure was at least more than £7,000,000 below its present amount. It is not, therefore, the expenditure for our colonial empire which has brought us to this pass.
There is a third and final point of policy recommended by the hon. Gentleman. It is that we should resign our maritime belligerent rights, and thus, according to his view, secure peace, and effect a great reduction of the public expenditure. I cannot agree in principle with the hon. Gentleman. I cannot but regret the partial surrender of our maritime belligerent rights. I think the day will come, if it has not come already, when England will rue the consequences of the fatal signature of that paper. If we are to be extricated from those consequences, it can probably be only by passing through great convulsions. I am not inclined to speculate on the possibility of that dark future; but, for my own part, I can never sanction the 1428 downward course which the hon. Gentleman, no doubt with all sincerity, suggests. Between the policy of the noble Lord, of governing England avowedly by a cordial alliance with France, but really by a system of moral power, or rather moral terror, which seems to me directed mainly against France, and the scheme recommended by way of relief by the hon. Member for Rochdale—between those two policies so different in character, so contrary in principle, I think there is a course which reconciles all that is due alike to the greatness of our empire and to our fellow-subjects who are called upon from their resources to maintain that empire. It is a course which it is in the power of the House of Commons not only to encourage, but to enforce. Of this I am certain, it is by following a policy of conciliation, and not of an overbearing and dictatorial character, that we can alone preserve a friendly feeling with that Power, which believe is, from its interest, prepared to co-operate with us in that spirit, and afford substantial and permanent relief to the taxpayers of the country.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, there is no sight more interesting than to behold a gigantic frame which has long been in a state of lethargy suddenly rising into vigour and strength, especially when lethargicus nec fit pugil, and displaying all that power which nature and cultivation have combined to bestow upon him. Such is the display which we have had this evening from the right hon. Gentleman. When I found the right hon. Gentleman dilating on Italian affairs, I was at first disposed to think he was perhaps in the condition of the soldier who, having failed to let off his musket in the review, discharges it as he goes home, to the alarm of all who happen to be near. When the House was engaged on this subject, the right hon. Gentleman was, as he says, accidentally and momentarily absent, and thus the occasion, when his long exposition might have been given to the world with much effect, was lost. Still, it would have been a pity had the world been entirely deprived of a knowledge of his opinions, and therefore he has acted very properly, no doubt, in informing us, however tardily, of the views which he takes on this and other questions. As the right hon. Gentleman went on, it seemed to me that he was making such a statement as is usually expected from a person who 1429 has recently undertaken the responsibility of Government, and who has to explain to the public his general views on every feature of national policy. The only remark I shall make upon that statement is that it consisted of negation rather than affirmation. The right hon. Gentleman told us more of the things he disapproves than of the line of policy which he is prepared to follow. But, Sir, I assume from what we have heard that the quietude which has hitherto prevailed during the Session is likely soon to be disturbed, and that we may expect what is commonly called "a political crisis." The right hon. Gentleman very dexterously prepared the way for that event. He began by throwing out an alluring bait to the Roman Catholic Members; he held out encouraging expectations to the country gentlemen behind him. He then coquetted with the Reformers and the economists below the gangway on this side; but he certainly did not give much encouragement to us who sit here cm the Treasury bench. Nevertheless, I commend the discretional tact with which he distributed his allurements to the different quarters of the House. But, Sir, in the long interval during which the right hon. Gentleman has been maturing his views upon all these questions of national policy — finance, the army, the navy — and foreign and colonial policy, with respect to which he has taken such a wide view in the course of this evening, I think he has somewhat forgotten a few of the antecedents of himself and the party with whom he is acting. The right hon. Gentleman has descanted upon what he calls our "bloated armaments"—upon the impropriety of passing a time of peace in inventing "weapons of destruction." Well, Sir, I think, if I mistake not, that the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman is the leader in this House took great credit to themselves, in the person of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, for reconstructing the navy, and for thus increasing those "bloated armaments." If I mistake not, moreover, the right hon. and gallant Officer who presided over the War Department, with great success and great credit to himself, entertained this House for a considerable period by dwelling upon the merit of the Government in introducing and patronizing the new system of "weapons of destruction" which had been invented by Sir William Armstrong. I should therefore refer the right hon. Gen- 1430 tleman to his colleagues in justification of the present Government for having increased our naval means of defence, and for having also adopted those improvements in warfare which the progressive science of the country has developed. Well then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman objects to moral influence. What other influence he may wish this country to exercise he did not state. He objects to military power, he objects to naval power, he objects to moral power. It is difficult then to say what power we ought to exercise for the purpose of maintaining our proper position among the nations of the world. Then the right hon. Gentleman has discovered that we are in a state of perpetual hostility to the Government of France, with whom we profess to be in amicable alliance. Well, I conclude that the right hon. Gentleman has some sources of information which are not accessible to us, and that we are in a state of delusion as to our relations with our allies on the Continent. But I must take leave to deny utterly and entirely some of the statements which the right hon. Gentleman has made. The right hon. Gentleman says, "You profess to be co-operating with France, you ought to be co-operating with Franco—France and England are the only two Powers that can direct the affairs of the world. With France, he remarks, we may direct them as France chooses, for that after all is the result of his argument. If you choose to have no opinion of your own, but are willing upon every question to adopt the opinion of your ally, then you may dispense with your armaments—you will then have no bickerings, and there will be one uniform policy. But I am informed that you have some opinion of your own, and I think it is very wrong that England should have any such opinion." Such is the view of the right hon. Gentleman as to the course we ought to pursue in our relations with France. I much doubt its being in accordance with the feelings of the nation.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of America. Well, take the case of America. If ever there were transactions in which two great Powers who might have entertained different views have acted together with the most complete uniformity, with the most complete mutual understanding, with the most complete identity of policy and pursuits, I should say the transactions in America in which France and England have been concerned are such. There has 1431 been no—what the French call—"afterthought" on either part; there has been the most perfect frankness and openness of communication between the two Governments. And in spite of the assertions which the right hon. Gentleman has made—derived from what sources I know not—of intrigues and dissensions between the representatives of England and France in America, I say there never were two diplomatists who have acted with more harmony, frankness, and identity of policy and pursuits than Lord Lyons and M. Mercier have done under the instructions of their respective Governments. In fact, it is the unity of action of England and France that has given us that respect and influence which I am proud to say we possess in the councils of the American Government. It is this unity of action which has greatly tended to preserve those friendly relations which have existed between this country and America, and which have withstood a shock and crisis which might unfortunately have produced very different results. Everybody knows the manner in which the Emperor of the French stood forward when that question arose about the seizure of the passengers on board the Trent, when he avowed that he entertained the same opinions as to international law upon which we rested our demands. Nothing could have been more straightforward than the conduct of the Emperor on that occasion. Who can believe that he would have acted in that friendly spirit if there existed between the two Governments those secret hostilities and those louring rancours which the right hon. Gentleman has so falsely imputed?
Then the right hon. Gentleman has said that the same antagonism has prevailed between the Governments of England and France with respect to the affairs of Italy. Does the right hon. Gentleman speak from his own recollection of the feelings of the Government of which he was a Member, when first this Italian affair began to assume a striking aspect? Does he speak from a knowledge of the sentiments which the Government of the Earl of Derby entertained with reference to the possible rupture between France and Austria? I have no doubt he does; and though his memory may be treacherous with respect to the line of policy pursued by his own Government in regard to our army and navy, yet his impression of their policy with reference to Italy seems to have been 1432 so engraven on his mind that he imputes to us those feelings which were shared at that time by himself and his colleagues. Sir, when two great Powers are called upon to deliberate upon important events, it is impossible but that their opinions and sentiments should have some shades of difference, arising from their different positions and their different relations to the matter which may have been the subject of deliberation. The right hon. Gentleman has explained why the opinions, conduct, and views of France in regard to the affairs of Rome may and must be to a great degree different from those of England. England is a Protestant, France a Catholic Power. We look to the interests of the Italian nation; the French Government must look besides more or less to the questions connected with the religion which France professes. That circumstance, therefore, may account for some difference in the views which we and the French Government may take with regard to the occupation of Rome and the unity of Italy. The right hon. Gentleman says we have changed our opinions with respect to the unity of Italy. Well, Sir, all opinions must change with the course of events, and with the possibilities which the course of events may bring with it. As long as the King of Naples was in his own dominions, ruling over his subjects, and holding out prospects of internal reforms, we did not wish to encourage those who were anxious to invade his dominions and overthrow his dynasty by force of arms. But when the people spontaneously rose against him, when he fled from his capital to Gaeta, when his capital was seized by half-a-dozen gentlemen coming with Garibaldi in a railway carriage, even in the presence of 2,000 of his own troops, why, that I think was evidence so strong that the popular feeling of the Neapolitans was against his dynasty and for union with the rest of Italy, that it was impossible for us not to see that from that time the unity of Italy became an absolute necessity, and even a necessity which we should be blind indeed not to see was for the welfare and the advantage of the whole people of the peninsula. And most remarkable it is, that although the right hon. Gentleman dwelt, I know not how long, upon the question of Italian affairs, whether the Pope should retain what is called "temporal power"—that is to say, rule under the shadow of foreign bayonets, which he calls independence— (I hope the Sovereign of this country will 1433 never be independent in that sense)—although the affairs of Italy occupied a considerable portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I could not catch one single sentiment implying sympathy with the liberties, the prosperity, or the happiness of the people of that country. There was not one expression tending to show that the right hon. Gentleman felt the least interest in the liberties of the people of Italy, or in their emancipation from those tyrannical Governments under which they have for so long suffered. The right hon. Gentleman seemed entirely to limit his view of Italian policy to the question whether or not the Pope should remain at Rome or should go to Avignon, or to Austria. I must say that I think that is a very shortsighted view to be taken by the right hon. Gentleman, who, I presume from the manifesto which he has spoken to-night, is looking shortly to step upon the bench which we now occupy. We take a different view of the question. He taunts us with exercising moral power and moral influence. He says that it is tyrannical; that we irritate and exasperate all our allies by this powerful interference of moral power and influence. Why, Sir, what is moral power? It is simply the power of persuasion. It is simply the power which opinion exercises. Did we send an expedition to Italy? Did any of those "bloated armaments" of which the right hon. Gentleman now, for the first time, complains—did they go to determine the course of events in Italy? Did we drive the Austrians out of Lombardy? Did we dispossess the Grand Duke of Tuscany? Did we exile the Duke of Modena? Did we compel the Sicilians to join Garibaldi? Did we drive the King of Naples from Naples to Gaeta, and afterwards from Gaeta to Rome? We did none of these things—we took no active part in the struggle. It is true that the English Government said that they wished for the happiness, for the freedom, and for the liberation of the people of Italy; and, as far as the expression of those opinions may have had any influence upon the course of events, I, for one, feel proud of having had any share in producing those results; and I should have been ashamed of my countrymen if, when events of that importance and that high interest were going on in the south of Europe, Englishmen had been silent, Englishmen had had no feeling upon the subject, and had expressed no opinions, I no sympathy, no interest, and no wishes as 1434 to the results. Well, Sir, as to these "bloated armaments." Where was the right hon. Gentleman when the Army Estimates were voted—when the Navy Estimates were voted? How does he reconcile it with his sense of public duty, if he I really entertains these opinions, these exaggerated opinions which he has this evening expressed, how can he reconcile it with his sense of public duty as an economist, as a reformer, as a friend of the people, as a patron of hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, as a supporter of the Pope, as the mouthpiece of the Government of France—for I presume he has to-night been speaking not merely upon his own account, because he could not himself know all that he has told us, he must have heard some of it from others—how can he reconcile it with his sense of duty not to have stated these opinions when these "bloated armaments" were voted, when nobody on that side of the House had any knowledge of his sentiments because he must have kept them to himself, which is not what a leader usually does—how does he reconcile it with his sense of public duty that he did not make his protest against these enormous and inordinate military and naval establishments at the time that they were voted, apparently with his acquiescence, by the House? It is to me perfectly unintelligible. Talk of the French proverb of after dinner mustard; there was mustard enough in his speech, but it comes not only after dinner, but after dessert, quite out of time. Whether it was so intended, and whether the right hon. Gentleman meant to liberate his mind and to exonerate his conscience without at the same time doing any public mischief, I am at a loss to know. I must, in charity, believe that it was out of consideration for the public service that he deferred these criticisms upon our enormous military and naval establishments until they were fairly and safely voted by the House, and when therefore his observations could have no possible effect, at least upon the service of the year. Well, Sir, that was truly patriotic. Really, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that, whatever he may think, and whatever some hon. Members present may think, I am quite as sensible as he or they can be of the great necessity of practising real economy in the public expenditure. But economy does not consist merely in not spending money. Economy is a distributive virtue, and consists in proportioning 1435 your expenditure to the objects you want to attain, so as not to lay out money for that which is not really wanted and necessary, and to attain only those objects which are really desirable. That, I believe, is the proper definition of public economy.
The right hon. Gentleman says that the keystone of our policy ought to be alliance With France. I quite agree with him in that. That is the opinion which has of late years been entertained by all statesmen who have been fitted to take a share in the direction of the national affairs. But if you want to be upon terms of perfect friendship with a great neighbouring Power—a Power of great military and of great naval resources—if you want to preserve your independence, and, at the same time, your friendship with that Power, you can only accomplish that object by being perfectly prepared to defend yourself from attack. It is not necessary that you should expect attack. It is not at all a part of your policy that you should say, "I will only prepare myself for defence when I see an attack coming." It ought to be the constant position of a country that wants to maintain friendly relations with its neighbours, and to hold that position in the world which its importance and dignity require, not to be prepared for aggression, but to be constantly in a state of sufficient defence. The right hon. Gentleman himself admits that: but then he says your Militia, your Volunteers, and some ships in the Channel would be quite sufficient for that purpose. That is a question of degree, which we might have discussed with him if he had condescended to enter into the discussion at a time when it might have been attended with a practical result. But I say that the policy of the present Government is, and the policy of the Government to which he belonged was, not to prepare for aggression, but to organize such a system of defensive preparation that we might go into the concert of Europe either with France singly, or with other powers in addition, as a country standing upon its own defence— strong enough to defend itself against any who might attack it; and therefore not giving counsel out of fear, doing nothing out of apprehension, not yielding obedience from alarm at the consequences which might follow its refusal, but speaking freely, frankly, and openly, as men do who are sure that they incur no danger by the honest expression of their opinions. 1436 That is what I call holding your position in the councils of Europe. It is simply that you are free to declare without apprehension the policy which you may entertain, and that you need not fear that the expression of your opinions will be answered by the observation, "Hold your tongue; you know very well that if we choose to attack you you cannot resist us, and therefore what business have you to meddle with these matters? "We are strong, and you are weak. The thing shall go as we wish, and your opinions are just worth nothing at all."
But where are all these "bloated armaments," and what are they? We hate a military force in these Islands which is, I believe, equal to about one-sixth part of the military force which France has under arms, or available at a fortnight's notice. That does not appear to me to be a very "bloated" state of things. I think that it is rather a genteel and slight form compared with the larger dimensions of our well-fed neighbour. No one would for a moment suppose that our military force was one with which we contemplated invading France. Even the right hon. Gentleman, and those from whom he derives his information, could not well imagine that. One man cannot attack six. Well, then, it is evident that whether we have proportioned the means to our defence justly or not, and whatever may be the wants of the country, those means are simply intended for defence, and it is a question of degree and not a question of principle. Then, take our navy. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwhich (Sir John Pakington) took great credit, and justly, for having adopted that improvement, which at that time was the most recent, the application of steam as a propelling power to line-of-battle ships. He took great credit for having reconstructed the British navy; and not only did he do that, but he began to build iron ships— those formidable iron-plated ships which are to carry alarm and terror all over the seas. And, after all, in these iron ships France is ahead of us. France has more iron ships afloat than we have; she has more iron ships building than we have; and therefore it seems to me a total perversion of words to talk of our navy as a bloated service compared with the services of other countries. The right hon. Gentleman contends that we are not likely to have war with a Power like France, with which we are on terms, of real and sincere 1437 friendship; that commercial interests, especially those created by that most fortunate treaty, which was so freely criticised a couple of years ago, must tend to render war impossible. The right hon. Gentleman ought to remember that during the administration of Sir Robert Peel, when we were on the most friendly footing with the French Government of that day, and when King Louis Philippe was perpetually boasting of the entente cordiale between the two countries, there did arise suddenly by the act of an officer in a remote part of the globe, a question which if it had not been very discreetly handled by the Government of the day in England, and also with a friendly feeling on the part of the Government of France, must have led to a sudden rupture between the two countries. No doubt, national interests created by commerce are a great link between two countries; but that link is not strong enough to resist the strain of national passions; and when anything happens which suddenly enlists those passions and the national feeling or dignity of two countries one against the other, it is very difficult for the Governments of those countries to prevent the rupture which they are both desirous to avoid. Well, I say we ought to be prepared for events of that kind. Look to what occurred the other day. There are no two countries in the world, perhaps, with such strong ties of commercial interest as England and the United States. It was almost thought impossible that anything could sever their connection. We have reason to believe, and justly, that the feelings of the citizens of the United States were most friendly towards England and everything English, but suddenly there came that question of the seizure of persons on board the Trent. Here was a point of honour and of national feeling. A flame was instantly roused throughout the United States, and a corresponding feeling of indignation was excited in this country. If it had not been for the temper, good sense, and conciliatory disposition on the part of both Governments, it is difficult to say what might not have grown out of such an occurrence. But Governments, however they may be disposed to maintain friendly relations, are always at the mercy of any headstrong officer in any distant part of the world. That must be borne in mind; and I say again, that a Government, if it wishes the nation that honours it by its confidence to be in a state of real inde- 1438 pendence, ought not to take an aggressive attitude—ought not to arm with a view to attack anybody, but, according to the circumstances of the time, ought always to recommend the country to place itself in a state of defence, so as not to be at the mercy of any other Power with whom complications might arise suddenly and without warning. That, then, is our view. Our relations with France are as cordial and as friendly as it is possible for the relations between the two countries to be. I utterly and entirely deny every word that the right hon. Gentleman has said as to hostility, bickering, and quarrels between the two Governments. Whence he gets his information I cannot, of course, presume to say, but I advise him to receive with great distrust any information he may receive from the same quarter again. I say, then, that the amount of your naval and military expenditure is a question entirely dependent on the time and circumstances.
Exception has been taken to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this is an exceptional year. But are there no circumstances belonging to this year which are not in the ordinary course of events? Have we not still remnants of the charges for the expedition to China and for the war in New Zealand? Have we not still to pay expenses incurred in connection with the apprehended collision with the United States? Are we not engaged in operations—not upon a great scale certainly, but still requiring a certain force— upon the coast of Mexico, in concert with the French and Spaniards? All these are things which do not form part of the ordinary course of national policy, and which may be fairly deemed circumstances rendering the present year exceptional. But, supposing they had not occurred, I maintain that the very fact of the great war which has broken out between North and South in the United States would, of itself, have made the present an exceptional year. Because it was quite clear from the begining that circumstances might arise suddenly, and without any possibility of foreseeing them—questions of maritime right and connected with maritime blockade —which might lead to the most serious complications between us and the Northern States. Therefore it was necessary that we should be in a condition of defensive strength. I say, that if there had been no Chinese war—if there had been no New 1439 Zealand war—if there had been no Mexican war—if there had been no Trent question, I say that the fact of that disruption between the two parts of the American Union itself was a reason why we should consider the year an exceptional year with regard to our naval and military expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman says, "What nonsense it is to say, that because two Powers go to war, other Powers not engaged in that war should put themselves in a state of greater defence than usual." But, as it happens, that absurdity is an absurdity practised by all nations. Whenever two countries go to war, any nation whose interests may be by possibility injured by one of the belligerents places itself in a condition of unusual defence with regard to the belligerents. If two Continental Powers engage in war, the neutral whose boundaries are conterminous instantly places its military force on its own frontiers. If the war be a naval one, the neutral immediately prepares itself to resent any infringement of its neutral rights. These are measures in accordance with the dictates of common prudence and common sense, practised by all nations under circumstances of a similar character. I quite concur with the right hon. Gentleman, and those who think with him, that economy in the public service is the duty of the Government and of Parliament, and the natural wish and interest of the country. But the application of that word to the particular service of a particular year must depend on the circumstances of that year. The right hon. Gentleman has announced that he intends, before the end of the Session, to call on the House to repudiate all the votes that have been given by his hon. and right hon. Friends when the Estimates for the services of the year were proposed. I humbly think he had better reserve any Motion he has to make on that subject until the ensuing year, when we shall have to propose—at least, unless it be his task to do it—the Estimates for the ensuing year. Both he and the House will then, I think, be in a better condition to judge whether the amount of the military and naval estimates which we shall feel it our duty to propose, if we be permitted to remain on these benches, will or will not be adequate to the circumstances of the then existing time. I think he will not easily induce the House to rescind the votes passed so short a time ago, founded on what we considered 1440 to be the necessities of the case, and sanctioned by the various approvals of Gentlemen not only on this side of the House, but of those who sit on his own side as well. With regard to the foreign policy of the Government, which, more than any other matter seems to have been the subject of the right hon. Gentleman's lucubrations, I need not say that I regret his Italian views were not stated at the time that question was before the House. Our policy is simple and plain. We cultivate friendship with every foreign Power that is disposed to cultivate friendly relations with us. I am happy to say that I believe there is no Power in Europe with whom we are not at present on the most friendly terms. We may agree, more or less, with one or other; there must be and there are, no doubt, questions connected with the affairs of Europe upon which our opinions of what is most to be desired may not accord with the opinions of Powers more immediately concerned. We take no active part in these matters, but we have a right to express our opinion. I presume a country like Great Britain is not to be debarred from having an opinion on matters of that sort. And if the Government and the country have an opinion, I think no man will pretend that they ought to be prevented from expressing it. My belief is, that the opinions we entertain and have expressed on the different questions now pending in Europe are in unison with the feelings of the country, with those generous sentiments and that attachment to freedom and constitutional government which are so peculiarly characteristic of the people of this kingdom. And, that being the case, I was certainly surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who evidently is preparing to be Member of some new Administration, should have given utterance to sentiments in the course of his speech this evening so antagonistic to the feelings of the country, merely, as it seems to me because he felt that they were at variance with the opinions of the Government to which he is opposed.
said, it was with some hesitation that he rose to speak after the noble Lord at the head of the Government; but he considered that the question was one upon which some independent Member on the back Opposition benches, and who, consequently, was not under that restriction which attached to the front benches, as containing expectants 1441 of office, should express his opinion. The noble Lord taunted that side of the House because they objected to certain principles which had been adopted by the Government, and he had stated his fear lest the unanimity which characterized the commencement of the Session should cease. He (Colonel Dickson) considered that as a most unjustifiable taunt, as it was the general understanding that the Session should be passed through in the most amicable manner. His opinion was, that they ought to endeavour to have good relations with every foreign Power, and at the same time to be in such a state of defence as that they need not fear the hostility of any other nation. But, while holding that opinion, he concurred with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire in thinking that our armaments were "bloated." They were far beyond the requirements of the day, while our position was such that it was wholly unnecessary to maintain a larger force than was sufficient to support the honour and dignity of the country. The noble Viscount had taunted the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty for having first undertaken the great work of the reconstruction of the fleet, but there was a difference between putting it into a good condition and carrying it further. On the one hand, they were told that the reason for the increase of those armaments was that they ought to be prepared to be on equal terms with foreign nations; while, on the other, they were informed that they derived great advantages from their alliance with France. He believed the proper course was to cultivate peace with all foreign nations, and with France among the rest; but not with France more than others. But they should be fully prepared against any contingency that might arise. He could not, however, see the necessity for incurring the vast expenses to which they were now pledging themselves. As regarded the United States, there had scarcely been a year within the last quarter of a century in which there had not been some uneasiness in our relations with them, and the same might be said in a different degree of other foreign relations. They were told that they must consent to this expenditure in order to keep up their moral influence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had controverted the idea that the present was an exceptional year; but the noble Lord opposite had 1442 said this was an exceptional year on account of the war with China. But he would ask how many years had there been of late when they were not in a state of hostility with that country? Why, hardly a year. If, then, the expenditure was too great, were not the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government responsible for that state of things? What was the use of the Chancellor of the Exchequer "starring" it through the country, and making speeches calculated to procure a certain amount of support for the Government, if he was not prepared to reduce the national expenditure in accordance with his declarations in the provinces? The noble Lord at the head of the Government had remarked that his foreign policy was in unison with the feelings of the people of this country; but the tone of the noble Lord's speech indicated that he felt his Government had not the general approbation of the country, and that their policy must call down on them that retribution which evidently he anticipated. The noble Lord had insinuated that the Conservatives wished to supplant him and his Government, and take their places on the Treasury bench. The experience of this Session and the last proved, that if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire and his friends wished to change places with the present Cabinet, I they might have taken an opportunity of I giving effect to that desire. The noble Lord had no complaint to make against the Conservative party; but they had reason to complain that on every possible I occasion Members of the present Government endeavoured to impress upon the country that there was going forward among the Conservative party in that House a movement that would lead to a f policy favourable to what was called "Popery." It was most unwarrantable to throw out such accusations against that side of the House. They were told that the policy of the Government was the policy of the people of England. He held that the true policy of the country was to endeavour, while abstaining from undue intervention, to promote as far as they properly might by moral influence those principles of which England was known throughout the world to be the assertor. They were informed that the policy of the noble Lord had been consistent. At all events the noble Lord had supported Garibaldi; and if it had not been for the influence exerted by the British ships of 1443 war in those waters, he doubted whether Garibaldi's expedition would have succeeded. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had shown that the finances of the country had been shamefully mismanaged; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with all his ingenuity and his unlimited command of language, had failed to disprove the assertion. It has been said, and truly said, that the House should be anxious for the happiness and prosperity of Italy, but they should be more anxious for the happiness and prosperity of England, and that anxiety would best be shown by a reduction of expenditure and a consequent reduction of taxation.
said, he had heard with pleasure, but with surprise, the statement of the noble Viscount that we were on the most friendly and cordial relations with all the Powers of Europe and especially with France. That was an extraordinary assertion, because for the last twelve months the noble Viscount had been shaking his fist at France and had called upon Parliament to vote money to provide against the danger that threatened us on the side of France. The noble Viscount had claimed the support of the country on the ground of his foreign policy. To him it seemed a most dangerous policy both as regarded Italy and America; and, if he did not take care, his policy would lead the country into trouble. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: Hear, hear! and laughter.] Was the Italian policy of the Government in harmony with that of Trance, or was the noble Viscount's speech on the Italian question a few days ago likely to conciliate France? He did not think it was. For was the policy of England in regard to America any more in agreement with that of France than their Italian policy.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he wished, before the debate closed, to make a few observations, with a view of drawing some closer distinction between the physical support and the moral influence which might be given to another country engaged in war, or in prospect of war. He supposed he might presume that the noble Lord was in Parliament in 1821, and that he then held office in the Government of Lord Liverpool. He (Mr. Whiteside) believed that the noble Lord was then Secretary for War, and possessed then the same vigour and ability for which he was now so remarkable. Those who served the coun- 1444 try at that time knew both how to conquer gloriously and to make peace honourably. About that time a civil war broke out in Naples, the King was coerced to adopt what was called the Spanish constitution; no one knew what that was, but it was declared to be the constitution of Naples. Austria proposed to interfere, however, and restore the former state of things. The Whigs of that day, led by Sir James Mackintosh, made a Motion in that House to consider on what principles the foreign policy of England should be conducted, and whether a generous zeal for the oppressed who had risen to shake off the yoke from which they suffered did not impose a duty upon this country to interfere. Some of the greatest Whig orators of the day were the speakers on the one side. On the other side were Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Canning, and Lord Liverpool. A division took place, and in the majority he found the name of a young and promising statesman, who was then laying deep the foundation of that political wisdom which enabled him afterwards to aspire to the Government of the country—the noble Lord who now occupied that post. In the course of that debate Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Canning said their foreign policy was non-intervention—that although this country had been the ally of Austria and of Russia, they did not agree with the foreign policy of those countries, and did not approve of their interfering with the domestic affairs of other nations. They did not approve of the Spanish constitution; but if the people of Naples chose to have that constitution, provided they made no aggression on other foreign States, let them have it. When Sir James Mackintosh was beaten in his original Motion, he and the clever men on that side adopted the very argument which the noble Viscount had just used. They said, "We do not mean to go to war, but we call upon you to use your moral influence as a Government in favour of oppressed nationalities." The noble Lord might say, that although he served with Lord Castlereagh he was not now bound by his opinions. There was not a more brilliant speech in the record of Parliamentary history than that of Mr. Canning on the occasion referred to. He declared that policy to be cowardly and contemptible; that the moral sympathy which an individual might express in favour of revolution might be a proper thing; but that if a Minister of England 1445 expressed the sense of his Government in favour of it, he must issue a remonstrance; and if it was not attended to, he must declare war. He further stated that if there was anything cowardly, it was in giving moral support in such cases as those of Poland or Naples in the hour of danger, and then allowing them to be trampled under foot. That was the opinion of the distinguished individuals under whom the noble Viscount served. As some men grew older they grew wiser. Others might reject the opinions which they held in the vigour of manhood, and adopt opinions not so wise and not so expedient. He ventured to think, that if the noble Viscount would look back to the opinions of his old friends, he would reassume the opinions of his youth, and become a wiser and a safer Minister.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
could not allow the question, to be put from the Chair without stating his opposition to the principles contained in the Bill. If his objections had related to matters of detail, he should have reserved his remarks until the Bill was in Committee. He was not inclined to enter into any discussion on the subject of foreign policy, which had taken the House by surprise. But he must say, that whilst he had listened to the admirable speech of the noble Viscount, which was characterized by his usual tone and temper, he could not help alluding to one perversion of the speech which had fallen from his right hon. Friend. The words "bloated armaments" had been used. Now, he did not believe there were ten men in the House who would not say that the armaments of France and England were deserving of that appellation. They were beyond all that common sense justified. His right hon. Friend had attributed the extent of our armaments to necessity, but expressed his belief that it was the policy pursued by the Government which had rendered those bloated armaments, both on the part of England and that of France, a necessity. He (Sir W. Jolliffe) therefore had thought it necessary to notice what he considered a misapprehension on the part of the noble Viscount, What he had risen principally to object to was the policy or principle contained in the Bill, of tampering, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to do, with that 1446 great arm of our defence the income tax. His right hon. Friend had expatiated on the great use of that particular arm in case of need; and if his right hon. Friend had used strong expressions as to the value of that means of offence and defence, equally strong terms had been used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had stated that England by means of that tax possessed an arm superior to fleets and armies. It was with the view of keeping that arm in an efficient state that he objected to the manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was constantly tampering with the tax. The whole principle on which the tax was to be levied was changed. Two years ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced a system of quarterly payments, and now, whether a man got his income regularly or not, the tax-gatherer was constantly at his door. He had, on a former occasion, called the attention of the House to the hardship on the owners of tithe rent-charge, many of whom. were in needy circumstances. They did not receive their tithe rent more than twice a year, and yet they were applied to quarterly for the tax. All trades and professions were subjected to the quarterly tax, whilst companies escaped. The national creditor paid only when he received his dividend. The private banker was called upon to pay quarterly, whilst the shareholder in the joint-stock bank was not required to do so. These changes and inequalities made the tax more and more unpopular, and it was on the ground that the country might be deprived of one of the best means of defence that he opposed the preamble of the Bill.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he could not but express his surprise that hon. Gentlemen below the gangway—men calling themselves Liberals—should support the policy of the Emperor of the French, who had fixed his fangs in the throat of Italy. The policy of France was rather a beacon to be avoided than an example to be emulated in cases of intervention in foreign countries.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Monday next.