§ LORD BEAUMONT
said: I rise pursuant to the notice I gave, for the purpose of 913 moving that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the peculiar burdens on real property, and the impediments to agricultural transactions caused by the present system of excise duties, poor laws, and local taxation. Although I am given to understand, that it is no longer the intention of Government to oppose this Motion, I feel that the House will expect that I should make some statement of my motives for selecting the present moment to submit so important a Motion to your Lordships, as well as some explanation of the grounds on which those with whom I generally act, have hitherto opposed similar Motions when brought forward by others. In stating my own motives, I believe I shall state the motives that influenced the conduct of those other noble Lords who are the friends of the principle of protection, and acted as I did when the question of peculiar burdens was mooted. I hold that protection to agriculture and peculiar burdens on land are so intimately connected, that you cannot entertain either of them as a separate question. You must consider them conjointly, and you can only look on this joint subject in one of the two following points of view; namely, the continuation of both, or the removal of both. You cannot retain the one, and dismiss the other; or, in other words, advocate free trade in corn, without contemplating an equalization of taxation. In support of this opinion I can quote high authorities—Mr. Ricardo and Mr. M'Culloch were of this opinion; and, if I mistake not, my noble and learned Friend near me (Lord Brougham), in the year 1820, made a similar declaration, and then at least maintained that not only were there peculiar burdens on land, but that those peculiar burdens, as long as they remained, demanded a countervailing duty on the importation of foreign corn. Now, if the choice were fairly offered me, which of the alternatives I would prefer, I should not for a moment hesitate, but instantly declare for the continuation of both burdens and protection, instead of the removal of both. I should make this choice on general motives of great national advantages, economical considerations, and principles of justice towards some of our Colonies. I believe, that a duty on foreign corn, as a balance to the imposition of peculiar burdens, is the most economical bargain that the community at large can strike with the agriculturists. A certain sum of money is required for purposes of general policy, in which the whole community are equally interested; and it is 914 to the advantage of all classes that the country should make an agreement with the landed interest, that they should pay this sum, on condition that in return they should be allowed a countervailing duty on the importation of foreign corn. The motives of national policy on which I would make the choice, are, the conviction that it would tend to render this country more independent of foreign States, and the belief that protection materially assists the growth of native manufactures, and extends the field of domestic industry. The colonial considerations which would influence my choice, would be the power we should then have to favour Canada and other settlements, by admitting their produce at a lower duty than grain the produce of foreign soils; and the hope to extend by such means the intercourse and goodwill between the Colonies and the parent country. Such are my motives for preferring a continuation of the present system; but unfortunately there seems no longer much chance of the choice being any longer submitted to us; and I must confess it is in anticipation of the probability of all protection being permanently removed, that I make the present Motion. My Motion is rather the consequence and natural sequel to a repeal of the Corn Laws, than a distinct or obstructive measure; for had I not contemplated the possibility of an early adoption of the Government proposal, I should never have thought of bringing forward the present subject. My object therefore is not delay, for I hold that a Committee on the peculiar burdens on land, would rather facilitate the consideration of the great question of protection, than tend to place difficulties or delay in the way of it. Having made these preliminary remarks, I will proceed with as much brevity as the subject will admit of, to state my views with regard to the main objects the Committee will have to take into their consideration. I find in the Report of the Poor Law Commissisoners on Local Taxation, twenty-four distinct rates enumerated; but those rates are merely classed as to the mode of raising them. Ten are raised on the basis of the poor rate, eight are raised on the same basis in practice but not in law; and six are raised on independent bases. From experience, however, I will state, that the whole of these various rates for various purposes are raised in the same manner as the poor rate, and, whatever the law may be, affect in practice real property alone. I wish, before I proceed further 915 with the subject, to adopt a new principle of classification, and make a distinction between those rates which are raised for purely local purposes, and those which have a general interest. I wish to draw a line between rates which are for objects which merely advantage those from whom they are levied, or those who live in their immediate vicinity, and such rates or taxes as are applied to general purposes, which equally affect every member of the community. By the former I mean such rates as the drainage taxes, the general sewers rate, the rural police rate, and the like, which, although very heavy in certain districts, ought to be borne exclusively by those for whose advantage the sums raised are applied. I should no more think of removing these burdens from off the shoulders of those who now pay them, than I should think of relieving the inhabitants of towns from those taxes which bore exclusively on their peculiar interest, and which they only could have any great object in maintaining. In other words, I should no more think of relieving the lands in the Bedford Level, or the marsh lands of the East Riding of Yorkshire, from their drainage taxes, than I should of relieving the inhabitants of towns from their paving, lighting, and watering rates. The objects are local, and so ought the purpose of the rate to be. What is it to the farmer in the marsh lands I have alluded to, that Exeter or Bristol are well lighted and paved? To neither of these classes of taxes—namely, the drainage rates in counties, and the paving, lighting, and watering rates in towns, will my subsequent remarks apply. My wish is, to draw attention merely to such taxes as are for general purposes, although they are levied on real property alone. Now, I hold that the maintenance of the poor, the defence of the country, and the administration of justice, are objects which equally interest all. I will not wrong the fundholder, nor will I wrong the manufacturer, nor him whose capital is embarked in mines, so far as to say that they have less bowels of compassion than the landholder or the possessor of houses. The maintenance of the poor is, and ought to be, an object alike dear and interesting to all: it is a national object, and not the peculiar interest of the holders of a peculiar sort of property; and all ought to contribute to it, as all are equally interested in it. The defence of the country is also a great national object; and if the militia is called out, it is not only to protect land and 916 houses, but to protect all capital, whether vested in manufactures or commerce, in town or in the country. The militia rate, therefore, like the poor's rate, is raised for a general object. So with the administration of justice. The prevention of crime, the preservation of life and property, and the punishment of those who destroy either, are effects proceeding from the due administration of justice, which equally benefit the possessor of personal property as the landowner or house proprietor. If, therefore, in going through the four-and-twenty rates enumerated by the Poor Law Commissioners, I find any for the abovenamed purposes, I set them down as taxes for general purposes; and, as such, I consider that they ought to be equally borne by all classes of the community. Now, let the House consider how the poor rate and all taxes raised on the same basis affect the landowner, as compared with the possessor of all other kinds of property. The original intention of the Poor Law was not that real property alone should pay the whole of the poor rate: according to the Act of Elizabeth, every man was to be rated according to his ability to pay; but, first, because there was little but real property in the country, and next, because there was a difficulty in ascertaining the exact means of the ratepayer, the practice grew up of rating visible property alone; this practice of rating real property alone was long established before the annual Acts were passed which make the practice law. Compare, now, the working of this law as it operates on the agriculturist, and the manufacturer who embarks his capital in a mill. The capitalist would contribute to the poor rate only according to the rateable value of his mill and premises; the mill is rated as a building at its letable value: but even here a scale is adopted which is favourable to the millowner as compared with the farmer; for in many comities (Westmoreland, for instance), land is rated at the rack-rent, houses at two-thirds, and mills at only one-half. This great capitalist would collect from agricultural districts, far and near, the most able and healthy workmen he could find; and while they were strong and active, he would derive profit from the work of their arms; but when sickness came on, or trade grew slack, he could dismiss his artisans, and leave them to be supported by the parishes from which he had taken them. If he made his fortune and wished to retire, he could close his mill, pay no rates at all on it as an unoccupied building, 917 and throw back on the land the hundreds or thousands whom his mill had attracted from agricultural industry. Contrast this with the position of the farmer, and observe the different way in which the same law operates on different classes. The farmer has no choice: he must either employ the superabundant labourers in his parish, or pay for their maintenance in the shape of rates. He cannot increase or diminish the number of his workmen, as the work to be done on his occupation rises or falls in amount, without being subject to the countervailing operation of increased or diminished rates. In other words, he is mulcted to the amount of the labourers he discharges; and the consequence is, that in must parts of England, the farmers employ on their land, and keep in their pay, a great many more hands than the strict economical working of the farm absolutely requires. Thus the amount of actual rate paid by the farmer does not correctly represent the full amount of his contribution to the maintenance of the poor. I do not object to the mode generally adopted in respect to the relative rating of land or houses; but as some strange conclusions have been drawn from the statements made by the Poor Law Commissioners in regard of the subject, I will trouble the House with a few observations on the question. In the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners, it appears that in 1826, land paid in the proportion of 69 per cent. to the rates, houses in the proportion of 26 per cent., and other property 5 per cent.; whereas in the year 1841, land paid 52 per cent., houses 37 per cent., and all other property 11 per cent. From this statement it has been argued that land had gained an undue advantage, and houses suffered an unfair injury, because the per centage paid by land had diminished, and the per centage paid by houses increased, in their relative proportions to the gross amount of contribution. There could not, however, be a more feeble argument, or a more absurd conclusion; for any man with his eyes open must perceive that such a consequence must be the inevitable result of the unprecedented increase of the number of houses, and the necessary decrease in the quantity of field-land. Every town and village that springs up, every railway and mill that is made, diminishes, to the amount of the ground they occupy, the quantity of land rated as such, and adds to the number of houses and other buildings in the rate-book. At Newcastle a whole parish has 918 been recently covered with houses; some persons remember Brighton a fishing village; in every direction, fields are disappearing, and towns, or quarters of towns, extending. It must be observed, however, that houses are generally rated at one-third less than land. Of this, however, I do not complain, for houses are perishable property, while land remains for ever; but let the free traders take care how they use this argument on the present occasion, lest I use it with double force on the other and approaching occasion; for if they use it against land, and in favour of houses and mills, I will apply it, on a coming day, when I will ask you, if perishable property requires favour and protection, what more perishable, and, therefore, what more deserving of protection, than that great article of food which depends upon clime and season, which may be damaged in the seed or blighted in the leaf, which the thunder-storm of an hour may lay, or the frost of night cause to wither, destroying, in the course of one short day, the toil of many laborious months? It is well for me to talk of perishable property requiring special favours; but let the free trader beware how he uses it. I will now proceed to another, and what I consider the most objectionable, portion of the laws regarding the poor, I mean the Law of Settlement. I condemn that law altogether; for it is not only injurious in the extreme to the agricultural body, but it affords no corresponding benefit to the manufacturer. It is the cause of expense to the ratepayer, and the cause of annoyance to the pauper. In times of manufacturing prosperity artisans crowd to the great scenes of industry: a sudden check comes in the demand for goods (a glut in the market, or a sudden fall of price); the manufacturer can no longer afford to employ so many hands; workmen are thrown out of employment; many require relief; then begins the odious working of the law of settlement—removals, appeals, long investigations and disputes between parish and parish, during which hundreds of artisans are sent back to distant and rural districts, where they become a heavy charge on the land, and where there is no demand for the peculiar skill they have learned. After a short time, trade again revives; the manufacturers are in want of hands; the towns having removed the poor that did not belong to them, cannot supply them; the manufacturer is at once short of hands, and obliged to pay high wages; while hundreds 919 of artisans are chargeable in distant districts, each saying, "I know there is work to be had in Norwich or in Birmingham; but here I am at a distance (perhaps in Northumberland or Devonshire), and have no means of reconveying myself to the market where labour is again in demand. I do not want to remain idle, but your law of settlement removed me to this out-of-the-way parish when I was in distress; and here I must for ever remain a charge on the country, because I have no money to find my way back to the town where the skill I have acquired is likely to find employment." The artisan knows nothing of rural occupations, and is a dead burden to the farmer. My Lords, you may rely upon it, if you adopt free trade principles in the labour market, your first step must be to destroy the law of settlement altogether, and let the farmer hire, and the labourer seek, work in whatever market they please. You now shackle their movements, and confine their choice. The labourers are as much bondsmen to the parish as the serfs in Russia are slaves to the property. The forced migration caused by the law of removal prevents the poor from selling their labour in the dearest market, by entailing on them the expense of a journey back to the scene of their former industry. The noble Lord continued by saying that he trusted they were approaching to the end of this system, and that instead of the present law of settlement, there would be a common fund, out of which the poor man might be relieved, in whatever place he was, and thus get rid of the enormous costs of removals, appeals, trials, examinations, and the dragging of poor people and their relations from one place to another merely to prove a settlement. He had alluded to this subject, because there was reported to be an intention on the part of Government to offer as compensation to the agricultural community for the repeal of the Corn Laws an alteration in the law of settlement. Now, if that alteration were carried out on the principle of Sir James Graham's Bill of last year, it would be a total failure, when attempted to be put in practice; and he feared that if the Corn Laws were first repealed, the measure of the right hon. Baronet would be adopted. Making birth a means of obtaining settlement would lead to enormous cruelty, in forcing females likely to give birth to children, out of one parish into another, in order that their offspring might not fall to the parish from which the 920 parents were driven; and making residence in towns for so many years a settlement would be found impracticable, and too heavy a burden on the owners of property in those towns. That measure, therefore, was no compensation whatever for the repeal of the Corn Laws. The only remedy was to get rid altogether of the law of settlement. He next came to the Highways' rate. The highways, he maintained, were for the benefit of the towns as much as of the country through which they passed; he knew, from personal experience, that the two towns at the termini of a high road were the only places to which they were of much use; they were of very little use to the intervening country. He considered, therefore, that the highway rate was a tax for general purposes. He would next allude to another subject—Tithes—which he did not consider as a burden on the cultivation of the land. He was aware that he differed from many noble Lords on this subject; and he wished to explain what he meant when he said that tithes were not a burden on the land, because he might hereafter be erroneously quoted. Previously to the commutation, tithe seriously interfered with the cultivation of land. It made some persons adopt one system of crops instead of another, and it made others not to lay out so much upon their land as they otherwise would, because they did not like that any portion of their outlay and ingenuity should be paid to another person. But from the moment tithes were commuted, they no longer interfered with the agricultural cultivation of the land. They became merely a debt upon the property. The produce of the soil brought the same in the market now to the occupier in every way as if there were no tithe upon the land. In fact they merely diminished the value of the fee-simple of the land. He must go a little further. He looked upon the land tax and tithes just like mortgages and any other charge upon property which did not interfere with agricultural cultivation. He did not consider them as peculiar burdens on the occupiers; and he viewed them in the same light as the direct taxation of land in France. The direct taxation on land there diminished the value of the land when you had to sell it, but it did not interfere with the agricultural cultivation. He would allude next to the latter part of his Motion, and refer to the malt tax. He knew that this tax was not supposed to be a peculiar burden on land; but that opinion he main- 921 tained to be erroneous. Who paid the chief of the malt tax? The consumers of beer. All the community were upon an equality in this respect, for all were consumers: therefore that portion of it which was paid by the consumer must be considered as equally weighing upon the agriculturist as upon all other classes that drank beer. But that was not all. The duty naturally diminished the consumption, and the farmer suffered in proportion to the diminished demand for barley. In addition, therefore, to the portion which he, in common with the rest of the beer-drinking community, bore of the burden, he had the peculiar loss which the duty caused by the restriction put upon the market of this kind of grain. His loss was exactly the difference there would be in the quantity of barley required without a malt tax, and the quantity now consumed with a malt duty. In many soils the farmer could, with advantage to himself, introduce barley in the rotation of crops, instead of exhausting the land by a wheat crop; but the malt duty kept down the demand for the best qualities, and rendered the seconds totally unproductive; because, if he attempted to malt the inferior barleys, for fattening purposes, and thus turn them to good account on the farm itself, the exciseman stept in, and a heavy penalty was inflicted for turning to useful purposes the produce of his own labour. In fact, by not allowing the farmer to use his barley as he liked, you placed him in the same position as you would place a manufacturer if you told him "you may manufacture cloth, but you must not wear a coat made of it." This prohibition, under fine, to use his barley, and the diminished demand for malt caused by the duty, were the peculiar burdens the land sustained in consequence of the tax. There was another excise duty, the repeal of which would be a benefit to all classes, especially to the owners of real property—he meant the excise upon bricks. It fell heavy on the possessors of town lands, and added greatly to the expense of cottages and farm repairs; and he need hardly add it caused a great loss to the proprietor whose lands contained clay particularly suited to the making of bricks. There was another excise duty which also might be considered as a peculiar burden on land, namely, the excise on hops: it was of small amount; but where it was felt it was very oppressive. Having now alluded to some of those burdens to which the land alone was subject, he would ask to what 922 portion of the general taxation of the country did not the landowners contribute in the same proportion as all other classes of Her Majesty's subjects? Did they not contribute to the Customs the same as any other consumer? Did they not pay to the revenue of the Post-office? Were they not also taxed to the income and property tax? Did they not pay stamp duty? If he might claim the attention of his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, he would say that perhaps the agricultural interest had as much reason to complain of the department over which the learned Lord presided, as of any other office in the Government. In all the law reforms which the noble Lord had brought forward lately, care was taken to preserve the same liabilities to the stamp duties and legal expenses in respect to the transactions regarding real property, as existed previous to the so-called improvement in the law. When the Bill of Lease and Release was before them, the duty was carefully maintained at the same amount, so that a double duty was now paid on the single instrument. The transfers of mortgages, the transfers of land, the title-deeds, in fact every step in proceedings respecting the settlement or management of landed property, were enormously expensive and oppressive, in consequence of the clumsy laws and high duties respecting them. An attempt had been made to alter the law touching the transfer of real property; but only increased confusion followed, and the result was that on the purchase of the smallest quantities of land your attorney continues to hand you in a bill of three or four pages for the cost of the most simple transaction. What had been done for the due registration of deeds? In no country in Europe was less convenience and facility afforded for the purshasing of land, or the transfering of mortgages; and when he compared the difficulties in this country with the facilities in France, he must denounce our system in this respect as a blot and a stain on the Legislature. His noble Friend had added, or intended to add, by way of Amendment to the present Motion, an instruction to the Committee to inquire into the exemptions to taxation afforded by the Legislature to landed property. He (Lord Beaumont) had no objections to the Amendment. He thought the number of exemptions from the taxes imposed on other parties very small; it was almost confined to the legacy and probate duty. That was evidently a case in point: personal pro- 923 perty had a right to complain of the inquality of the tax, and the sooner the law was revised the better. Certain articles also of an agricultural nature—dead stock, were exempt from the duty on insurance; but those articles were from their very nature constantly exposed to injury, and the insurance on them was consequently high. A painful circumstance had also increased enormously the risk and danger agricultural stock was exposed to; and it was in consequence of that additional risk that the difficulty of insuring the property arose. I allude (the noble Lord continued) with pain and regret to the violent and exciting language addressed to the labouring population by the emissaries of an agitating club, and although I am certain their employers would not authorize such language as their hired orators adopted; and though I would fain believe that the speakers themselves were ignorant of the consequence of their declamation, I cannot conceal from myself the positive fact, that destruction to exposed agricultural property has often followed close on the public meetings where such violent language has been used. I have no objection to strong language in debate; I am not very sensitive when hard names are showered down on the heads of landlords and farmers; I, perhaps, sometimes myself employ expressions which can scarcely be called very mild; but when words are uttered tending to excite a passion for revenge and destruction in the minds of an ignorant audience, I think I can scarcely be too loud in condemning such an abuse of the right to discuss a great public question. Returning to the subject before the House (the noble Lord continued by saying), he had heard of certain intended measures being put forward by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, as a compensation to the land for the repeal of the Corn Laws. Now, he (Lord Beaumont) contended that the proposed measures could, under no circumstances, be considered as a compensation; and even if a real compensation were thought of, how could they overcome the difficulty of exactly estimating the amount of the loss, on the one hand, to which the compensation, on the other, must be adjusted? The exact amount of protection about to be taken away, was the precise difference between the price a farmer would receive for his produce under a free-trade system, and that he received under a protecting law. The loss thus estimated was to regulate the diminution of taxation; but 924 the most ingenious calculator in the world could not ascertain the exact sum, in the first place, on which the whole of the operation was to be based. Compensation on a just principle was impossible; and, perhaps, his noble and learned Friend had suggested a more practicable inquiry when he said, that the true way of trying the question was to see how the English farmer would be enabled to stand competition with the foreign one. When the time come to enter upon that part of the subject, he (Lord Beaumont) would be prepared to go into it at length. He had seen some strange statements made as to the relative portions of taxation land in England and land abroad bore. The only burden land in France bore was the direct taxes; and those, if valued per acre, were not half what the land in England paid. The occupier was subject to no indirect taxation for the land he cultivated; and, therefore, according to the theory of those who held tithes and land tax to be no burden on the occupation of land in England, the French farmer was totally exempt from all burdens in the cultivation of his land. In most of the German States the direct taxation on land was, to the acre, much less, again, than in France; and when you extend your views to Southern Russia and the Turkish Provinces, the whole taxation, per acre, was as 2 to 100 when compared with the acre of English soil: so that if you try the question by the test of competition, you must come to the conclusion that the producing agriculturist is taxed to double, at least, of any farmer on the continent of Europe. There are (continued the noble Lord) several other smaller indirect burdens to which I should have called the attention of the House, if I had not the prospect of obtaining a Committee. Before I sit down, however, I would fain say a word with regard to my own conduct on this subject. I have invariably clung to the system of protection, for the reasons I have so often stated to the House; but I distinctly say now, that if well-attested public opinion should declare itself constitutionally to be against the continued maintenance of that system of protection, I shall not turn round in a sulky humour, and try to increase the evils of a law carried against my opinion; but on the contrary, submit in good will to what will then be the adopted measure of the Legislature, and try to palliate the misfortune, rather than exaggerate the evil consequences which I firmly believe will inevitably follow so ill-advised an enact- 925 ment. In other words, I will attempt to pacify rather than to agitate. Such is the course I myself am ready to take; and I trust all those, my noble Friends, who think with me on this important subject, will also exert their great and powerful influence to prevent an evil greater than even that against which we are struggling, namely, the evil of raising class against class, and keeping up the invidious distinction between manufacturers and farmers. I have never joined in the abuse heaped upon the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government. I believe his statements regarding the change in his opinions; and I conclude that he is under the delusion that he is at present acting for the best. I respect his sincerity, and I admire his courage; but this I will say, if he carries this measure in this present Parliament, it will not be the triumph of opinion, but the consequence of a confusion amongst political parties. If he triumphs, he will triumph over public opinion, because he will then have carried his measure against the opinion of the country, as declared at the last general election; he will carry it against the opinion of the House of Commons, as declared in many divisions; he will carry it against the opinion of the House of Lords, as also declared by numerous divisions; and, above all, he will carry it against the opinion of the majority of his own Cabinet, as made known to us by recent explanations. I have said that I would submit to the consequences of the victory in good will, if that victory is gained by the force of public opinion. Let the Government, therefore, look to it; let them appeal to the country, and obtain, if they can, an expression of public opinion in their favour. Let them follow up the expression of public opinion out of doors by securing the opinion of the majority in the House of Commons, and I then should doubt the propriety of this House offering a continued opposition to the measure. If this be done, the measure, however much we may condemn it, will have gained in a constitutional manner the sanction of the Legislature; but, as it now stands, it can only be carried by an able, but scarely justifiable, manœuvre of party polities.
rose and said he wished to second the Motion. [A noble LORD: That is contrary to order.] No, indeed, it was not (continued the noble Lord); for the Addresses to the Throne in that House, were uniformly seconded.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, an Address was moved by a noble Lord, and was then put by the Lord Chancellor. There was no necessity to second the Motion.
said, he merely wished to state, in answer to an appeal made to him personally by the noble Lord, that the opinions on land burdens he entertained in 1820—on the subject to which the Motion referred—had not undergone any change. He admitted the full extent of those burdens which fell exclusively and peculiarly upon the land, and he was ready to go a great deal further than his noble Friend. He was far from concurring in the views of the noble Lord with respect to tithes; and certainly he did not agree with the opinions he had expressed relative to the land tax. He had never in his life been more astonished than he was by the admission of his noble Friend, that the land tax was not a peculiar burden on bind. Why, then, was the poor rate a peculiar burden? Was the house tax a burden upon houses? "Not at all," said his noble Friend, or at least in consistency he ought to say, "because, when you buy a house, and reckon what you get as an investment by the interest of your money, you calculate justly a deduction for the house tax." And that was precisely the argument with respect to tithe. He wished to avoid entering into the subject that night, because there was no opposition to the Motion; and if he were to follow his noble Friend through the whole question, some noble Lord might say, "What are you going to inquire about in Committee? You have settled the question in the House." He (Lord Brougham) would reserve the subject for the consideration of the Committee; he would not bring with him there a foregone conclusion; he was ready to go into Committee, and he would do so maintaining the same opinions he held in 1820 and 1822 as to the burdens upon land, and holding them until the inquiry should change them. He differed with his noble Friend further in considering those burdens more oppressive and objectionable than he (Lord Beaumont) did in some important particulars; and he did not agree with the noble Lord in the opinion that the proper mode of compensating the landowner was by taxing corn, and prohibiting foreign importations. He regretted that the noble Lord had commenced his 927 observations by attacking the measures of the Government, and anticipating the debate which must ere long take place in their Lordships' House, on the Ministerial proposition. It was a most inconvenient course for noble Lords to snatch at an opportunity of raising a debate on a question which, naturally and regularly, would not come before their Lordships till the measure was sent up from the other House. He (Lord Brougham) would, therefore, purposely abstain from entering into any part of the discussion, further than to express his regret that that inquiry would not extend to what he viewed as perhaps the greatest of all the burdens which fell exclusively upon land—to the circumstance that the landowner and the farmer, who were in this respect in a different position from all other employers of capital, had not the power of going into the labour market for the cheapest and the best labour they could obtain. A manufacturer had no patriarchal relations with his workmen. A manufacturer turned off in a day the men who had been in his employment for one, two, or perhaps for ten years, or who might have been employed by his predecessor for a still longer period; he sent them away without any pensions when he could get able-bodied men to serve him better than they did. Not so the landowner; and he had no doubt that some of his noble Friends on the cross benches could tell the House that under the patriarchal system of the rural districts, one-half the labourers they employed had been in their service or that of their families for a long course of years, and that they could get the same quantity of work done by eighty men, for which they were now compelled to employ a hundred and sixty. He mentioned these figures, because they were the returns which a noble Friend of his gave him, to whom he had been speaking on the subject. It was not merely for the purpose of preventing the workman from being thrown upon the poor rates that landholders acted in this manner; but in consequence of the peculiar relationship in which, as he had just stated, the parties stood towards each other. There was no one could feel stronger than he did on this subject; but he would not refer to it at present, farther than to observe, that there was this very material difference between landowners and other capitalists with regard to their position in the labour market. Allusion had been made to the legacy duty; but the landholder or the farmer was obliged, the 928 moment his predecessor died, to pay the legacy duty on all his personal property as well as other parties. He was also, as the noble Lord had remarked, obliged to pay Customs' duties and all other burdens to which the rest of the community were subjected; in addition to which he had to pay the peculiar burdens to which the land was subjected. Thus, while all the community, the landowners included, paid personal taxes—all the community, the landowners excluded, did not sustain the land burdens. Thus, landowners having personalty, paid legacy and probate duty; every landowner consuming excisable and customable goods paid excise or customs. But the rest of the community paying taxes, probate, excise, or customs, had no land, and paid no tithes, no land tax, no county rate, no poor rate. Such was the difference in the landowners' position. Before he concluded, he would wish to offer one remark on the subject of stamp duties. His noble Friend had been quite mistaken in charging his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack with being accountable for the alteration in the law respecting deeds. He (Lord Brougham) would admit that he was himself answerable for any blame, if blame could be attached, that arose from this change; but he would say that there never was a greater mistake than to suppose the landholder was in a worse position now than he had been before that change with regard to the payment of stamp duties. There never was a greater error than to suppose that the late great and important improvements made in the law had not been beneficial to the landowner. What did his noble Friend think of the Act for the Abolition of Fines and Recoveries? He knew one landowner who abstained from suffering recoveries till the Bill of 1833 passed, and to whom that measure saved 5,000l. or 6,000l. His noble Friend had referred to the Act for Amending the Law relating to the Transfer of Real Property, and had said that nobody understood that measure. Why, everybody understood it. [Lord KINNAIRD: That Act was not used.] It was a measure on which all practitioners were now acting; and it was only the fault of those who employed those practitioners if it was not acted upon, for the Act contained a clause preventing practitioners from obtaining a higher remuneration by using longer forms. Leases might now be drawn on half a sheet of paper, or half a skin of parchment, which would formerly have occupied ten sheets of paper, or the same quantity of parchment. He was clearly 929 of opinion that the landowners had a right to complain of the stamp duties. The Spanish Government had formerly adopted a most injudicious tax, the alcavala, a duty paid on all sales of goods even in open market—the worst tax ever contrived. In this country the land was subject to precisely the same abominable tax. The stamp duty prevented the sale or mortgage of an acre of land without the payment of a heavy duty; and its effect was to place the debtor at the mercy of the mortgagee, his creditor, who said, "If you don't raise my interest, you shall pay 10,000l. or 12,000l., for conveyancing, and change your security." He (Lord Brougham) hoped no long time would elapse before taxation was thrown upon succession to, instead of on the alienation of land, and a greater relief to the landowner could not be desired.
§ LORD DACRE
said, he wished to be clearly understood in the meaning which he attached to protection. He conceived protection to mean some particular application of capital, either for the encouragement of home trade, or the advancement of some particular class, the prosperity of which was thought to be of great advantage to the community at large. Considering the vast progress that had been made in trade and commerce, and the great progress which, according to statistical proofs, had taken place in the employment of capital, he could not but feel that protection of any kind was an unnatural application of wealth, and that with regard to the cultivation of the soil, it ought to be completely rejected. But the level of taxation had been disturbed by protection—disturbed beyond reason, beyond bounds, and beyond pretence. He would not then refer to some returns which would no doubt be brought before the Committee, and which many of their Lordships had, no doubt, already looked into. He rejected some of the items of pressure of which the agriculturists complained; but he at the same time felt that they were subjected to one of the most severe and grinding property taxes that was ever imposed on any country, in the shape of the poor rates. He was prepared to show that the remission of many taxes imposed on landed proprietors and tenant-farmers would be no more than the equalization of taxation; and for his part he was convinced that the agriculture of this country was in a condition to meet the agriculture of the world without protection, if they were only granted the advantage of equal taxation, and if they had the free application of labour, and a 930 free disposal of the produce of that labour. There had been returns printed for the purpose of ascertaining the rateable value of propriety prior to the imposition of the income tax in 1842. The valuation for the poor rates amounted to 48,400,000l., while the property tax had been paid on one hundred and eighty odd millions, exclusive of the incomes below 150l. a year, which were not charged, though the poor rates were levied on the poorest cottiers. He felt, therefore, justified in saying that the value of property in this country was not lower than 200,000,000l., including the incomes under 150l., and that fully three-fourths of this amount was not subjected to the poor rates, which thus fell most heavily on the landed interest. Personal property and stock in trade were exempted from these rates, on the pretence that they were not competent to meet the demand. But it was not from any incompetency to meet the payment of a tax that this great proportion of the property of the country claimed to be exempted. Did they not see hundreds of thousands of pounds subscribed by some of these very interests to establish a combination which, in his opinion, was most unconstitutional? Was it not unconstitutional to raise an immense fund, and employ it in attempting to control the liberty of election, and to convert the counties into nomination counties for particular parties; and that, too, after the stringent and complete reform lately granted, and under which the promoters of this scheme must be aware they owed much of their rights, and the very elective franchises which were thus abused. He hoped those individuals would not attempt to resist such legislative measures as might require them to contribute their fair quota to the taxation of the country. With reference to the subject of the malt duty, he found that there had been no increassd consumption of that article, in proportion to the increased population, for many years past; and the farmers were unable to use malt without payment of a tax of 30 per cent. He conceived it was equitable that, having ascertained the burdens upon real property, they might, by some partial remission of taxation, make an arrangement that would be just and fair and satisfactory to all parties; but if they entirely repealed the Corn Laws, land would then be specially burdened, for English wheat was taxed 12 per cent. in comparison with foreign wheat. He would not, however, enter further into the question than to express his anxious hope that the Committee being granted, 931 they would enter into the minute details of the subject, with a view to equal taxation and freedom of capital in case of the adoption of free trade. An allusion had been made the other night, in another place, to something that he was supposed to have said, namely, that he was for protection for corn, but for nothing else. He denied that he had ever said anything of the kind, or had made use of any language which would justify such a supposition. He could not sit down without expressing his great anxiety as to the danger to the Constitution by the proceedings out of doors. He wished to speak with all respect of one of those who were, if he might so call them, the tribunes of the people, and to whom he had every inclination to show respect; but he could not help saying, that whatever doubt there might be as to the legality of the combination, he thought the word "conspiracy" could not be ill applied, when they knew the objects entertained by one of these gentlemen. A conspiracy might exist for an object not avowed, and might be promoted by means apparently legal; but when the object was avowed, even though it appeared to be legal, he would submit it to any learned Lord whether it were not possible for a conspiracy for attaining such object to be shown by the deliberate expressions of one who was amongst its chief supporters. He had, then, a speech which was delivered at Covent Garden Theatre, on the 17th of December last, and which appeared in The Times of the following day, and he had taken some trouble to ascertain that the report was correct, in which the speaker (Mr. Bright) concluded by saying—He did hope that the people would bear in mind how great a panic had been created by the very name of those 40s. freeholders. That small weapon, which had been hidden in the Reform Act, and in the old Constitution, would lay the hereditary peerage in the dust.Now, having said this, he would only add, that he should be grieved by imagining that any Minister of this country would allow Parliament to separate without introducing some measure to connect residence with a right of voting in counties as well as in boroughs; and he said that as an old reformer remembering the effect of the 40s. freeholders in Ireland, and the repugnance there was to put an end to them, but that that repugnance was overcome by the apparent necessity of the case. In conclusion, he must beg their Lordships' pardon for having occupied so much of their time.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that from 932 the turn the debate had taken, he believed there would be no objection to the Amendment he had to propose—That after the words, 'That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the Burdens on Real Property,' the following words be added to the Motion of the noble Lord, viz.:—'And also to inquire into and to report on the Legislative Exemptions and pecuniary Advantages provided by Law in respect to Taxation as affecting Landed Property, and the Impediments to Agricultural Transactions, caused by the present System of Excise Duties, Poor Laws, and Local Taxation.'The practical object of the Amendment was, that as they were invited to go into this inquiry, it might be made an impartial one, and that it might thus be rendered effectual for all legislative purposes; for if they intended this inquiry to produce any effect upon public opinion, it should include everything. He should have ended here, and would not have troubled the House with any further remarks, as there was to be no opposition offered to his Motion; but he should be sorry to be supposed from his silence to acquiesce in some doctrines which had been laid down that evening, and against which he wished to make his earliest protest. They had heard from his noble Friend the Mover, as might have been anticipated, a most candid and fair series of admissions upon this subject. Of these the most important by far was made upon the subject of tithes: he admitted that tithes ought not to be considered a burden on production. Upon that most material point, his noble Friend had allowed that, subsequently to the commutation of tithes, the tithe-rent did not differ from any other kind of rent, and therefore it could furnish no ground for defending protection on land; unless indeed his noble Friend meant to maintain that most dangerous of all arguments, that protection was to be maintained, as he (Lord Monteagle) knew it to be considered by some of its strongest advocates, maintained, not for the benefit of the community at large, but for the protection of rent only. But he should like to find any writer or reasoner venturing to draw a distinction between 25s. paid to the landlord for land tithe free, and 20s. paid to the landlord, together with 5s. to the tithe-owner. These two cases were identical; and if his noble Friend asserted that the tithe rent augmented the cost of production, why he must admit also that common rent did the same thing; and parties getting up a clamour against rent might justify their agitation by saying, that by the abolition of rent they could diminish the cost of pro- 933 ducing grain in this country. He denied that either the commutation of the tithes payable as a rent to the clergy, or the rent payable to the landlord, was in any respect the cause of price—it was the offspring of price, not the cause of it; and if they did not maintain that doctrine in respect to rent, greater danger would arise with respect to the rights of property in this country than in any other way. He therefore denied that tithe could ever be held a special burden on land: it was merely a joint ownership in the property. If the object was to produce equality of taxation, the fair, just, and impartial mode of effecting it was to remove the inequality, not to create a protection. But in respect to the poor rates, he must say, in passing, that, if the proposed mode of meeting that inequality was to transfer the rates, either wholly or in part, to the State, instead of leaving them a local charge, that proposition was infinitely more dangerous than any inconvenience arising out of the present mode of assessment; because, in so doing, they would deprive themselves, the administrators of the Poor Law, and the poor, of the check which the locality of the charge produced over the rates. But the unequal pressure of the poor's rate on land was gradually diminishing. From the return which he held in his hand, he found that in the period from 1826 to 1841, the relative pressure of rates on land and other property, had changed very much, and that the change was all for the benefit of the land. The House should be aware of the extent to which rating had gone with respect to the last description of property that had been created amongst them. He alluded to railways, which contributed thousands and tens of thousands to rates. In some parishes the poor rates were nearly all paid by the railways. But to return to the complaint of unequal amount. If property was not assessed fairly, let the mode of assessment be altered; but he entreated their Lordships never for a moment to entertain the possibility of making the poor rates of this country a general and State tax. He was bound to admit, that either under the original law of Elizabeth, or by subsequent Statutes, there were certain descriptions of property originally proposed to be taxed that were now exempt from such taxation. Of this, personal profits on stock were an instance. These exemptions, now sanctioned by the Legislature, had arisen from various difficulties which 934 stood in the way of assessing particular property; and the noble Duke on the cross bench, who had Scotch as well as English experience, would not, he believed, contradict him when he said that the principle of assessment which was known as the Scotch system of "means and substance," had been one of the most complicated schemes that could be applied to any assessment, general or local: it was a species of property tax, reaching the lowest descriptions of property, without the checks and exemptions which rendered a property tax more tolerable. Yet such a remedy as this was looked for by some to produce, equality of assessment. With regard to the expense of the administration of justice, as far as regarded criminal prosecutions, it must be remembered that half the cost of the prosecutions was already borne by the State. But if they made the whole chargeable in that way, it would be necessary, at the same time, to make some essential changes in the system at present existing. There must be something like a public prosecutor appointed in each county, by, and under the control of, the Government; for it would not be very prudent for one party to undertake supplying the funds for the expense of prosecution, whilst another party was allowed to administer them. He could not shut his eyes to the circumstance that the undertaking by the Government of the whole charge of criminal prosecutions would lead to large alterations in our criminal system, some of which, he thought, however, would be equally wise and beneficial. There was another subject to which he must refer, and that was the duty on malt. His noble Friend said, that the malt tax was paid in the first instance by the consumer, but that it ultimately fell on the land. He doubted the latter proposition, without many qualifications. He agreed that this tax in its operation might lessen the consumption of the article. So far as the tax checked consumption, it was a burden on land; but how had this article been already dealt with by Parliament? He believed, that of all articles that were made a source of revenue, malt had participated to the largest extent in the remission of taxation granted since the close of the war. Up to the Government of the noble Duke, in 1830, they had a beer duty. In 1816, malt was also subject to a war tax. The result was, that these two duties now repealed were equal to a charge of 43s. per quarter on the barley consumed as malt. The present tax was 20s. 8d.; so that, in 935 point of fact, at the present moment, two-thirds of the original duty were remitted. Where had there been given such a large remission on any other similar article? And he doubted extremely, speaking practically, if the state of the revenue admitted it—which it did not—whether the effect of the entire remission would be very much felt. The malt duty, though always charged by anticipation, was accompanied by a credit of three or six months given to the maltster for the payment of the duty; the consequence was, that the maltster sold rapidly, not only receiving the price of his malt, but the amount of the duty which he had not yet paid, and he was enabled to go into the market as a purchaser of barley, with a capital formed partly of the public money, which enabled him to give a better price for the article he purchased; and he (Lord Monteagle) believed, that if the agriculturists of England could obtain the entire remission of the malt duty, as there would be a clear necessity of making up the deficiency of revenue in some other way, they would soon find they could not have that amount imposed in any mode less burdensome than the present malt tax. The agriculturists, in relation to malt and barley, enjoyed certain privileges, which, were the malt tax abolished, they could not hope to keep. Although the tax was, in point of fact, paid mostly by the consumer, and not by the agriculturist, the agriculturists were allowed a close monopoly in respect to all breweries and distilleries in this country; and no sugar or molasses could be used as a substitute for malt, nor could any other product, even of our own Colonies, be so used in the process of those manufactures, lest it should injure the agricultural interests. This prohibition, therefore, was entirely for the benefit of the English barley grower. If they compared these advantages with the restrictions on the growth of barley produced by the pecuniary amount of the malt tax, it would be found that the farmers had little or nothing to complain of. The noble Lord said, in the second place, that the restrictions of the Excise laws prevented the farmers from using malt for the purposes of agriculture. He did not think they sustained any such great loss by those Excise prohibitions. Under certain regulations, farmers were entitled to turn barley to account for feeding purposes. They might grind or soak barley; they might allow it to shoot or germinate: kiln drying, alone, was forbidden. This restriction was said to be severe; but, at the same time, 936 they had the result before them of scientific inquiries made by men above all suspicion—Mr. Playfair and Mr. Graham, who reported that, for the purpose of fattening, it was injurious to turn barley into malt. In addition to this testimony of science, there was, however, one conclusive fact bearing on this subject: in Germany, there was no tax on malt, there existed no prohibition to its use for agricultural purposes; yet it was stated by Professor Liebig, that the Germans, being perfectly at liberty to do what they pleased with their barley, did not use it in the malted state for the purpose of fattening cattle. With respect to the exemption of the land from the payment of probate and legacy duties, he thought the advantage the land enjoyed in this respect much exaggerated; but he believed the exemptions in favour of freehold property to be objectionable, even though they had not the full pressure and unfairness they seemed to have. The land paid an enormous duty on transfer by sale; and though it was exempted from duty in transmission by death, the public had no right to consider that exemption without taking also into their consideration the taxation to which land was subject in other forms. At the same time, they could not be considered as leaving the subject on a right footing if they merely left one inequality to remedy another. When Mr. Pitt first introduced the Bill for levying the probate and legacy duties, he proposed to render landed property as well as personal property subject to the tax: that measure was not absolutely rejected by the Commons, but, as it was only carried by the casting vote of the Speaker, it was given up by the Minister, and the present inequality was thus produced. Though this inequality were not so great as it appeared, it was an inequality still, and a very fit subject for inquiry. But were there no other exemptions in favour of land? If noble Lords would look at the whole financial arrangements since 1816, they would find an uniform desire on the part of those who had managed the finances of this country to consider, perhaps to overrate, the claims of the agricultural body to relief. They had an exemption from duty for their horses, for certain windows, and agricultural servants—[The Duke of RICHMOND: And for their shepherds' dogs.] Possibly the exemption from the duty on draining tiles might be undervalued and laughed at also; the truth was, that everything was a grievance till it was redressed, and the moment it was redressed, 937 the very relief afforded was converted into an argument and treated as an insult on account of its insignificance. But to return to these greater measures: hundreds of thousands had been taken off from the duties on farm horses, on farm servants, and on agricultural produce of various kinds. What was the reason given for the repeal of the auction duties last year? He and his noble Friend had opposed that repeal: but what was the reason assigned? That the auction duties were so full of exemptions that it was impossible to keep up tins tattered remnant of a tax. Nine-tenths of those exemptions were made in favour of the agricultural interests. He would not then talk of the balance between burdens and privileges: it would be for the Committee to settle that balance; and he would support the appointment of such a Committee, moved for as it was, not as any impediment to the progress of any measure likely to come before the House, but, alio intuitu, to determine whether the present was a fair mid equal mode of levying the public revenue, and of apportioning the public burdens. With regard to the obserservations just made by his noble Friend behind him in reference to the League, he must remark that he (Lord Monteagle) had never belonged to the League, and that he did not like either that or any other irresponsible body exercising a very wide influence, and not, recognised by the law of the land; and for whose acts and language all might be held responsible, although not personally cognizant of what was done. He was not disposed to be so chivalrous as the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond), who was willing to endorse all the acts of a society of a very different kind, past, present, and to come. But what had the League to do with the matter in hand? It had been said that the League and Leaguers ought to abstain from replying to or noticing speeches made elsewhere, and which they had not themselves heard; but this rule, which was a good one, ought to be equally applied in all cases. He wished to see the League cease; and he believed that the promoters of the League were just the men of all others in this country who were most eager that the cause for the existence of the League should cease. He believed that Parliament, by pursuing a wise course of legislation, would soon produce the extinction of the League; and for this reason, as well as upon every other ground, he rejoiced at the course which Her Majesty's Government had taken. 938 The noble Lord concluded by moving the Amendment.
§ The EARL of ESSEX
believed, that any measure which would tend to induce the farmers to keep more stock would be a benefit to the country, as it would enable more corn to be grown, and to be sold at a lower price.
would not have trespassed for one moment upon their Lordships' attention on that occasion, if he were not desirous to enter his counter-protest against the protest of his noble Friend, as to tithe not being to be looked upon in the nature of a burden upon land. He thought that his noble Friend had good reason for not complaining of the noble Lord who had introduced this Motion; for he (Lord Stanley) considered that he had somewhat overstated his admissions in the plenitude of his candour; for he agreed with his noble and learned Friend who had just left the House (Lord Brougham), that the land-tax and tithes were burdens upon land, in the sense in which they were now taking burdens; and that in throwing them away the noble Lord threw away almost the strongest part of his case. With regard to tithe, let him not be misunderstood as stating that the claims of the tithe-owner to the tithes was not as sacred, as high, and as indefeasible, as the right of the landowner in the property of the soil; and he admitted that an individual who purchased property in land bought it subject to the tithe, and paid less for it on account of its being so subject. The purchaser, in his individual capacity, had no right to complain of the burden of tithes, because he had paid so much less for his property in consequence of their existence. But the question on which he entirely differed from his noble Friend, and on which he protested against going into Committee as a foregone conclusion, was this—that tithes and rent, as burdens on land, stood on the same or a similar footing. The noble Lord had looked upon tithe and rent as identical in their nature, and had said that rent was the consequence of the price of corn, and not an element in that price. That might be true with regard to rent, but it was not true with regard to tithe. And there was this distinction: rent was a surplus above the produce of the soil, and a payment out of the capital and profit; but tithe was that which was paid in the first instance before a farmer derived a profit, or the capitalist an income, or the landlord his rent. If the cultivation of the land became unprofitable 939 for the farmer, the rent of the landlord fell in proportion; but let the cultivation he ever so unprofitable, the claim of the tithe owner—and even more so since the commutation which had been referred to—was not in the least diminished; and as it was not diminished, it had to be added to the price actually paid for the production of the corn: and as a lower price of corn and inferior value of the article produced did not at the same time lower the amount of the original charge, that charge was still to be defrayed, and must enter into the cost of the produced article. He therefore did not agree with his noble Friend, that tithes did not add to the cost of producing corn; but he would further explain his reason by a plain illustration. Let him assume that a mill was built in a certain town, and that by some law a condition was imposed upon the owner of the mill that he should give to some one else one-tenth of every piece of cotton produced in that mill, either to be made as a payment to the State, or for some other purpose. It would be no answer to say, that the original proprietor of the mill had sold it to another person, and that this other person bought it knowing that it was subject to this payment. That was not the question: the question was, whether this burden did not add to the cost of production at that mill? It would be said then, that if the mill were liable to pay one-tenth of every piece produced in the shape of taxation, ultimately the article would be increased in price, and the consumer would have to pay that advanced price. That would be true so long as the owner of the mill had a monopoly, or so long as all other mills were in the same condition; but if there were another mill in the town, the owner of which was exempt from the payment of the one-tenth to which the owner of the first mill was subject, would any one tell him that the owners of the first and second mills could compete on equal terms, and could afford to sell the same article at the same price, and at the same profits? Let them take this, then, as the case of their own producers of corn as against foreign rivals. They were about to inquire whether this were a burden as such, not as against other producers here, but as against the foreigners in the same articles in which they dealt. He would like to compare this case of the manufacturers, and take the case of two stacks, one raised from the land, which before a spade was put in, or rather before the produce was realized—before the labourer received his 940 pay, the tenant his profits, and the landlord his rent—was subject to the burden of paying one-tenth of its produce, and the other stack capable of being brought to market subject to no such payment or condition; and he would ask whether these two stacks came into the market under equal conditions, and whether the actual cost price of the corn in the one case was not greater than the actual cost of the other? The one was burdened with an obligation imposed, not for the exclusive benefit of the class upon whom it was imposed, but for the general benefit of the whole community, for public purposes, and for an object which they all profited by. He would ask, if the one stack of corn were subjected to this burden, and the other had not to bear it, whether the one which was thus burdened had not a right to ask, for the purposes of fair competition, and not of monopoly or exclusiveness, to be enabled to start on fair terms with its rival, and to seek of their Lordships protection in some shape or other? His noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) indeed said, "Oh, that was all very true before the commutation of the tithes, but now it is no burden, because it is not now proportioned to the produce." Let him (Lord Stanley) return to the case of the mills. His noble Friend would admit, that if the tithe were paid in kind by one mill, and nothing by the other, they were not upon equal terms. Well, a commutation took place. The owner, seeing the amount of the burden, said, "I don't wish to have my industry interfered with in proportion to my energy and skill. I will therefore commute, and, taking the average of the amount I have produced in the past five years, and the average also of the price at which I sold my commodity, I wiil pay you down a money price as a compensation for the per centage you receive of my produce." What difference did that make? If the commutation were fair and equal, the payment would be as much a burden when it was paid in the shape of a definite sum as when it was paid as a proportion of the produce. But if by any legislative act after the agreement for that commutation, the legislature lowered the price of the article produced, and yet insisted that the producer should pay the same amount for his commutation, it was something beyond a paradox for his noble Friend to say it ceased to be a burden; for in its new shape it was an increased and additional burden. He trusted their Lordships would excuse him, therefore, in entering his protest 941 against the opinion expressed by his noble Friend. He rejoiced that Her Majesty's Ministers did not offer any opposition to the present Motion: he rejoiced that this question would be fairly, fully, and impartially considered; he rejoiced that the report of the Committee, and the facts on which it was founded, would be laid before their Lordships and the country; and he cordially rejoiced that his noble Friend had brought forward this Motion, and that it had been acquiesced in by their Lordships. He could not go into Committee, however, without protesting against one proposition made by the noble Lord, who said he moved for this Committee, because he considered the question of the abolition of protection already settled. [Cheers.] He concurred with the noble Lord who cheered in thinking that on this and upon any other question, the opinion and the wishes of the country calmly, deliberately, and seriously expressed, and steadily maintained, would, and must have, and ought to have, great influence upon the decision of their Lordships and of the other House of Parliament; and he also agreed with the noble Lord in thinking that there could be no doubt that on a subject of such vast importance, the sense of the country as well as of the Parliament should be taken; and that unless that sense should be clearly, unequivocally, and deliberately in favour of this change, a change so immeasurably great—nay, more, that unless it were accomplished with this opinion in its favour, instead of being an undoubted good, it could not fail to be an undoubted evil. He agreed also with the noble Lord, that if the question of protection were disposed of, and if that protection which had been hitherto given to agriculture should be withdrawn, those who were interested in agriculture would have a fair and reasonable claim for such compensation as it would be in the power of the Parliament to adjudge to them; but he protested against being supposed to argue that the question of the policy of the Corn Laws rested on—more than in the slightest degree—the individual interests of any body of men. Let them even prove to him that the landlords and the farmers had received, or would receive, the fullest compensation for their individual and pecuniary interests, they would not have settled in his mind the question of the repeal of the Corn Laws. He would not then enter upon the question of those laws, but he wished to record his firm opinion, that the question of the maintenance or 942 abolition of the Corn Laws rested upon something far above the individual interests of the agriculturists or of any other class in the community. That question must be weighed not by any pecuniary consideration, which was the lowest point, but by the effect which the maintenance or the abolition of these laws would have upon the great social, moral, and political interests of the whole community.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
would enter a similar protest to that of his noble Friend. He, like the noble Lord, could not consider the question of the abolition of the Corn Laws settled; because he would not believe, until the Bill should be brought up into that House, that Members of the House of Commons would be sufficiently daring to pass a Bill so contrary to every pledge they had given to their constituents on the hustings. Till the measure, therefore, did come up there, he would not express so bad an opinion of those Gentlemen. But let them suppose that it did come up to that House, still he did not believe that their Lordships would make such sudden turns; but that they would force the Government to appeal to the country for an expression of the public opinion. It was all very well to say that there was very great excitement out of doors upon the subject; if there were, he should like to know who were the authors of that excitement? Was it not owing to the exertions of the Anti-Corn-Law League, and the alarm which the Prime Minister took at what they were doing? He believed that his noble Friend, as he had declared, if this measure should become the law of the land, would do his best to allay the excitement, and to prevent class from being arrayed against class; but he (the Duke of Richmond) would be deceiving their Lordships were he to hold out to them the slightest hope, that if they did pass this measure, this excitement would cease. They must remember that the yeomanry of England, the enlightened, the honest, and the independent yeomanry, had, up to a very late moment, placed their whole faith in the leader whom they had themselves chosen; they had thought that he never would betray them, as they never would have deserted him. With such feelings on their minds, with a feeling of the deep injury which they were likely to sustain; and with the feeling also that their families and themselves were to be consigned to ruin and the workhouse—with an entire loss of confidence in public men—could they believe, that with such 943 feelings, these honest farmers, who had heard public men on the hustings declare that they were for protection, and protection they would retain, and yet found those same men, when in the House of Commons, deserting their principles, and obtaining the reward of their desertion, when one or two honest men resigned their places—could they believe that these honest farmers, that that independent yeomanry, would not, under such circumstances, take a leaf from the book of the Anti-Corn-Law League? Up to the present moment they had abstained from sending orators into the manufacturing districts, to excite the operatives against their employers. Had the Anti-Corn-Law League pursued the same course? No. They had sent down parties to hold meetings in different parts of the country, and, if he might use the word, to 'blackguard' all the landowners and farmers of the country. They had told them that their stacks would readily burn; but the farmers had never in turn told the operatives of the manufacturers that it was as easy to fire cotton as straw. They had never done so with respect to the operatives, the great body of whom, let it be remarked, were against free trade. They had never sent men amongst them to excite their passions; and he hoped and trusted they would not do so, because he thought it better to pursue their dignified course, and appeal to Parliament in the constitutional way. But let not any of their Lordships vote for any of those measures if they thought thereby to allay the excitement. Success had never produced, and never would produce, moderation in any political party. The Anti-Corn-Law League might tell them what they pleased about their dissolution; but he believed that body would never dissolve until they had destroyed the Established Church of this country, and every other institution which all their Lordships, he hoped, were prepared to stand by and defend. His noble Friend near him had asked a question with respect to the Poor Laws in Scotland; and had stated to their Lordships that there was great difficulty there of getting at "the means and substance." He (the Duke of Richmond) unfortunately had not been able to address their Lordships when the Scotch Poor Law had been under consideration; and he thought it a pity that his noble Friend had not made the remark at that time, because they had passed so remarkably clever a Bill that they had left it to every parish in Scotland, to say how its population should be taxed—whether 944 according to "means and substance," or according to a certain fixed proportion. The consequence had been that there was a different mode of rating in every parish in Scotland; and he knew a gentleman having two establishments who was made to pay according to the English method of rating in the parish of his establishment where he did not reside, and in the parish where he did reside, according to his "means and substance," and was thus made to pay in the most unfair way. This fault rested with the Parliament. Why did they send such a Bill to Scotland? Why did they not see the difficulty? and, if they did, why did they not say that all parishes should be rated in the same way? With respect to the malt tax, he would not follow the noble Lord. He agreed with him that there was a great difference of opinion among the farmers themselves with respect to the malt tax; but, by the proposed measure, the price of barley would be reduced, and thus the tax would be rendered heavier. The duty was not levied on the value: it was a duty of 20s. a quarter, and, if the price fell, therefore the duty would be relatively higher. He had been in hopes that his noble Friend who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer would have said, if he could not have voted for a repeal of the tax, that he was in favour of a great reduction; for he believed that if there were a reduction in the duty, they would get quite as much revenue from the tax. His noble Friend had spoken of the opinions of Leibig, of Playfair, and of Graham—not a very good name for any agriculturist to rely on. No doubt those Gentlemen gave their best opinions. He must not be understood as speaking lightly of science, for he had been one of the first to bring in the aid of science to agriculture; but at the same time he must remind his noble Friend of the motto of the Royal Agricultural Society, "Practice with Science;" and he thought that within half an hour after leaving that House he could introduce to his noble Friend one of the most extensive farmers in the county of Norfolk who had tried the experiment, and found that he could feed his cattle much better on malt than on barley. It was true that the farmers might damp their barley, but the farmers had a horror of the excisemen who might then come upon their premises; the farmers must give notice, and then the exciseman might come upon their farms; and if he did not come, they were liable to have an information against them; and his noble Friend knew that a farmer had no 945 chance in the Exchequer. Upon the whole, he did not disapprove of the Motion of his noble Friend; but he again protested, and protested in the same language as his noble Friend near him (Lord Stanley), against the admissions of his noble Friend. He congratulated their Lordships, the agricultural interest, the labourers, and all connected with domestic industry, that his noble Friend had seceded from office, and was likely to bring the benefit of his great eloquence and ability to aid the cause of domestic industry. He could only say, that if these measures did come up to their Lordships' House he would endeavour, in every possible manner, to induce their Lordships to throw them out, because he did believe that if they passed they would entail ruin upon the agricultural interest, upon the labourer, and upon the domestic industry of the country of all sorts, even that of the manufacturers themselves.
§ EARL GREY
said, he would take occasion to offer a few brief remarks; but in so doing, it was not his intention to enter prematurely on the discussion of that great and all-important question upon which it was likely that, at no distant period, they would be called to decide. Upon that vital topic he would not now touch, except so far as to say, that he fully concurred in the sentiment which had fallen from the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley), namely, that that great question would have to be decided not on any considerations affecting any particular individual, or class of individuals, but upon considerations which had reference to the common good of the entire community; and that he was fully persuaded that when the subject came to be thus canvassed, it would be found that the interests of all classes were alike on that question. He had no doubt that when the proper period should arrive, he and those who coincided with him in opinion would be able to demonstrate that for the thirty years during which the protective system had, under one shape or other, existed in this country, it had been attended by constant and most severe distress to the agriculturists themselves—that for five consecutive years the country had never been exempt from the pressure of extreme agricultural distress, traceable in a very great degree, if not altogether, to the measures which they had adopted under the name of protection; and that, in fact, the experience of the system showed no better results than this—a perpetual succession of periods of great suffering, occasionally 946 varied by short intervals of delusive prosperity. Fresh hopes had again and again been held out to the farmer, and again and again those hopes had been doomed to frustration; and after trying one form of protection after another, in all of which the last new plan was to have been better than its predecessor, and to have secured that prosperity of which they had been so often disappointed—that after trying protection in all those forms, they were now come to the conclusion that in all those forms it had practically failed. These were the propositions which, when the fitting occasion had arrived, he would be prepared to enunciate and maintain. In the remarks, however, he was now about to submit, he would strictly confine himself to the proper subject of discussion that evening. As it had been distinctly admitted on both sides that the appointment of this Committee was not to be made subsidiary to any attempt to postpone the decision which their Lordships would ere long be called upon to pronounce on the subject of the Corn Laws; and as the noble Lord whose Motion was now under consideration had expressly assured their Lordships that the Motion did not imply delay; and as moreover he had very fairly stated, that if he could establish the proposition that land was subject to certain peculiar burdens, the inference he intended to draw therefrom was, not that protection ought necessarily to be continued, but that that inequality should be in some way or other redressed; as this had been so admitted, he felt that he would not be warranted in opposing the appointment of the Committee. But at the same time that he made this admission, he could not forbear saying that he for one, being a person who, in common with his noble Friend (Lord Beaumont), had a deep interest in the prosperity of the land, could not but experience a feeling of extreme regret that this inquiry had been demanded; for he could not resist the conviction that if this matter were investigated dispassionately and impartially, and on sound principles, the result must inevitably be that those engaged in the inquiry must arrive at the conclusion that the landowners of England, instead of bearing a larger proportion of the public burdens than they could be fairly expected to sustain, were, on the contrary, subject to less than the proportion which might with justice be imposed on them. This was the state of facts which he was sure would be brought to light by the investigation which they 947 were now about to undertake; and as he confessed he was not sufficiently disinterested to desire that the taxation on the land should be increased, he would have been just as well pleased if this question had been permitted to remain in a state of repose, and that they had refrained from entering on an inquiry which might and probably would be attended with some very disagreeable results. He had not the slightest doubt upon his own mind that this inquiry would lead to the conclusion that the landowners, so far from bearing an exorbitant proportion of the burdens of the country, were scarcely called upon to sustain as large a proportion as, from their wealth and position, they might not unnaturally be expected to sustain. A noble and learned Lord, who was then gone from the House, had argued strongly that the whole matter should be left for the consideration of the Committee. Now he (Lord Grey) must say, that after the discussion which had already taken place, it did seem to him that they who held the opinion that exclusive burdens upon land did not really exist, were bound to state the grounds upon which they had formed that conclusion to their Lordships. If all parties had been contented to await the decision of the Committee, he should have done so also; but as very able and elaborate arguments had been put forth—particularly those on the part of his noble Friend—to show that the burdens upon the land were indeed heavy, he might be permitted shortly to refer to those arguments. In the first place, his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had entered upon the consideration of the question of tithes, and with all that ingenuity and ability for which he was so justly and so eminently distinguished, had argued to show that the noble Lord (Lord Beaumont), who brought forward this Motion, was mistaken in his view of the subject; for that, in point of fact, tithes did constitute one of the burdens to which real property was liable. In considering this question, however, it should first be clearly understood what was meant by "burdens on land.' Their inquiry should, in his mind (as had been justly observed by the noble Lord who moved for the Committee), be limited to an endeavour to ascertain whether there were any burdens which unduly and unfairly affected the application of capital to land, so as to prevent land from having that full and comprehensive benefit from the expenditure of capital which it might enjoy if there were no artificial causes to di- 948 vert it in a different direction. His noble Friend had repudiated the idea of claiming as a ground in consideration of which compensation was to be granted, such burdens as fell only on the rent; he said that all he required was that capital should be permitted in the case of land, as in the case of all other things, to freely follow its natural course; and it must be admitted that this appeared very fair and very reasonable. If the noble Lords who were advocates of the protective system, could show that by tithes, or anything else, the application of capital to land in such a manner as to produce a fair and just return, was rendered difficult or impossible, and that the price of the article produced was thereby raised; if this could be shown, he would admit that a fair case for compensation would be made out; but he dissented altogether from the doctrine that tithes should be regarded as having any such effect: he denied that they were a burden on land, in the proper sense of the word. It was perfectly true (as had been argued by his noble Friend near him) that as long as tithes were an actual tenth of the produce, variable according to the variations in the amount of that produce, they were clearly a distinct charge on the capital employed in agriculture, and added to the cost of producing the corn. No doubt, as long as tithes were actually a tenth part of the produce, they might very fairly be regarded as constituting one of the real burdens on property. But the entire complexion of the case had been altered by the Tithe Commutation Act. By that Act the amount to be paid in tithes was definitely and specifically fixed; there were no longer any fluctuations or variations; the amount was definitely settled, and capital could now be applied to any extent on land, and yet no increase of charge would take place. Did any one believe that any increase of charge did take place? Surely not. He considered that the Tithe Commutation Act was one which had operated most beneficially for the landed interests of the country, and to its existence were to be attributed many of the improvements which had recently been introduced into the agriculture of the country. Under the old system many of these improvements would have been impracticable. The drainage, which of late years had been carried on to such extent in this country, could never have been accomplished if a deduction of one-tenth of the gross additional produce secured by the draining operations had to 949 be set aside for the purposes of tithes. In this, as in many other cases, it would not unfrequently occur that a tenth of the gross produce would be the entire amount of profit on which the capitalist could reckon. The noble Lord had assimilated the case of the farmer who was obliged to pay tithes, to that of a mill owner who was liable to a charge of one-tenth of the whole cloth that he produced; and he then proceeded to ask how was it possible that this charge did not add to the cost of the article produced?—and how (this being so) it was possible that any man so circumstanced could enter into competition with a trader who had no such difficulty to contend against? Now this was a very fair comparison in the case of uncommuted tithes; the cases were quite analogous under the old exploded system of tithes; but now that the tithes had been commuted, there was no feature of resemblance between them. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) contended that the position of the farmer under the commutation system was just as unfavourable as it was before; and he asked what difference did it make to him, that instead of this charge in kind of one-tenth of his produce, he was compelled to pay a fixed sum of money computed by the average value of the five years' payments he had made before; the charge, he said, was still the same in effect, and rendered him equally unable to compete with the unburthened millowner. The case so put did, no doubt, in some respect, bear out the argument of his noble Friend: but let him (Earl Grey) alter the position of the millowner a little, with a view of making it somewhat more analogous to the position of the occupier of land, subject to a rent-charge for tithe. He would suppose that a capitalist desired to build a mill, and that all or almost all the eligible sites for mills were occupied, and that no sites for mills could be obtained without a sum being given in payment to the owner of the land upon which the mill was to be built. Wherever he built his mill he would be subject to a charge—say of 100l. a year, for rent to the landowner. Now, what substantial difference did it make to that millowner whether he paid the 100l. a year to the owner of the site, or 90l. a year to the landowner, and 10l. a year for a tithe-rent charge? Surely, none in the world. That was a case which made the analogy complete; because in commuted tithes the sum paid was unvarying, and not, as 950 his noble Friend had represented, a tenth of the whole quantity of manufactured produce. He might mention, in illustration of his case, that in ancient times, and he believed in modern times also, portions of estates were severed and conveyed over to tithe owners in lieu of tithes, and the remainder of the property became tithe free. He knew himself a case in point, where the portion of the estate was called Tithe-hill, in commemoration of the transaction. Could it be contended that the owner of the estate on which Tithe-hill was situated had the slightest claim for compensation, because from his estate there had been portioned off, in lieu of tithes, a portion of land in virtue of which (that is, because he had transferred it to the titheowner) the rest of his grounds were considered exempt from tithe? He, with others, was interested in the adjoining lands; and it struck his mind that nothing could be more unjust or absurd than that they, as owners of lands already tithe free, should seek compensation as if they paid a tenth of their produce. To him it appeared that they did not possess the smallest claim for compensation. But suppose that they had been relieved from the burthen of tithe by a different operation — suppose, instead of having severed a portion of their estate, that they had severed a portion of their rent merely, and that instead of receiving 1,000l. a year, they had agreed, in order to get rid of tithe, that they should relinquish 100l. a year, and retain 900l., how could the burden of tithe be then said to interfere with the application of capital in the improvement of land? commuted tithe ceased to be a burden upon industry or enterprise. The fact was, the ownership of the soil in England was vested conjointly in the titheowner and the landowner. The rights of each were distinct and equally indefeasible. The same law which secured to the landlord his estates, assigned the tithes to the parties whose privilege it was to receive them; and for a landlord to claim compensation because of tithes, was nothing more nor less than to seek a reward for giving his own to another man. The ingenious nature of his noble Friend's argument led him to dwell upon this topic at some length, and that circumstance would induce him to be more brief in dealing with the rest of the subject. Something had been said about the great utility and advantage of getting rid of the malt tax. Now he (Earl Grey) saw no difference between the malt tax, and the 951 tax upon tea, and tobacco, and sugar, and foreign spirits and wines, or any of those other taxes on luxuries; and he considered it could be no more contended that the agriculturist bore the burthen of the malt tax, then it could be contended that the Chinese bore the tax on tea, the Americans that on tobacco, or the French that upon their wines and brandies. [Lord BEAUMONT: The charge imposed by this tax diminished the consumption, and lessened the demand.] He denied that the influence of the malt tax had by any means lessoned the demand for barley; on the contrary, he would put it to any farmer or agriculturist whether there was any single article of produce for which the demand was better than barley; or whether it was not about the most profitable crop which he could grow? At least he (Earl Grey) could answer for it, that such was the case in the districts of the north of England with which he was acquainted. Now, in the first place, it was difficult to answer the argument used by his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle), that more was done to increase the demand for malt by giving the grower of malt a monopoly over the dealer in molasses, than to restrain the demand by laying a tax upon the article. The noble Lord said that if there were a greater demand for malt, more barley would be grown in this country than was the case at present; but he (Earl Grey) would ask any Gentleman who had a practical knowledge of the subject, whether we had not already as much barley as we could grow? He could only say for himself, that in the north of England all the best farmers grew as much barley as they could, and, upon the whole, it was the most profitable grain that they raised. But then their Lordships had been told of the virtual prohibition to use malt as food for cattle in preference to barley unmalted. He (Earl Grey) thought that this question had been satisfactorily disposed of by the debate which had taken place on the subject in the other House of Parliament, in the course of last Session. The noble Duke (Richmond) had said that the motto of the Royal Agricultural Society was, "Practice with Science;" but in this case practice and experiment had supported the conclusions of science, that this question had been investigated by some very eminent chemists who had showed that it was better to use barley, boiled or crushed, than malted; and their Lordships were well aware that, although the farmer was forbidden to convert 952 his barley into malt, unless he paid the malt tax, he was at liberty to give it to his cattle either boiled or crushed. The conclusion of the eminent scientific gentlemen to whom he had referred was, that barley, when boiled, was more advantageously used to fatten cattle, than when it was malted; and sets of experiments had been made by these gentlemen on purpose to test the comparative excellence of the two modes of preparing the grain. The experiments were tried with some Ayrshire cows and some oxen, with the view of ascertaining the effect both upon milking and feeding; and the result was, that they pronounced the boiling of barley to be the most economical method of using it as food for cattle. As a further proof of this fact, he might mention that in Germany, where many scientific experiments on agricultural subjects had been made, and where there were no fiscal regulations to prevent the malting of barley, the practice of feeding cattle with malt did not prevail. He hoped, therefore, that noble Lords would not urge Her Majesty's Government to meddle with that source of revenue. He was certain that, in the whole amount of the revenue raised by taxes on articles of consumption, no tax pressed so little on the interests of the country as the malt tax. The tax was paid by the consumers of beer. Now, beer, after all, was a luxury; and although he should be glad if the people could obtain that luxury cheaper, yet there were other luxuries which were infinitely of more advantage to the labouring classes, such as tea and sugar; and he should consider a diminution of the duties upon these articles of consumption as of much greater consequence than the repeal of the malt tax. He believed that the duties imposed upon tea and sugar were much too high for mere revenue purposes; and before their Lordships meddled with so large an amount of revenue as that which was produced by the malt tax, they should well consider what they were doing. He believed his noble Friend, who came from a barley-growing district, had quoted a passage from a pamphlet, which he (Earl Grey) thought as crude and unsatisfactory as anything he ever read, recommending, instead of a malt tax, an increase of the property tax. Now, he (Earl Grey) confessed that he never heard any proposition which gave him more alarm. He looked with alarm at the tendency which had been exhibited of late years to get rid of indirect taxes, and to substitute a system of direct 953 taxation. He believed, that if this course were carried much farther, it would be exceedingly dangerous to the credit of the country. Passing from these two points, he now came to the question of local taxation, which his noble Friend (Lord Beaumont) had represented in such a strong light as affording a great claim for compensation to the landed interest. His noble Friend had told the House of an income tax of 12 per cent. on the real property of the country. Now, he (Earl Grey) did not quite understand his noble Friend's calculation. The income tax to which his noble Friend referred, the poor rate, was not imposed upon land alone, but upon houses, railroads, and canals. With respect to the exemption of stock in trade from assessment to the poor rate, the noble Lord on the cross benches had told their Lordships how very ill the principle of assessing stock in trade to the poor rate worked in Scotland; and he (Earl Grey) was sure that, if an attempt was made in this country to rate every man according to the estimated amount of his "means and substance," as in Scotland, the country would be extremely dissatisfied. The poor rate was now charged upon the value of land and houses, and not upon the land. In fact, the dispute about stock in trade began between the titheowner and the farmer, and not with the manufacturers, for the titheowner wished to make the farmer pay for the stock on his farm as his stock in trade, and the farmer very properly resisted the imposition. This was the origin of the temporary Acts of Parliament passed to exempt stock in trade from liability to the poor rate; but these Acts applied as much to farming stock as to the stock in trade of the tradesman or manufacturer. In his opinion, the existing arrangements on this subject were right; it would be impossible to ascertain the "means and substance" of all parties residing in a parish; and he believed that a poor rate could not be levied in this manner. But there was one principle which applied equally to all these different rates, of which the noble Lord who introduced the Motion had given their Lordships rather a formidable list, not even excluding the militia rate, which had not been levied for many years, and which he, for one, hoped would never be levied again; it was this—that, notwithstanding all these burdens of which so much had been said, land in this country bore a higher value than it did, for this obvious reason, that every burden laid 954 upon the land was in consequence of some corresponding benefit conferred upon the landed interest. The application of the principle to which he referred, might be easily ascertained. He believed that the finest prairie land in Western America might be purchased in fee-simple at a dollar, or about 4s. per acre; he meant land fit for producing the most valuable crops: whereas in England the rent of the best land, intrinsically no better than the American land, was 40s. or 50s. How did it happen, then, that in America the fee-simple of laud might be acquired at one-tenth the price which an occupier of land in this country would have to pay by way of rental? It was what were called the burdens on land which thus enhanced its value. The poor rates arose from a dense population; but the demand for agricultural produce sprung from the same cause; and the maintenance of the poor was a small price to pay for the vast increase in the value of land which a high state of civilization occasioned. The expense of maintaining the roads was mentioned as a reason why favour should be shown to the landed interest. Surely, there was no class of society which derived so much advantage from the roads as the agriculturists. As to the turnpike roads, they were maintained by the parties who used them; and with regard to the other roads, they were rather a source of profit than of expense to the landed interest. To go back, however, to the subject of the poor rates: in a thinly populated country there were no poor; for every man could get land, and by the most ordinary exercise of industry could maintain a family; but in proportion as population increased, land became more valuable and more difficult to be obtained; rents rose, and poor rates became unavoidable; so soon as money rents came into use, the difficulty of providing for the poor increased, but concurrently with that there arose a vast increase in the value of land. Land was now twenty-fold more valuable than it was 400 years ago; but as this increased value of land was occasioned by an increase of population, and as pauperism arose out of populousness, and as the landowners were the greatest gainers by the density of the population, they ought not to complain of paying the cost of that which was so much for their own advantage. Upon whom could the burden so properly fall as upon those who gained by it? And again, to recur to the subject of roads: the existence 955 of roads within and in the vicinity of an estate, formed its greatest possible recommendation as a marketable article. In offering an estate for sale, it was the practice of Mr. Robins, and other skilful auctioneers, to say that it possessed easy access to the best markets by means of good roads. A manufacturer might as well claim exemption from the cost of using gaslights in his mill, as a landowner claim compensation for maintaining the roads in his neighbourhood. He would not enter further into the question of the manner in which the remaining rates operated to the advantage of the land; it was enough to say, that the same principle applied to them also. In his belief, they were all payments in return for value received. He would ask their Lordships for a moment to consider whether the owners of land in the remote districts of Canada or America would not most gladly pay very much larger charges than those which had been adverted to, if by so doing they could obtain the same advantages as those which their Lordships enjoyed, namely, good roads, good markets, and the efficient administration of the law. They were not charges which fell on the capital of the farmer, but were, every one of them, charges which fell on rent. If a farmer were going to take a farm, the first question he asked was, what was the amount of the rates? because, if they were heavy, he offered a less rent than he otherwise would be willing to pay; and, if they were light, he, of course, offered more for the farm. Although, therefore, these rates were paid by the farmer in the first instance, they were in reality a deduction from the rent, to which, as he had endeavoured to show, their Lordships would do well to submit. Before he concluded, he had only one or two words to say with respect to the general taxation of the country. With regard to that point, he thought that the accompaniment offered to the Motion by his noble Friend near him (Lord Monteagle) was a most valuable addition to it. Out of every species of burden imposed upon the landed interest, he (Earl Grey) only knew one of which they had just ground to complain, and that was the stamp duty on conveyances. He believed, that of all the impolitic taxes that ever were imposed, that was the most impolitic. By the heavy charges on conveyances, it prevented the landholder, when the money market was easy, paying off one mortgage at a higher rate of interest, and mortgaging his land at the lower rate. It 956 did not exactly prevent, but, at the same time, it checked and discouraged the granting of leases, which it was important to encourage as much as possible, with a view to the improved cultivation of the land. It also prevented the acquisition of small freeholds, a subject which he knew was not very popular in some quarters just now; but he believed that nothing could be more advantageous than to encourage persons to invest their small savings in land. That, therefore, was a charge which the House would do well to get rid of; and if any commutation of taxes could be made, by which this tax upon conveyances could be abolished, he should agree that the commutation would be very advantageous, not to the landed interest only, but to the nation at large. This single tax excepted, wherever he looked, he found, not special burdens on the land, but special exemptions. Some jokes had been made about shepherds' dogs and agricultural horses; but he really wished to know why agricultural horses were to be exempted from taxation any more than the horses of a brewer, for instance, with whom they were as much stock in trade as with the agriculturist? He would not detain their Lordships much longer; but he thought the House would be doing wisely by leaving the distribution of the public burdens to others. The less they inquired into the peculiar burdens on agriculture the better. He himself should be perfectly ready, in the hope of passing so large and useful a measure as that which was now before the Legislature, to acquiesce in the concessions which it was thought advisable to offer to the agricultural interest. But, although he did not intend to object to these concessions, he could not help recommending their Lordships not to press these inquiries too far. The topics to which he had already adverted, were not unknown to those whose vision was clear enough to see the weak points in the case of the landowner, and who had energy enough to press those topics, if necessary, to a trying conclusion. If the landowner attempted to drive a hard bargain with these Gentlemen, it would lead them to look at the matter in a very different temper to that in which they had hitherto viewed it, and to put forward arguments which it would be very difficult for the landowner to meet, and inconvenient to concede. In France, it had been stated in the House of Commons by the hon. Member for Sheffield, in the year 1838, that out of an income of 42,000,000l. in that 957 year, no less than 10,000,000l., being one-fourth of the whole, was contributed by a direct tax upon real property. In Austria rather more than one-half of the public burdens were borne by real property. It was the ancient policy of this country to throw a great part of the public charges on land, in the same manner; and in the early ages of our history, the title upon which the whole soil of the kingdom was granted, was that of providing the charges of the military defences: subject to that burden the whole of the landed property of England was acquired by its original proprietors. And to a later period the same policy was continued; up to the time of the Revolution, the land bore a very large part of the public taxation. In the reign of William the Third a tax of 4s. in the pound was levied upon the land. That tax continued of the same nominal amount; but the valuation of 1692 being adhered to, the burden remained nominally the same, but it had really become a mere trifle. The whole valuation of real property subject to the land tax in 1692, was only about 10,000,000l., because at that time a tax of 1s. in the pound produced only 500,000l. a year; and to make up the ten millions he was much mistaken if in the land tax were not included salaries and income from personal property and other sources, to a great extent. Now, by the recent valuation under the Income Tax Act—a Return of which had been laid before the House of Commons, containing the valuation for England and Wales—it appeared that real property only, strictly so called—he meant houses, lands, manors, tithes, and mines—were worth no less than 85,000,000l. a year; and that valuation excluded all incomes under 150l. a year. Therefore the land was now only bearing the charge imposed upon that property when it was less than one-eighth of its present value. These were things well known to many clear-sighted men, who could urge them with great effect; and he would beg, with great respect, to suggest that, as in that House they did not originate measures of taxation, so they should show their great prudence in abstaining from agitating this question. He had to apologize for occupying their time so long; but this was a subject of such deep interest, and leading to such practical conclusions, that, differing so widely as he did from some noble Lords who preceded him, he could not suffer their arguments to pass without some reply.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
had great doubts 958 as to the expediency of the Motion made by the noble Lord, and those doubts had been considerably increased by the discussion which had taken place; for it appeared to him that the Committee was more likely to be a scene of wrangling about general principles, than productive of any practical facts. At the same time certain questions of general principle had been mooted, to which he (Lord Ashburton) would briefly advert. The first was, whether tithe was or was not a charge upon land. This was not a new question. It had been argued by practical men and by political economists of every variety of tenet; but it had very seldom been denied till to-night that it was a charge at all. There had, however, been various opinions relative to the amount of the charge. Mr. Ricardo, in the year 1822, when he proposed a duty on wheat, which was to vary from 10s. up to 20s., the minimum being 10s., said, "I will state the ground upon which I calculate this duty. I find it stated in the evidence before the House of Commons, that the whole of the charges which the farmer is taxed to pay, are principally tithe and poor rate, which amount to 10s. per quarter." Mr. Ricardo admitted this to be a charge, and he measured his proposed duty by the consideration of what was the burden. It was said, however, that although tithe was a tax before the Commutation Act, in consequence of that commutation it was no longer a charge. This seemed at first a startling paradox, and a proposition not easily answered.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
explained. He had said, that tithe was not a tax upon the capital employed in cultivation, but a direct charge upon the land.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
said, the noble Lord contended that tithe was a charge before the commutation; but after commutation it ceased to be a charge. Now, he (Lord Ashburton) could not make out how that proposition was supported. Undoubtedly the tithe commutation was a benefit, as it enabled proprietors more freely to cultivate the soil without any fear of the charge being proportionately increased; but the charge still remained. If any of their Lordships had an estate of 1,000l. a year, upon which he (Lord Ashburton) had a mortgage of 500l., and he lived in the same parish, the landed proprietor paid for the church, from which he (Lord Ashburton) derived as much benefit as the owner of the estate. Yet they were told the land incurred no charge, and the land in some 959 shape or other was entitled to no consideration in consequence of bearing a charge for a service which was of benefit to the whole community. It was impossible by any process of reasoning to come to the conclusion that tithes ceased to be a charge, from the fact of their having been commuted. Their Lordships were aware, that before the Commutation Act a great portion of the tithes was commuted by particular arrangements with individuals, and this was a fact which those who held the views of the noble Lord seemed never to take into account. Their Lordships should also hear in mind that if the laud, in consequence of the cessation of protection should go out of cultivation, as was apprehended (justly he thought) by the landed interest—that portion of the land which would go out of cultivation, would be just that which paid tithe. It was, therefore, a direct charge upon the cultivation. The pressure coming upon them, successive varieties of soil would go out of cultivation, beginning with the poor, and rising up to the higher. It appeared to him, therefore, that cultivation would be prevented, and that tithes were a charge upon the landlord, and not upon the tenant. Much discussion had been advanced with respect to various other charges on the land, such as the poor rate and the land tax—both of these, undoubtedly, originally applied to every description of property; but what had been the practice? It had been found out that the poor rate could not fall upon other descriptions of property with anything like effect, as it was felt to be a sort of inquisition; and it was therefore levied as a charge upon the land only; and, singularly enough, the Poor Law Statute of Elizabeth, which was enforced in America, was still held there to include all kinds of property. The assessor in that country imposed what he pleased, and it lay with the proprietor to make out his own particular case of exemption, if he had any. It was the same with respect to the land tax in our own time; and a Bill had been brought into Parliament for the purpose of relieving the property in the town of Taunton, which he then represented, from the burden of that tax. He differed entirely from his noble Friend as to the propriety of making out plans, balancing inequalities of taxation on one side with inequalities on the other. That did not appear to him to be a right principle of legislation, unless they could make up their minds to level all inequalities together. On the general principle, he had 960 no objection to the Committee; but he must state his own conviction, that protection, or compensation, or whatever name they chose to give it, in some shape or other, was justly due to the land, and that if it was abandoned, they would produce by impoverishment of the land misfortunes, not only to that, but to every other interest in the country. His noble Friend spoke of America and Canada, where they could get land for 4s. an acre in fee-simple, which in this country could not be got for 40s. a year rent; but the additional value given to the land here as compared with land in America, was not the fact as stated by him—a consequence of improved manufactures and greater wealth: it was owing to the fact that there were no inhabitants in those countries sufficient to raise its value. There was this great distinction between the two cases, that in this country the land was greatly increased in value by the price of labour; whereas its sole value in the rich prairies of the West was just according to the amount of the produce raised. They might as well set a value on the land where our first parents were placed in the Garden of Eden, and where there were none but themselves to cultivate the acres that lay before them in the world, as compare the value of land in America with what it was in this country. The cases wee altogether different; and it was a confounding of their understandings to mix two such questions together. Seeing that the general opinion of the House was favourable to the Committee, he could only say he wished the noble Lord well through with it, and that he had a grave apprehension that no benefit would be derived from its appointment.
§ Amendment and original Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned.