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way as most effectually to support the independence and permanent interest of the country.

The House divided, and the question for the third reading of the bill passed in the affirmative;

Ayes............ 196


April 2. 1798. REDEMPTION OF THE Land-Tax. — The House having resolved itself into a committee of the whole House, Mr. Hobart in the chair,

Mr. Pirt rose, and spoke in substance as follows:

The subject which I am now about to submit to the committee has of late excited considerable attention, and given rise to considerable enquiry. As the ultimate judgment which the committee will form upon it must depend upon the consideration of a great variety of details, it is not my intention to call upon you for any decision to-day. I trust, however, that the principle upon which the measure is founded only requires to be very' shortly stated, in order to engage your attention, and to recommend itself to your notice. That in the present situation of the country, every measure which tends to invigorate public credit, which will facilitate the means of supporting that struggle into which we were driven for our necessary defence, and which has been prolonged by the obstinate ambition of the enemy; that every measure which will furnish fresh resources to animate the courage of the nation, and to enable us to maintain that character which Englishmen have ever displayed, has a fair claim to the favour of the legislature, I am warranted to pronounce, from the experience of the present session, the unanimity you have shown upon former occasions, and the recent exertions you have made for the public defence. When I recollect, then, the temper which parliament has uniformly manifested, I am sensible that it is needless to say any thing in recommendation of the principle, provided the measure itself be practicable. The leading object

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of the plan which I shall have the honour to propose, is to absorb
a great quantity of stock, to transfer a considerable portion of
the funded security to landed security, and, by the redemption of
the present land-tax, to purchase a quantity of stock more than
equivalent to the amount of the tax. That tax will be made ap-
plicable in the same manner as at present, but the proportion of
stock it will purchase will be one-fifth larger, presenting at once
a considerable pecuniary gain, to the public, and an advantage
to the individual by whom the redemption shall be made. The
chief recommendation of the plan, however, is, that it will dimi-
nish the capital stock, and remove that which presses more se-
verely upon us than any inconvenience with which our situation
is attended. It is a truth now universally felt, a truth which
the enemy have acknowledged, and which faction itself will not
venture to deny, that even in this stage of the war, the state of
every part of our trade, our industry, and revenue, is astonishing
and proud for this country ; that our general capital and wealth
is greater than they were even at its commencement; that our
commerce, so far from having experienced a diminution as in other
wars, has greatly increased; that our industry and manufactures,
subject to those local fluctuations which are inseparable from a
system so extended and diversified, have sensibly advanced ; and
that, on a general view, our situation exhibits every symptom
of internal wealth, that we are richer, that we possess a greater
command of capital than this country ever enjoyed at any former
period. It is singular too, that under the depreciation which the
funds have experienced, the price of land has maintained itself
above the average of former wars, and equal to the price in times
of peace; very little indeed below the unexampled state of a few
years preceding the war.

I am aware that no argument is required to demonstrate the necessity of great exertion in the circumstances in which we are now placed. You have already expressed your opinion of that necessity, and have shewn your readiness to employ our resources. All then that is wanting is judgment and discrimination in the mode of calling them into action. If there be any

chance of diminishing the capital of the funded debt, which is the only pressure by which our efforts are embarrassed, the measure, by which it is to be effected, is founded upon clear and substantial principles of policy. This is a principle upon which the House has acted in the course of the present session. Upon this principle you felt the expediency of making an extraordinary exertion to raise, within the year, a considerable part of the supplies. It is a further satisfaction for us to know, that the energy of the measure has been fully proved ; that though difficult in detail, though encountered by considerable opposition on its appearance, and many obstacles in its progress, its advantages have been recognised by the country. Though necessary to qualify it by many modifications, which diminished the full effect it was intended to have, yet the voluntary zeal of the country has borne testimony to the principle; and the contributions with which the patriotism of individuals has come forward for the pub. lic defence, furnishes the best proof, that in this measure, the legislature was in unison with the sentiments of the people. From what I have heard, the objection to the measure of increasing the assessed taxes has been, that it did not go far enough ; and commercial men have declared, that it did not embrace sufficiently that species of property of which they are possessed. Whatever may be the decision of the House, as to the principle of the plan which I am about to propose, I am sure that any measures which tend to give effect to the same object, which will combine an annual saving with other collateral advantages, which, without imposing any new burdens upon the public, will be attended with considerable benefit to the nation as well as individuals, cannot fail to be received with the highest favour by this House, and to secure the approbation of the country.

In stating the principle upon which the plan proceeds, I am aware that I have claimed a great deal of merit to the measure. In this, however, I claim none from the proposal. The principle itself possesses that recommendation which usually belongs to good principles, that it is so simple that the advantages which

are produced by its effects do not necessarily suppose a great share of merit in the proposer.

The amount of the present land-tax is about 2,000,0001. This sum has been annually granted by parliament for a century past, and lias been levied at the same rate in different districts. The repartition which was originally made has continued so long, and the sum of 4s. in the pound for so considerable a period has never been exceeded, that it will be readily acknowledged that this sum ought not to be diminished, at least till many other burdens which weigha mote heavily upon the public have been taken off. Taking this state then as that upon which the present landtax is raised, it is proposed, by changing the security of a part of the funded capital into landed security, to cover the two mil. lions of existing land-tax by two millions four hundred thousand of dividends. By this measure it is evident that, upon the supposition that the whole of the land-tax were to be redeemed, the public would gain 400,0001. The terms upon which the purchase is intended to be made, while they produce this benefit to the public, will present that advantage to the land owners, which will render it eligible for them to redeem, and tempt them to give full effect to the measure. Eighty millions would thus be taken out of the market, and the public credit, relieved by so great a pressure, would be proportionably strengthened. Having stated this brief outline, I shall advert to a few of the objections against the measure, which have yet come to my knowledge.

It is obvious that the first step necessarily involved in the measure is to render the present land-tax perpetual, universally redeemable, and where not redeemed, always subject to redemption according to certain regulations. There is one objection which at once suggests itself, and to which a very satisfactory answer occurs. I mean the objection that may be made on con. stitutional grounds. It may be said that, to render a grant which is now annual, perpetual, is to remove the constitutional checks of parliament over the public expense, and to render per. petual what is now voted as an annual supply. I do not deny

that the adoption of the present measure would create some alteration, but the objection upon the constitutional ground is very easily removed. Nothing can be more easy than to place under the annual control of parliament funds that are at present permanent, equivalent to those which are taken away by this measure. Certain branches of the consolidated fund may be made annual, even to a greater amount than two millions of land-tax. This would answer every purpose of constitutional control. Ministers would not then have it in their power to apply money without consent of parliament more than before. It is my intention, therefore, to move a particular resolution to obviate this objection. Such funds as parliament may judge most expedient for the purpose of control may be selected and submitted to annual vote in the same manner, as the land-tax, and instead of two millions, the sum may be augmented to the full amount of the dividends which will be taken out of the market. Parliament will thus have the annual control of 2,400,0001. By this means it will so happen that the constitutional check of this House will for some years be more, and never will be less, than it was before.

Another objection urged by some is, that from the present repartition to perpetrate the existing land-tax would be to perpetrate an inequality which is so great as to form no incon. siderable abuse. They say, that if the tax were equalised, they would have no objection to render it perpetual. Let us consider this objection more closely and attentively. Since the revolution, especially during the latter part which has succeeded, it has never been in contemplation to equalise the land-tax by a new repartition according to the real amount of property, and the ability of different districts. We know that in this House, though the vote for the land-tax had the undoubted right to adopt a new repartition, no such proposition was ever made. With the experience of a century before us, then, if we have seen no such attempt ever made, is it more likely that it would be corrected, even were the vote to be annual, than if the grant were made perpetual ? I do not now argue whether it would have been right to devise

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