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possible! We are not entering into the spirit of their rules, we are not disposed to promote their principles; we do not wish to imitate their system ; we do not think it practical in England, however it may be made the subject of applause by those who favour it in their hearts, and, for the purpose of opposing England's true interest, the occasional theme of vindictive declamation, while it is wished that their principles should be adopted : which principles have been admired, and occasionally extolled, since the commencement of the revolution, by those who have opposed us. If the only claim to the support of the honourable gentleman in the prosecution of the war is, to deserve the con. fidence of the enemy; if it is necessary to admire the French revolution, which has been the root of all the evils of the present contest; if it is necessary to have asserted the justice of the enemy's cause; if the exertions of the war are to be entrusted to those who have, from the commencement of the contest, thwarted its prosecution, then, indeed, I am glad that we have not the vote of the honourable gentleman in our favour.
But the honourable gentleman says again, that there is no confidence in us in any part of Europe, and he proves it by shewing that all our allies have deserted us, and kept none of their engagements. This argument, if true, might go a good way towards shewing that we ought to have 110 confidence in them; but until he shews some instances of our want of good faith, I apprehend it does not prove that they have no confidence in us, and proves pretty nearly as much, as the argument that it is necessary that I ought to possess the confidence of his Majesty's enemies in France.
I think I am entitled now, in my turn, since the honourable gentleman has opposed the whole system of the plan which I have proposed, and especially as he is so much, and as it were exclusively, the friend of his country, to ask him, whether he has a better, or any in its stead? for he has stated none. Perhaps he bas not had time to digest a proper plan ; if he has any in contemplation, he cannot fairly object to the proposal which I make now, since he is to have time to prepare his own, which I trust will be much better. But the honourable gentleman says, that if this plan should have been brought forward at all, it should have been brought forward much sooner. He acknowledges that in cases of great danger, great efforts ought to be made. Now, I think that in our former situation we were not in so much danger as we are at present, if we do not make great resistance; and therefore it appears to me to be more sensible to make great efforts in time when they are necessary, than to make them when the circumstances of the time do not call for them, especially when by your financial operations, you are likely to bring the contest to a happy termination. But the honourable gentleman says, that this plan is to shew that we are at the end of our resources. If he thought so, he might have spared himself the trouble of pronouncing a panegyric upon these resources in the course of his speech this night. The honourable gentleman says, that this plan shews to the world that we are at the end of our funding system. The manner in which persons possessed of capital in different parts of the country have acted, in investing their property in your funds, is no proof that monied men think so; but proves, on the contrary, the confidence they have in your resources, and proves also, that wealth is generally diffused all over the country. This wealth is manifested in the improvement of your agriculture, in your buildings, in your canals, in your inclosures; all these, I say, prove that you possess at this moment the confidence of monied men, that there is at this moment more wealth than there was at any former period in this country.
The resolution was agreed to, and a day was fixed for taking the several Propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer into further consideration.
December 4, 1797.
The House having resolved itself into a Committee of Ways and Mears, Mr. Pitt rose and spoke to the following effect :
Having upon a former day so fully stated to the committee the leading principles of the plan by which it is proposed to raise the supplies for the present year, what I have now to offer will be confined within a much narrower compass, and will consist in a detail of the particulars of what has been already stated in the outline. Before I proceed, however, in this detailed explanation, I wish to recapitulate shortly to the committee the general grounds on which the plan I have proposed is brought forward, and the principles on which its expediency ought to be determined. It is universally felt that great and unusual exertions are necessary; it is felt that this necessity is imposed upon us by no act, by no choice of our own ; it is manifest to the world that the struggle we have to maintain, and the sacrifices we are called upon to make, are rendered inevitable by the unshaken obstinacy, by the inveterate animosity, and the insatiable ambition of the enemy with whom we contend. It is now proved beyond dispute, that the nature of the contest is such, that whats ever efforts may be required, whatever sacrifices may be necessary, it is our duty to exert them to the fullest extent which the exigency may demand; and if we possess the smallest spark of the spirit of freemen, if we retain any remains of the character of Englishmen, we cannot hesitate in our determination. Since we are called upon to make such exertions, we have likewise the satisfaction of knowing, upon a review of the means which we possess to second the resolution we are compelled to adopt, that in every criterion of real wealth, of radical strength, of unimpaired vigour and resource, to oppose the unjust pretensions of an implacable enemy, there never was a period in which a nation was better prepared to maintain so important a contest, With such means in our power, I would likewise bring to the recollection of the committee the objects which we ought to keep in view in the mode we employ of bringing them into action, I would desire you to recollect the importance of raising at least some part of the supplies of the year, without making too large additions to the capital of the funded debt. It is on the embarrassment of the funding system that the hopes of the enemy are founded. If, therefore, we are desirous to make the necessary exertion, in such a manner as will best tend to disappoint the hopes which the enemy have conceived, and to gain the object which we have in view, we shall find that it is our true policy to prevent such an accumulation of funded debt in the market, as would depreciate the public securities at present, and entail such permanent burdens as might cripple the exertions of the state at some future period,
Such then is the general outline of the object, which the plan I have proposed professes to have in view. From the principle on which it proceeds follows this natural conclusion, that we are bound to attempt to raise within the year such part of the supplies for the public service, as will confine the funding system within proper limits, and guard against the consequences which might be apprehended from its excess. If too we look at the present state of public finance, at the means of giving it vigour and stability ; if we look at the means of strengthening and perpetuating the resources on which the greatness of the empire is founded, we shall be convinced, that it is important to consider in that part of the supplies which a loan may be employed to provide, what measures may be taken to prevent that accumula. tion, and whether some new modes of redemption may not be introduced, to prevent a perpetuation of the burthens to be incurred. Proceeding upon these principles, then, it remains to be discussed, what criterion is to be taken, in order to fix the plan by which the supply is to be raised. I formerly stated, that, for the purpose of fixing the proportions in which the burden should be imposed, an universal call for the disclosure of property would be inconvenient and imprudent. The question then is, what is the best mode of fixing the proportions, according to which each individual shall be called upon to contribute ? As a first criterion of the means and ability of those , on whom the burthen ought to fall, I thought none more fair and reasonable than the rate of the assessed taxes; a mode, however, subject to abatement and modification, according as particular applications might demand. As a reason for adopting this criterion, I stated that these taxes were drawn from a very numerous class, that they were paid by about 800,000 masters of families, including a population, probably, of about four millions. This mode was likewise preferred, because it exempts altogether from contribution two or three millions of the poorer classes, whom it would be a principal object in any measure of taxation, to favour and relieve. In the next place, the payment of these taxes, in their different combinations of necessary or more voluntary expenditure, may afford a fair criterion of the ability of the contributors, and the proportions in which they ought to be called upon. The third object to be considered is, the means of modification which this principle admits in the cases where its application might be oppressive or unequal.
What then is the nranner in which the burden is proposed to be distributed ? From the consideration of this point, the committee will be able to judge, whether or not it includes the means of affording relief and mitigation to those classes whom it is an object of importance to favour. Gentlemen will recol. Ject that I formerly stated the amount of the assessed taxes to be 2,700,0001.; to this there will be some addition, as the whole of what had been imposed last year, though in a train of collection, had not yet reached the treasury. This, from the receipts already collected, to the amount of four-fifths, might on the whole be estimated at 600,0001. From the completest in. formation which could be derived from the papers upon the table, such might be the amount of the produce of these taxes. They consist of two kinds. The house tax, inhabited houses, commutation, or old duty, with the additional 10 per cent duties, amount to 1,500,0001. The remaining 1,300,000!. arises from male servants, horses, carriages, dogs, and watches. Upon