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ral criterion that could be found. The question then was, whether this plan was so very imperfect, and so objectionable in principle, that it ought immediately to be rejected; or whether, after
proper alceration and modification, it might not be of the greatest public benefit? The right bonourable gentleman opposite to him had not considered this with his usual accuracy; for, because this tax was calculated at seven millions, and that it was not to exceed a tenth part of a person's income, he had calculated the whole income of the country at only seventy millions; but the inaccuracy of this calculation must be obvious to the right honourable gentleman, when he recollected, that though this tax never took more than one-tenth of the income, yet, in many cases it look only the 120th part, and in some cases took nothing. At all events, this observation was inapplicable, because he had never spoken of the general income of the country, but only so much of it as was in expenditure. Without dilating more upon this part of the subject, he should say a few words upon what he considered as the leading objections to the mea,
The right honourable gentleman had made a division of the different kinds of property, which appeared to him to be incore rect, inasmuch as it omitted one great source of income. The right honourable gentleman's divisiou was, income arising from landed estates, from commercial pursuits, and from properly in the funds. As to the income derived from professional exertions, the right honourable gentleman had very properly classed it unJer the head of commercial gains. But he had omitted one great source of income, viz. that which was received as the reward of labour; and of the latter class many were exempted by the criterion now proposed. The right honourable gentleman bad contended, that this would operate as a tax upon funded property, which always bad been, and must ever be, considered as inviolate. But the measure now proposed by no means tended to affect property in the funds. No description of income, whether arising from landed estates, commercial pursuits, or funded property, was meant to be exempted from the operation, because it
was meant to attach upon expenditure in general. Where was the injustice of this ? " Why," says the right honourable gentleman, “ by taxing the expenditure of a man whose income is derived from the funds, you do in fact tax his property in the funds.” If this was a valid objection, it ought not only to induce the house to reject this measure, but to repeal every tax that ever was laid on; because it was impossible to suggest a tax which would not be paid by people having money in the funds. Every tax imposed upon consumption, of course must be defrayed by people having property in the funds; but it was absurd to
say that was a tax úpon the funds. If this objection was never made to taxes which were in their nature perpetual, it appeared to him singular that it should now, for the first time, be made to a tax wbich was merely temporary.
The next objection of the right honourable gentleman was, that a tax upon commercial income was not just; for, said he, a man's landed property is his own, but the income be derives from commerce is partly derived from his industry. This was not a time to enter into a minute discussion of these arguments, but surely the right honourable gentleman did not mean to contend that commercial gains were not a fair object of taxation. Those gains were derived under the protection of the laws of the country, and consequently ought to contribute proportiortably to support them. He did not, lowever, mean to contend that many distinctions ought not to be made, and in the committee modifications would undoubtedly be proposed. As to persons who employed great capitals, in proportion to their annual gains, they would be less affected than persons of landed property ; but all that could be inferred from this was, that it was a recommendation of the criterion. Perhaps this criterion, as far as it affected the lower classes, did not make distinctions enough. It would be recollected, that the particular reason he assigned for making this tax lower upon houses than upon
the other articles was, that it should not fall too heavily upon that species of income arising from re
tail trade. The right honourable gentleman had next censured 4: the mode of appeal given in this case. Some alterations might also be made upon tbis subject; but still he thought that mode of correcting the operation of the tax might be useful. The right honourable gentleman himself had admitted, that it might with propriety be applied to landed property; and, on the other hand, he (Mr, Pitt) was willing to admit, that as far as it related to the lower class of retail dealers, soine modification was necessary. These were the general objections which had been made to the plan, and he should now leave them to the consideration of the house, with the observations he had made upon them.
He was aware that there were many who thought that, rather than take this visible criterion of ascertaining property, it would be better to lay a general tax upon property. Undoubtedly, if they could find the means of taxing property equally, without compelling improper disclosure, it would be a most desirable object; but as that could not be done without being open to stronger objections than the present plan, it became necessary that some visible criterion should be found. If that were the case, could any criterion be found more general in its nature than the assessed taxes? The persons immediately affected by this tax amounted to 800,000, and through them extended to about 4,000,000 of persons. By this plan a great number of poor persons would be wholly excluded, and above half of the number before-mentioned would contribute very iittle.
The committee upon this bill might, and he had no doubt would, make many amendments in favour of shop-keepers; but all this would be consistent with the principle of the bill. The committee might, if they thought proper, make an alteration in the scale proposed, without any dereliction of the principle of the bill. Many mitigations were, undoubtedly necessary; but if the utmost inference that could be drawn from this was, that the exemptions should be carried farther than was proposed in the committee of ways and means, how did that affect the general principle of the measure, when they had the means of obviating in the committee the only objections that had been made against it? Without going now into those details, which he wished to reserve for a future period, he should only say, that if it was admitted that great exertions ought to be made, and that a large part of the supplies ought to be raised within the year, and if the only objection to this criterion was, that it would bear hard upon the lower orders of retail dealers, and it appeared to be within their power to obviate this objection; then, upon what ground could they hesitate, unless they had changed their opinions ; unless, instead of making preparations for war, they were determined to begin by begging for peace from a haughty and insulting enemy? If they were not determined to give up every means of exertion, had they any option but to go into a committee upon this bill, to remedy the inconveniencies that might result from it, if passed in its present shape? What was the conduct which the gentlemen on the other side wished the house to adopt? It was ta reject this measure at once, and thereby to declare that they would make no efforts to raise the supplies within the year. If the house adopted this advice, it would be proclaiming to France and to the world, their repentance for having dared to stand up in defence of their laws, their religion, and of every thing that was valuable to them as Englishmen. It would be humbling themselves before a baughty adversary; and, when they had no means of defence, imploring mercy and forgiveness from an enemy from whom we had to expect neither,
Upon these grounds, he hoped the house would read the bill second time, and let it go into a conimittee. The motion was agreed to,
Noes and the bill was ordered to be committed,
January 4, 1798. On a motion for the third reading of the bill for increasing the Assessed Taxes,
MR. Pitt, at the close of the debate, (which had been adjourned from the preceding day) rose and expressed himself as follows :
After the great length of time that has been consumed in the debate, the house, I am sure, will not be surprised if I should desire to avoid, as niuch as possible, the vast mass of extraneons matter that has been brought forward on the present occasion, and select from the numerous topics that present themselves to my view, such as bear directly on the subject under our immediate consideration. With this view I shall endeavour to guide the attention of the house through the various irrelevant and contradictory arguments that have been used, and fix it more exclusively on those leading and practical points, which alone can determine the question we are now called upon to decide. I should have thought it, Sir, unnecessary to enter at any length into this argument, after the admission made by the several gentlemen who most vehemently opposed this measure, if I did not find that the principle they conceded in name is afterwards recalled in substance, and treated as a matter foreign to their consideration, and wholly inapplicable to the case now before them. The principle I allude to is this, whether, in the present circuinstances of this country, there is, or is not an occasion to make a great and unexampled exertion to defeat the projects of the enemy, and secure our own national independence and honour. The affirmative of this proposition bas been uniformly admitted and openly avowed: unless, therefore, the house, influenced by what has been advanced in the course of this night's debate, should think proper expressly to retract that opinion, I have a right to take it as the fundamental point that will govern their determination. This is not an opinion hastily adopted, and lightly considered. It is the language which, after full deliberation and inquiry, the house, at the commencement of the session, presented at the foot of the throne. Such, at that time, was their opinion, and the facts on which it was founded have, in the interval which has elapsed, been neither weakened nor denied. So far from any thing having been advanced contrary to this position, in the course of this debate, the right honourable gentleman himself * has unequivacally admitted, that great military and financial exertion is indispensable in the present situation of the country,