« ZurückWeiter »
misfortunes in which they are at present involved, and has thus laboured to prove that similar calamities impend over this country. But, Sir, the honourable gentleman should know, that the British parliament and the British government, during the whole of his present Majesty's reign, so far as they had the. power of interfering in the affairs of Ireland, have shewn every indulgence, and granted every possible favour to that country. He should know, that nothing has been omitted on their part, and that no exertion has been wanting to extend the commerce, and secure the rights, privileges, and happiness of that kingdom,
Conciliation is now become a favourite word; but I beg leave to say, that the word conciliation, in the present crisis of public affairs, is both misunderstood and misapplied. Does the honourable gentleman mean, by conciliation to Ireland, that we should make every concession and every sacrifice to traitors and rebels, to men who are industriously propagating the most dangerous principles, engrafting upon the minds of the people the most destructive doctrines, wantonly seducing and deluding the ignorant multitude, encouraging the most criminal correspondence with the enemy, exciting the commission of treason in Ireland, under the specious pretence of parliamentary reform, and forming, in conjunction and co-operation with the professed ene
of all liberty, morality, and social happiness, plans for separating that country from Great Britain, and for converting Ireland into a jacobinical republic, under the wing and protection of republican France ? Are we to conciliate men whose machinations so not merely to the subversion of their legitimate government, but to the diffusion of every horror that anarchy can produce ? Are we to conciliate men with arms in their hands, ready to plunge them into the hearts of those who differ from them in political opinion ;--men who are eagerly watching for an : opportunity to overturn the whole fabric of their constitution, and to crush their countrymen with its ruins ? Are we to withe hold from the peaceable and loyal inhabitants of Ireland that protection without which there is no security for their lives and
property? No! The only measure of safety we can adopt is a vigorous system of opposition to those who would completely destroy the country; while on the other hand, we are irresistibly called upon to give a manly and firm support to those who would preserve for themselves and their posterity those great and inestimable blessings which they now enjoy!
Since an allusion has been made to Switzerland, I think it necessary to observe, that her present calamities have been produced by the adoption of measures directly contrary to those which I have just mentioned. She unfortunately gave way at an early period of the war, to the fatal influence of French democracy. She afterwards consented to new model her government, and endeavoured, but in vain, to appease the enemy. Her condescension was ineffectual-her concessions were disregarded ; her attempt at conciliation was fruitless. The enemy was regardless of every concession, and intent alone upon gratifying the imperious calls of unbounded ambition. But if the Swiss had from the beginning pursued a manly and decided line of conduct; if they had opposed vigorous measures to the destructive principles of France, and kept themselves in a state of independence and strict veutrality, they would, I believe, be at this moment as free as any other nation; though I still sincerely hope their resistance is not too late. If, therefore, any inference with respect to the present situation of this country is drawn from the misfortunes of Switzerland, the example of the miseries which she has suffered in consequence of her timidity surely ought to weigh with us; the patriotic heroism and gallant ardour now displayed by her brave inhabitants ought to animate us to the most vigorous exertions, and convince us, since we behold the extraordinary efforts of which a nation is capable, even with all that supineness into which she has been betrayed, and reduced as she is to her last struggle, that we have every thing to hope from our perseverance, firmness, and unanimity. I trust, Sir, that the example of that brave, but unhappy people, will animate this country to vigorous and necessary exertions. Let us not, by imitating their former conduct, run into the danger in which they have involved themselves, and subject ourselves to incur those misfortunes which they now experience.
Leave was given to bring in the bill; and it was accordingly presented, and ordered to be read a second time the next day.
April 2, 1798.
RedempTION OF THE LAND-TAX---The House having resolved itself into à committee of the whole House, Mr. Hobart in the chair,
Mr. Pitt 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 inquiry. 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 priociple upon which the measure is founded, only requires to be very shortly stated, in order to engage your attention, and to recom• mend 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 sbewn upon former occasions, and the recent exertions you have made for the public desence. 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 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 into 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 applicable 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 dini. nish the capital stock, and remove that which presses more severely 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 coinmand 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 tlrere 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 appear- . ance, 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 public defence, furnishes the best proof, that in this measure, the legislature was în 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 preperty 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
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