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Parliamentary History.

39 GEORGE THE THIRD, A. D. 1798.

OF THE

OF

THIRD SESSION

million will be wanted to discharge that amount issued in exchequer bills. Under

the article, then, of army expenditure, EIGHTEENTH PARLIAMENT

there remain the extraordinary services of the year 1799, which I may put at two

millions. Thus the total amount, under GREAT BRITAIN.

the head of army will be 8,840,0001. in

cluding the one million for the discharge [Continued from Vol. XXXIII.] of exchequer bills issued, and two millions

for the extraordinary services of 1799. DEBATE on Mr. Pitt's Proposition Under the head of ordnance services there for a Tax upon Income.] December 3, has been voted 1,570,0001. The above 1798. The House having resolved itself sums, with the addition of the miscellaneinto a committee of Ways and Means, ous services, swell the total of the supply Mr. Pitt moved, that the act of the to 29,272,0001. 38th of his present majesty, chap. 16, Towards raising this supply the same for granting an aid or contribution to resources will be applicable as are his majesty, might be read, and that it applicable at all periods, whether of might be an instruction to the com- peace or of war. The land and malt mittee to consider of the said act; have always been taken at 2,750,0001. which being agreed to,

There remains the lottery, 200,0001. and Mr. Pitt addressed the committee as the growing produce of the consolidated follows: Before I proceed to submit to fund, which I take at 1,500,0001. In adthe committee the very important mat- dition to this, a tax was laid in the last ters which form the subject of this day's session upon the exports and imports consideration, I conceive it necessary to founded upon the peculiar situation of our state the amount of the total services of trade, as it then stood. That tax has not the present year, and of the ways and only yielded to the full amount of what I means applicable to those services. The estimated it at, but has even exceeded it. total sum voted for the ordinaries and ex. That duty I estimate at 1,700,000). The traordinaries of the navy and transport above articles form a total of 6,150,0001. services amounts to 13,642,0001. being the The remainder must be raised either by a same sum, within a very small amount, as tax within the year, in the same manner was granted last session. The next head as the assessed tax bill of last year, or by of expense is the larmy, the estimates of a loan. The sum to be provided for is wbieh amount to $,840,0001. The extra upwards of 23 millions. Gentlemen will ordinaries, to be incurred in 1798, were recollect, that, in the debates upon the stated at 3,200,000l. There was also a subject of the assessed taxes last session, vote of credit for one million, applicable two fundamental principles were estabto unforeseen expenses. This vote of credit lished as the rule by which we should be will cover all the extraordinary expenses guided in providing for the supplies for to the end of the year. But with respect the service of the year. These were, first, to the vote of credit for this year, one to reduce the total amount to be at pre(VOL. XXXIV.)

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sent raised by a loan; and next, as taxes, as unequal in its application, and far as it was not reducible, to reduce it liable to great evasion in practice. Though to such a limit, that no more loan not insensible of the weight of the objecshould be raised than a temporary tax tion, I then felt it my duty, convinced as should defray within a limited time. In I was of the immense advantages of the first place, the tax acceded to by the the system to adopt some visible criteHouse last session was for the purpose of rion by which to estimate and to reproviding for the supplies of the year; gulate the extent of contribution, if it and in the next place, for the purpose of was not possible to devise means of em. extinguishing the loan raised in that year. bracing fully every class of property, and From the modifications, however, which every source of contribution. I felt it mathat measure underwent, the produce was terially important to follow some durable, considerably diminished. Other means, some apparent and sensible criterion, by indeed, were adopted to remedy the defi- which to apportion the burthen. At the ciency thus occasioned. The voluntary same time I felt, that although the assessand cheerful efforts which, so honourably ed taxes furnished the most comprehento the country, came in aid of the deficit sive and efficient scale of contribution, of the assessed taxes, and the produce of there necessarily must be much income, the exports and imports beyond the esti- much wealth, great means, which were mate, brought the amount of the sums not included in its application. It now apraised to that at which they had been cal- pears that not by any error in the calculaculated. The different articles were esti- tion of our resources, not by any exaggermated at 74 millions, and this sum is fully tion of our wealth, but by the general facovered by the actual receipt under the cility of modification, by the anxiety to different heads. The produce of the as- render the measure as little oppressive as sessed taxes, under all the modifications, possible, a defalcation has arisen which and all the tricks and evasions, is yet four ought not to have taken place. Yet, millions. I had taken it at four and a under the disadvantage and imperfections half after the modifications were adopted. of an unequal and inadequate scale of ap

This deficiency is supplied by the excess plication, the effects of the measure have on the head of voluntary contributions. tended to confirm our estimates of its beInstead of 1,500,0001. the voluntary con- nefits, and to encourage us to persevere in tributions already exceed two millions; its principle. Every circumstance in our and the sum of 71 millions for which cre- situation, every event in the retrospect of dit was taken, has been effective to the our affairs, demonstrates the advantages of public service.

the system of raising a considerable part Satisfactory as it must be to review the of the supplies within the year, and ought circumstances to which we owe these ad- to induce us to enforce it more effectually vantages, and the benefits which the mode to prevent those frauds, which an imper. of raising the supplies to a considerable fect criterion and a loose facility of modi. extent adopted last session has produced, fication have introduced ; to repress those it is unnecessary for me to state, that, evasions so disgraceful to the country, however the principle may deserve our so injurious to those who honourably dis. approbation, it is much to be desired that charge their equal contribution, and, its effects should be more extensive, and above all, so detrimental to the great ob. its application more efficient. By the ject of national advantage which it is incauses to which I have alluded, the full tended to promote. In these sentiments, advantage of the principle has not been ob- our leading principle should be to guard tained. The wishes and the interest of indi- against all evasion, to endeavour by a fair viduals, I am sure, must unite in demanding and strict application, to realize that full a more comprehensive, a more equal and a tenth, which it was the original purpose more vigorous application of a principle, of the measure of the assessed taxes to the rare advantages of which we have been obtain, and to extend this as far as pos. able to ascertain, if we have not yet been sible in every direction, till it may be ne, 80 fortunate as to enjoy. Last session cessary clearly to mark the modification, those who acknowledged the import or to renounce, in certain instances, the ance of the principle of raising a consider application of it altogether. If, then, the able part of the supplies within the year, committee assent to this principle, they confined their objections to the propora must feel the necessity of following it up, tion fixed upon the scale of the assessed by more efficient provisions. They will perceive the necessity of obtaining a more operate in the desirable purpose of ob. specific statement of income than the taining by an efficient and comprehensive loose scale of modification, which, under tax upon real ability, every advantage the former measure, permitted such fraud which flourishing and invigorated reand evasion. If such a provision be re- sources can confer upon national efforts. quisite to correct the abuses of collection, The details of a measure which attempts to obviate the artifices of dishonesty, to an end so great and important, must neextend the utility of the whole system, it cessarily require mature deliberation. At will be found that many of the regulations present all that I can pretend to do is, to of the old measure will be adapted to a lay before the committee an outline of a more comprehensive and efficient applica- plan which endeavours to combine every tion of the principle. If regulations can thing at which such a measure ought to be devised to prevent an undue abate aim. This outline I shall now proceed to ment, and to proportion the burthen to develope to the committee as clearly and the real ability, means must be employed distinctly as I am able. to reach those resources which it is im- It will occur to every one to inquire possible under the present system of the what species of commissioners shall be assessed taxes to touch. Experience vested with the power of fixing the rate proves that we must correct and remedy, of assessment under a measure which must in order to secure the advantages which leave a considerable discretionary power. the measure is calculated to afford. It is In such commissioners several qualificain our power to make them our own. I tions are in a particular manner desirable. think i can show that whatever benefit They ought to be persons of a respectable the principle upon which we have begun situation in life; as far as possible removed to act, is fitted to bestow, may by a li- from any suspicion of partiality, or any beral, fair, and efficient application, be kind of undue influence; men of integrity carried to an extent far greater than has and independence. From the experience yet been obtained, an extent equal to we have had of the benefits derived from every object of great and magnanimous the voluntary exertions of such a body of effort, to every purpose of national commissioners, we may be able to ascersafety and glory, to every advantage of tain in what classes to look for men qualipermanent credit and of increased pros.fied for the important functions which the perity.

office would impose. Still, however, I Impressed, then, with the importance should consider it necessary to vary someof the subject, convinced that we ought, what from the mode pursued in forming as far as possible, to prevent all evasion the commissioners of the land tax. After and fraud, it remains for us to consider, much consideration, it occurs to me that, by what means these defects may be re- out of the commissioners appointed under dressed, by what means a more equal scale the act for assessing the land-tax, a cerof contribution can be applied, and a more tain proportion should be taken with given extensive effect obtained. For this pur- qualifications; and that no man should pose it is my intention to propose, that be admitted to act as commissioner for the the presumption founded upon the assessed purposes to be afterwards specified, who taxes shall be laid aside, and that a gene- does not possess 300l. per annum. To ral tax shall be imposed upon all the lead these, other persons of similar qualificaing branches of income. No scale of in- tions should be added, and the list so come indeed which can be devised will be framed should be referred to the grand perfectly free from the objection of in- jury, or those who have served on the two equality, or entirely cut off the pos- last grand juries to form the commissibility of evasion. All that can be at- sioners. In case the party is dissatisfied tempted is, to approach as near as circum- with the decision of these commissioners, stances will permit to a fair and equal another body of commissioners should be contribution. I trust that the opinion of formed, to whom an appeal may be carthe country will concur with the disposition ried. In commercial towns some special of parliament to give that energy to our ex- provisions will be necessary, adapted to ertions, to give that stability to our the nature of circumstances. resources, which our present situation The next point for consideration, is the and our future prosperity demand. ! mode of contribution which shall be adopt. trust that all who value the national ed. Øn this head it is my intention to honour and the national safety, will co-propose, that no income under 60l: a year shall be called upon to contribute, and, to prevent the willing contributor from that the scale of modification up to 2001. being taxed to the utmost proportion of a year, as in the assessed taxes, shall be his means, while his wealthy neighbour introduced with restriction. The quota owes his exemption to meanness, it is newhich will then be called for ought to cessary to guard with greater strictness amount to a full tenth of the contributor's against every chance of evasion. When income. The mode proposed of obtaining doubts are entertained that a false statethis contribution differs from that pursued ment has been given, it shall be compein the assessed taxes, as instead of trebling tent for the commissioners to call for a their amount, the statement of income is specification of income. It will be neto proceed from the party bimself. In cessary to simplify and to state with predoing this it is not proposed that income cision the different proportions of income shall be distinctly laid open, but it shall arising from land, from trade, annuity, only be declared that the assessment is or profession, which shall entitle to debeyond the proportion of a tenth of the duction. The commissioners are then to. income of the person on whom it is im- say whether they are satisfied with the posed. In this way, the disclosure at statement which has been given. The which many may revolt will be avoided, officer or surveyor is to be allowed to exaand at the same time every man will be mine and to report whether there appears under the necessity of contributing his reason to believe that the assessment is fair and equal proportion. How then it adequate. When the day of examination will be asked, is evasion and fraud to be arrives, the commissioners shall hear what checked? Knowing the difficulty of guess the surveyor and the party have to allege ing what a man's real ability is, I do not in support of the objection and the assessthink that the charge of fixing what is to ment, and examine other individuals. be the rate, ought to be left to the com- The schedule, which shall be drawn up in missioners. It would, I am persuaded, be such a manner as accurately to define most acceptable to the general feeling, to every case of exemption or deduction, make it the duty of a particular officer, as shall be presented by the party, with his surveyor, to lay before the commissioners claim clearly specified. To the truth of such grounds of doubt, as may occur to the schedule he shall make oath. The him on the fairness of the rate at which a party, however, shall not be compelled party may have assessed himself. These to answer; his books shall not be called doubls, and the reasons on which they for, nor his confidential clerks or agents are founded, are then to be transmitted examined. If, however, he declines to by the surveyor to the commissioners, in submit to the investigation of his books, order that they may call for farther expla. and the examination of his clerks, and nation from the person concerned. When other means of ascertaining the truth, it in the case of the assessed taxes we have shall be competent for the commissioners had so much experience of the evasions to fix the assessment, and their decision which have taken place; when we see the shall be final, unless he appeals to the consequences which have resulted from a higher commissioner. No disclosure is vague rule of exemption, and an indefinite compulsory; but if the party is unwilling principle of deduction : when we see that, to disclose, he must acquiesce in the deby the different modes by which exemp- cision of the commissioners, who shall not tions were regulated, persons, who pro- be authorized to relieve without a full disbably would have shrunk from a direct closure. fraud, have been able by different pre- This, I am perfectly ready to admit, tences to disguise the fair and adequate gives to the commissioners considerable proportion which they ought to have con- power; but I think I have stated enough

: I wit

, cessary to render every case of exemption some such powers be afforded under this precise, and to guard every title to de- act, the real and substantial effect of the duction from the danger of being abused. measure will be entirely defeated. I At the same time, under every disadvan- | think, too, I have proved, that commistage of the unrestricted application of de- sioners, selected in the manner I have deduction, and the easy commission of fraud, scribed, are as likely to be as free from all we have yet ample proof of our national undue influence, and to act with as much wealth and general honesty. To prevent integrity and honour, as any other set of the country from suffering by dishonesty, men whatever. If, however, a better mode should be suggested, so far from opposing and injury to them, perhaps, than to a it, I shall consider it as a melioration and higher description of mercantile traders. improvement of my plan. With respect I wish, therefore, the committee to consito the information which may be commu. der whether it may not be as well to leave nicated to the commissioners, I should that class to pay on the mitigated rate of propose that they shall be strictly sworn assessment to which they are liable under not to disclose such information, nor to the assessed tax bill, as to subject them avail themselves of it for any other pur- to the general rate of the present bill. It pose separate from the execution of the will also naturally enter into the consider. act. If any statement, however, should ation of the committee, what allowances be made upon oath, which the commis- or exemptions ought to be extended to sioners shall think to be false, and which other descriptions of persons. In the last they may wish to bring to a trial

, it must act, certain allowances and abatements be obvious to the committee that then were granted to persons with large famithere ought to be afforded the means of lies. That principle it will certainly be carrying on a prosecution for perjury. proper to extend to this measure; and the But on no other ground should there be only doubt which I entertain upon the any disclosure of facts by the commis- subject is, whether it was carried far sioners, or any of the other officers ap- enough in the bill of last year. If this pointed to carry the act into execution. suggestion be admitted, it will naturally

Having laid down these general princi- be a matter of doubt, whether the principles and outlines, I cannot feel, that if ple in the last bill, with respect to percommissioners of the description I have sons having no families, ought not to be alluded to can be found, bound to execute extended. It will also very reasonably their duty fairly and impartially, and occur to the minds of the committee, that sworn to secrecy-I say, if such men can it is of the utmost importance to the due be selected, I cannot feel, however strong execution of the act, that, as far as the the objections may be against the disclo- general principles can be laid down for sure of circumstances, that any statement establishing a rate of landed property, or made to such commissioners is liable to what may be the proper average of inthe general objection against public dis- comes which are subject to average, the closures of the incomes and circumstances rates in the last act should be subject to of iodividuals in a commercial country ; at correction and improvement. By the least, I am sure there is every disposition operation of these powers, and by the inin the plan to guard against it. There is fluence of these rules, we may expect to little danger, I conceive, that such com- arrive more nearly at that fair proportion missioners will act partially, or conduct which each man ought to contribute tothemselves vexatiously; and, in my opi- wards the exigencies of the country. nion, there does not remain any fair ground The next consideration is one liable to for jealousy in individuals, that a disclo- more difficulty and doubt, upon which sure to such men will give to persons in gentlemen will be aware that every thing the same line of life any advantages over must be conjectural, but in which we are them.- Perhaps, however, Sir, there is still not without lights to guide us-I once class of men to whom it may be for mean as to the probable amount of a tax the committee to determine whether they of this kind. The committee must be ought not to remain exceptions to the act. convinced, that what I shall state will be Among the descriptions of persons to with doubt and uncertainty. I shall, howwhom it may remain for the committee to ever, submit to the view of the House the consider whether a disclosure would not information I have collected, the authobe detrimental, is the class which includes rities with which I am fortified, and the the poorest persons engaged in mercan- grounds upon which I proceed. And tile concerns; a class whose gains are first, Sir, I shall proceed to state what is most precarious, whose credit may be the first great object of income. I mean most doubtful, and most injured by a dis- the property derived from land. Upon closure-I speak of the persons engaged this point I have consulted the best opiin retail trades, to whom the assessed tax nions, and authors of the most acknowbill of last session gave great indulgencies, ledged merit. Upon the subject of the considering that the relief of abatement rent of the land of this country, sir Wilwas one of which they could not avail liam Petty is the earliest author I have themselves, without greater inconvenience consulted. At the time he wrote, the

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