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and not call it, or affent to it, as the infolent act of any
Sir Francis Baring did not rise to oppose the object of the bill- it called for the supplies which the exigences of the state made it necessary to raise within the year, and to this he would not object ; neither did he object to a similar plan proposed last year, and this conduct he was induced to adopt, not merely to provide for our temporary safety, but more particularly for the permanent preservation of our finances. He was not, however, without his objections to several parts of the plan; it was as liable to evasion, and even more so, than that of laft year. He especially observed the tenor of the bill with respect to commercial objects, and there he was convinced it would be evaded, and frauds committed beyond any thing it was possible to conceive. A learned gentleman (the Solicitor. General) had made fome distinction between a tax upon in come and a tax upon capital. With regard to that on income, he seemed to think there could be no evasion'; in some measure the learned Gentleman might be right; but with regard to trade, he most certainly was in the wrong, for in commerce the bill would be liable to evasions and frauds without end : there would be many who would try to evade, and thofe who could, most probably would. A man may have a large income in trade, yet his property cannot be afcertained; even could it be come at, there are occasions where it should not be touched. There was nothing that should have a stronger claim on the protection of government, than creative talents in mercantile porsuits, here exertion should be anxi. bully foltered. Where industry is engaged in accumulating property, it should be encouraged, not cramped or dispirited. The industrious and enterprising should be protected ; at least he should not be molested while
engaged in producing a capi. tal-when it is produced, let it then be taxed; but while he is engaged in the pursuit, no surveyor, no inspector should pry into his affairs; but when he creates a capital, then it may be liable to taxation. Again, it is said to be provided in the bill, that when a merchant is examined upon oath, he Ss not to be obliged to produce his books. If, however, he is furcharged, can he avoid paying the surcharge unless he produces his books ! Indeed, if the inerchant is disposed to conceal his property, the commisioners might puzzle themselves for six months, nay for twelve, and still not be able to come at his income. In every mercantile account or operation, when there is question of closing it, it generally receives the
touch of the diffecting hand of the master. Some portion is put' to profit, another to expenditure ; but, under the operation of this bill, the diffecting hand of the master will not appear at all-there will be nothing carried to profit, and this may prove of serious consequence. But the manufacturing and trading part of the community will be able to evade the bill fill more effectually : as their property is generally in stock, the manufacturers, &c. will be induced to undervalue it, and thus avoid the tax altogether. From what had passed at the Bank yesterday, he was induced to put the following question : Are dividends liable to be taxed, or only the profits upon dividends? What then, in either case, is to become of the profits of corporate bodies? Indeed the difficuley in these cases amounts to an impossibility. The idea of this measure seems to have been borrowed from the Dutch. But to Hola land it might occasion no injury; the disposition of the Dutch is far different from that of the people of this country; there the measure was not accompanied with an oath, Here, he was forry to say, that a merchant, from the nature of his bu. siness, was often obliged to take more oaths in a week, than a Dutchman ever took in the whole course of his life. He did not say this by way of throwing any reflection upon the morality and integrity of our merchants, but merely to thew the many difficulties to which they were exposed. These were the grounds which made him diflike the measure, and augur ill for its success.
Mr. William Smith began by complaining of the indecent precipitation with which the minister seemed to hurry a ineafure of such importance through the House. Only four or five day's were to be allotted to the discussion of a subject in its nature so intricate and multifarious ; bụi this was the least of his objections. Were it the object of the measure merely to raise ten millions within the year, as far as that was its obje&t he was ready to agree to it with his hon. Friend, the worthy Baronet, Sir Francis Baring. His objections did not lie against the sum ; on the contrary, it had so far his approbation, and so far he thought it a wise plan. Thus, if a bill was brought into parliament for making all men wise and good, no person, he believed, would object to the principle of, it, but if it was provided in the bill to hang every man whom a surveyor should please to think a knave, then it would be segarded as absurd and impracticable, as hanging every fifth man in order to render all men wise and good. But it is asserted, that the principle of the bill is the same as that of the
aflefied taxes last year; as far as it gocs to raise a certain portion of the supplies within the year, undoubtedly the principle is the fame; as it relates, however to the criterion by which the means of contributing are to be ascertained, it differs widely from that of last year, the criterion establishel last year was a voluntary criterion ; a man might think himself able to spend a certain sum of money, but his expenditure was at his option; but his income cannot be said to be a volun, tary criterion ; over it he has no controul. An hon. Gentleman has said we should all put a hand to the plough, and free, the bill from all its inconveniences; but he would ask that hon. Gentleman whether, if he thought the bill unconstitutional, unjust, oppreslive and cruel, he might also add fradulent, would he then assist in forcing it on the House and the nation? Such was his opinion of the bill.; he could not therefore put a hand to the plough. He would also ask the fupporters of the bill, upon what principle of political economy could they pronounce that measure to be wife, honest, politic, and just, which would impose an equal tax upon indolence and industry? But this the present bill goes direaly to do ; if the contrary could be proved, his first and principal objegion to the measure would be done away; if not, the objection to him was insuperable. One man, for instance, inay
dra:v a dividend from the funds of 500l. per annum, the whole of which he has acquired by the exertions of his industry; while another enjoys the same sum without its ever, having cost him any labour. This bill will assess both equaily. Is not then industry confounded with indolence? for no enquiry is made how that sum has been procured. It is not alked whether the one be not a farmer, who has carnt it by the sweat of his brow; or whether the other may not be a merc iniscreart, who loads the earth with an useless incumbrance. One man may have gool. part in the three per cents. or part in an annuity on exchequer bills, while another poffelles a similar fum, the whole in landed property: he who pofleffes the land, may sell it at 30 years purchase, while the holder of the annuiiy may be able to sell it at only three years purchase: no difference, however, is to be made between the two cafes. They are liable to the same affeilment- what a flagrant injustice! Is it possible to enact a more fraudulent rule? He hoped, therefore, that the House would agree to some great ellential altera:ion in this part of the bill, and not tamely permit the drone and the bee, the rich and the poor, to be thrown promiscuously together under the prel
fure of a cruel, oppreslive, and indiscriminating tax. The iniquity of this measure would appear, perhaps, more trongly to the House, when thewn in the words of an able writer, whose name he had the honour to bear ; for the authority of that author would doubtless have more weight, and was better known than his (Mr. Şinith's) speeches. The opinion of that celebrated writer, Mr. Adain Smith, would, he trusted, bear him out in his first allertion, and he would recommend the careful perufal of hiin to every member of the House before they gave their aslent to the present messure. With respect to the objection I have urged, this via luable writer says:-“Capitation Taxes, if it is attempted w proportion them to the fortune or revenue of each contributor, become altogeiher arbitrary., The state of a man's fortune varies from day to day, and without an inquifi:ion more intolerable than any tax, and renewed at least once every year, can only be guelled at--his affefiments therefore must, in most cases, depend upon the good or bad humour of his Afleflors, and must, therefore be altogether arbitrary and uncertain.' This is his decided opinion throughout the whole. The next ohject he would touch upon are the profits arising from agriculture and trade, and this is evidently an object not direally taxable. The saine anthor adduces a variety of sons why it should not be taxed directly--for this profit, he fays,
« Is the compensation, and in most cases it is no more than a very moderate coinpensition, for the risk and trouble of employing the stock. The eniployer must have this compensation, otherwise he cannot, consistently with his own interest, continue the employment."
Here therefore is industry to be recompensed, and not confounded with indolence.--The author next proceeds to Thew, that
“ The quantity and value of ihe land which any man porselles can never be a secret, and can always be ascertained with grcat exactness. But the whole amount of the capital stock which he poffefies is almost always a secret, and can Scarce ever be ascertained with tolerable exactness. It is liable, beldes, 10 almost continual variations. A year feldom palles a way, frequently not a month, sometimes scarce a single day, in which it dues not rise or fall, more or less. An inquisition into every man's private circumstànces, and an inquisiviou which, in order to accommodate the tax to them, watched over all the fluctuations of his fortune, would be a
fource of such continual and endless vexation as no people could fapport."
England, however, seems doomed to support it-Though he could not welt imagine that Englishmen would tamely fubmit to a system of taxation that discouraged industry, and favoured indolence, and which put a surveyor, or a spy, over every man's property. But it is said here there is no inquifitorial power because you may make a declaration--to what, however, does this declaration amount, according to the same anthor ?--He says,
“ In all countries a fevere inquisition into the circumstances of private persons has been carefully avoided.
“ At Hamburgh every inhabitant is obliged to pay the ftate one-fourth per cent. of all that he poffefies, and as the wealth of the people of Hamburgh consists principally in dock, this tax may be considered as a tax upon Itock. Every inan áffefses himself, and, in the presence of the magistrate, puts annually into the public coffer a certain sum of money, which he declares upon oath to be one-fourth per cent of all that he possesses, but without declaring what it amounts' to, or being liable to any examination upon that subject.”
The disclosure of circumstances, we are also told, is not to be dreaded. Yet hear Adam Smith:
3: Merchants engaged in the hazardous projects of trade, all tremble at the thoughts of being obliged at all times to expose the real state of their circumstances. The ruin of their credit and the miscarriage of their projects, they foresee, would too often be the consequence. A sober and parlimonious people, who are strangers to all such projects, do not feel that they have occasion for any such concealment."
Perhaps the people of England are this sober and parsimonious people yet they may feel that they have occasion for this concealment, and that they should not have their
property, and the sources from which it arises, exposed to the whim, caprice, or fancy of a Government suryeyor-who even from idle curiosity, might be tempted to enter a banker or a merchant's house, and require to inspect his books.
Mr. Smith next proceeded to shew with what severity and caprice a furveyor might attempt to harass those whom he might suspect to be some of the incorrigible Jacobins : the cale was not impossible ; on the contrary, it was natural, the surveyors mighit often act so, in order to court the favour of their employers; besides, a surveyor might think it his interest 10 eroploy a vexatious activity in the performance of his