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ed on, which gave an assurance that at the end of forty-five years from the period of each loan's being contracted it would be extinguished by the operation of the sinking fund. In 1802 a new arrangement was made by Lord Sidmouth, of which it was not at present necessary to say much, because, although there were many objections to it, it did not much postpone the term. Then came the operation of the year 1813, which consisted in postponing the payment. The consequence of that operation was to reduce the sinking fund in the mean time (which if it had continued to the present day would have been L.21,000,000) to L.15,000,000; but the terms made in 1813 with the stockholders, which were so made in language as distinct as could be made use of, were, that the then fund should be sacred. Now came the present plan; but nothing was done to redeem their pledge-nothing done to preserve faith with the public creditors. All the sinking fund had been taken away, except only L. 2,000,000; and it resulted, that, instead of loans being diminished or extinguished, they were going to substitute for a sinking fund of L.21,000,000 one of L.5,000,000. Did not all this put the fundholders in a very different situation? And he would ask whether, to all intents and purposes, the faith of the public was not broken with them? He did not, however, complain of this; it was dreadful, but it was unavoidable; we were reduced to it by absolute and dire necessity. They must pay their army, their navy, their judges, their civil, military, and legal establish ments; this was matter of stern necessity, and as such, it could not be helped. The stockholders must be content to go on with a sinking fund of L.5,000,000, according to the right hon. gentleman opposite, but which,
according to gentlemen on his side of the house, did not in fact amount to more than L. 2,000,000. That any of the papers on the table could make it out otherwise he would defy gentlemen to prove, even if they looked over them till the end of time: so that the great difference was this-here was a sinking fund of L. 5,000,000, which it was said might increase to L. 8,000,000; whereas it ought to have been L.21,000,000, and increased to L.30,000,000. He was most truly sorry for this inevitable breach of faith; but he felt that it could not be prevented. As far, however, as he could prevent it, there was one further step which should not be taken, one weight more which should not fall upon the people: he would not consent that at the end of such a war, and in the very infancy of peace, new taxes should be imposed on them which they could not pay. The proposition of his Majesty's Ministers should have been shown to be founded in absolute necessity; nothing but the most pressing and serious emergencies should have been appealed to by them for their justification. The defence of the public liberty,-the protection of the empire threatened by a war,these were the only circumstances he could at present contemplate, that would go to make out a case sufficient to justify such a proposition as the present. But if a war should make it necessary, or if the operations of finance should require the means of the public to be still further taxed, he must concur with his hon. friend, that it would be childish, or he should rather say it would be base, to raise a clamour against taxes thus indispensable. The question therefore was, Was there a case before the house to justify such a step? The distress of the agricultural and manufacturing interests, it was admitted on both sides of the house, was very
great. He had heard it admitted in a speech of great eloquence from the right hon. chairman of the Bank Committee, that the truth must be spoken; that this was not a transitory evil, but had its root and origin in the present state of the country. If so, was it not the more necessary to consider what was likely to be its nature, and what the necessary result of their present measures? It also behoved the house to consider, what might be the effect of the resumption of cash-payments, and the intermediate steps which it was proposed to take before that great object was achieved? This he considered a problem of great difficulty. He knew some persons, hon. friends of his, and whose opinions he always received with the utmost deference and respect, who, in treating this question, and viewing it with relation to its effect upon the price of commodities, had first en deavoured to ascertain what was the limit of depreciation? For this purpose they had taken the Mint and market prices of gold, and finding the variations between them from L.3 to L.4 per cent., they considered that to be the limit. It would have been, perhaps, proper to have taken it at five per cent., which was the rate of difference a little before that period, and at which it had continued for some time; the other was the variation as it existed at the time. Now he could not see why that limit of five per cent. was to be taken as the limit of depreciation. It might be so, but the reason on which his doubt was founded was this: from the period at which the depreciation first took place in the value of the currency, that is, from its minimum to the time at which it reached its maximum, there was a rise of prices of all commodities (excepting some few, which from the quantity of the material, the cheapness and extensive
use of machinery, or other local causes, were cheaper) greatly beyond the proportions of the market price over the Mint price of gold. That price was once 30, and very generally 20 per cent. higher; but when that rose to 20 per cent., the price of all the articles of living, &c. rose to five times that amount, to 100 per cent. and upwards. This was owing to the influence of a great many circumstances which never affected the price of gold. The depreciation of Bank notes was attended by a proportionate rise of gold, and when the rise on the price of gold was about 20 per cent. then, it was rather rash now, (looking at the present price of gold,) it was hardly possible or justifiable to believe, that the difference between the Mint and market prices being abolished, the amount of the depreciation when the Bank should resume cash-payments would be 5 per cent. only. For his own part he did not like to say much upon the subject; but he certainly expected a general depreciation, much greater than 5 per cent., when the operation he spoke of should have taken place. It appeared to him, that although honourable gentlemen might differ as to the means, there could be but one opinion upon the expediency of the Bank's resuming cash-payments as speedily as possible in whatever way, and at whatever time that took place, a general depreciation in the price of all goods, of stock, and the rents of houses, must ensue. The very minimum would be 5 per cent., possibly 7, 8, or even 10, but at the least farthing 5 per cent. With the rents, the value of all stock, and of all income derived from that value, must fall at least 5 per cent. also, and not impossibly 10 per cent. Now, by this depreciation of their means, perhaps as much as 20 per cent. would ultimately be sustained by the payer of
taxes; and yet it was proposed to burden them with L.3,000,000 additional taxes. Why, if there was any consistency among his Majesty's Ministers, instead of laying L. 5,000,000, they would have studied every means of taking them off. Every one of the taxes this night proposed was a money, not an ad valorem tax. Where the means of paying it were thus depreciated, they were laying not a duty which would fall the lighter on account of the depreciation, but a dry, hard money tax, which does not feel the same benefit, and presses heaviest on those to whom money is not indispensable. It could not be said, while they were calculating on a quantity of money, that they knew what its value was. The pound note might be worth 18s. or 22s. for what they knew; for, under present circumstances, he might say money had not attained its last shape nor determinate value. To talk of laying on so many millions, was to talk in ignorance to aim a blow in the dark, which might fall they knew not where. On these grounds he could not refrain from telling the Noble Lord, that at no time, in no period of the history of the country, was a more unfit opportunity than this ever selected for laying on such taxes, or one more contrary to the circumstances of the times. The Noble Lord had maintained that his Majesty's Ministers had shown every disposition to economy. How had they shown it? The Noble Lord had said, "You will talk about retrenchment; why do you not enter into more particular details?" Now, his right hon. friend had expressly declared he would not enter into details, but would point out only the quarters wherein retrenchments might be effected. To begin, then, with the collection of the revenue; since the Noble Lord expressed his anxiety to be informed,
he would ask him whether it was or was not true, that one great branch of the revenue, the excise, had offered to the Government to collect the other great branch of it, the customs, at the same low rate at which the excise itself was collected by that honourable and upright board. Was it true that they had offered to collect the customs at 5 and a fraction per cent., instead of 13 per cent. the expence of the present collection? Was it true, as it should seem from papers before the house, that by the last returns, the very remarkable circumstance was observable of the expence of collection, this year, as contrasted with the last, exceeding it by 1 per cent. additional ? Last year it was 12 and a fraction; this year 13 per cent. Here, then, was one chapter of his honourable friend's budget, by which alone L.500,000 a-year might be saved to the country. Had he not a right to assume, from this, that a really sparing, considerate, and economical Administration, might find other branches of the revenue in which similar savings might be made? He would now mention one other instance, in which, although any saving to be effected was not comparable to the last, yet it was a matter of the highest importance to the country. He meant the state of those offices which were paid by fees, or poundage as it was called. They were not only a large and needless expence, but they were sinecures, which harboured nests of placemen, and extended the patronage of the Crown through every part of the country. If honourable gentlemen would take the trouble of looking at the returns which he moved for about two years ago, they would find that about L. 120,000 were annually paid to persons called receivers of taxes, receivers of assessed taxes, and distributors of stamps.
These were persons doing their offices by deputy; merely reserving to themselves the signature of receipt. But for doing this merely, they had various salaries, from L.700, the lowest he believed of all, up to L.5,000 a-year. He did not mean to say that they could be all done away with; but why did not Ministers make a better bargain for the public? These were not the patent places, which the holders would tell you they had paid for, and would defend ; and why then were these not attacked? Let those who had, for instance, L.4,000 content themselves with L.1,000 a-year; and those with L.700 take L. 250 or L.100, which they would be glad to get for doing nothing. Many offices in the revenue were nearly useless, and might be abolished; in others additional duty might be attached, and a saving effected in that manner. Above all, he must declare that he should never feel satisfied till some general measure of reduction in the amount of public stipends, proportionate to the difference of prices, and to the augmentation which had been made on the sole ground of that difference, was carried into effect. This, however, was a subject on which it might be impracticable to legislate at present, or to form any decided opinion on, till the currency of the country had taken a more settled form. But did he expect any endeavours for accomplishing this object to be made by the present Ministers of the Crown? The Noble Lord had indeed said, that the House, after its late vote, was bound in justice to confide in the financial arrangements brought forward by the Ministers of the crown. If such were the natural consequence of that vote, he should deplore it more than he did at present. He would ask of every man whose vote had been solicited or wheedled from him on that occasion, whether
he conscientiously believed that the people at large were in a situation to pay more taxes, whether his constituents were not in circumstances that made it an act of cruelty to add to the burden with which they were already oppressed? Nothing had been advanced in justification of increased taxes but the gratuitous assumption, an assumption maintained by no facts or principles which had come to his knowledge, that we ought to have a sinking fund of L. 5,000,000. The Noble Lord must surely recollect the extent as well as nature of Mr Pitt's original plan. It might be easily shown, that Mr Pitt was of opinion, that a sinking fund of L. 1,300,000 bore a due proportion to a debt of L. 240,000,000. According to this rule, a sinking fund of L. 3,000,000 would be sufficient for the present amount of our debt. Instead of raising it to L. 5,000,000 for no other purpose than to make a parade of figures, he should be content to leave it at L. 2,000,000, to which he should be happy to add whatever might be procured from retrenchment, which, if vigorously prosecuted, would probably yield L. 1,000,000 more. This was a plan
more suitable to the state of our resources, and calculated in some degree to maintain that policy which, in the event of future disturbances in Europe, it might be necessary for us to adopt. In eulogizing the extent of the national resources, the Noble Lord had referred to the incometax as a means in reserve, by which a sum of L.15,000,000 might be annually raised. He was happy to reflect that we had not so far forestalled our means, that we had not drained this great source of revenue in times of embarrassment and danger; and he earnestly hoped, that by a policy not more wise than it was just, we should grant to the people that
relief which they had so dearly earned, and which he sincerely believed was the true mode of preparing for a fresh contest, if such a calamity should befall us, with undiminished confidence, and unimpaired resour
Mr Huskisson observed, that the measure now under consideration could only be justified on the principle of necessity; it was upon that point alone that they were at issue; and he had hoped that this would be the view which would be taken of the question on all sides. It certainly did appear to him, that for some time after the gigantic and unprecedented efforts which this country had made, palliatives ought to be administered, but that it was essential to our security to return as soon as possible to a sound system of finance, and to look our difficulties in the face. The continental powers were exerting themselves to place their finances on a right footing. Russia had been endeavouring to restore her circulation to its former value; Prussia was acting the same part; Austria had established a sinking fund; and France, after all her sacrifices and contributions, was now, in a financial point of view, in a state of comparative power and prosperity. The last budget submitted to the legislative council indicated a revenue equal to the maintenance of every establishment; corresponding with the rank and station of France amongst the powers of Europe. She had a bona fide sinking fund, equal, in proportion to her debt, to that originally provided by Mr Pitt. This proportion was 1 per cent. upon the aggregate amount of the debt; and the debt of France being L. 170,000,000 Sterling, her sinking fund was at this moment L.1,700,000, accumulating at compound interest. What was there in our situation that
VOL. XII. PART I.
should induce us to act upon a dif ferent policy? We had a debt of L. 800,000,000, and a sinking fund of L. 2,000,000, amounting only to one fourth per cent. on the debt itself. The plan under consideration would raise it to L. 5,000,000, an amount not equal to what he thought right, but which would alter the proportion to that of 5-8ths per cent. Reference had been properly made to the consolidated fund, as to a subject of the first magnitude and importance; but the right honourable gentleman had certainly made no great discovery in pointing out its late deficiencies. The maintenance of the consolidated fund was bound up with the honour and credit of the country; but the case was thisthat we had imposed upon it charges which it was inadequate to pay. Parliament had held out to the country that this fund should form the security of the public creditor, but it had subsequently overcharged it. For thirteen years after the peace of Amiens it afforded an annual surplus of L. 3,500,000, and we had always been taught to look for the existence of some such surplus. The words of the appropriation act pointed out the destination of this surplus. Its first recital related to it, and it appeared to have been always in the contemplation of the Legislature. Since the last peace, however, there had been a falling off: there was at first no surplus, and the deficit now amounted to L. 1,885,000. This deficit had existed for the last two years, and was to be ascribed in the first instance to the consolidation of the Irish with the British revenue, which had entailed on the consolidated fund an annual charge of L. 8,815,172; but the act to which he had before alluded contained a clause that specially provided for rendering the consolidated fund