The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 9, 1734-1737. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Counsel heard for and against the Quaker's Bill,
April 12. The Counsel for and against the Quaker's Bill were called in, and the Bill being then read a second Time, and the several Petitions against it being also read, the Counsel for the Petitioners of the Province of Canterbury were heard; in Answer to whom the Counsel for the Bill were heard; and then the Counsel for the Petitioners of the Province of York were heard by way of Reply: After which the Counsel being withdrawn, Mr Speaker opened the Bill to the House; then a Motion being made, that the 14th Section of an Act made in the 22d and 23d of King Charles II. intitled, An Act for the better Settlement of the Maintenance of Parsons, Vicars, and Curates in the Parishes of the City of London, burnt by the dreadful Fire there, might be read, the same was read accordingly. By a Clause in the Bill, even as it then stood, it was proposed to be enacted thus, 'That if the annual Value of such Tythes, Oblations, and other Ecclesiastical Dues, Rights, Payments, or Church Rates before-mentioned, doth not, nor shall not exceed the Sum of in such Case no Quaker or Quakers shall be sued or prosecuted, for or on Account of the same, in any other Manner, than as before directed, or in any other Court; neither shall any such Tythes, Oblations, or other Ecclesiastical Dues, Rights, Payments, or Church Rates, not exceeding the said yearly Value of be recoverable against Quakers in any other Court whatsoever, nor in any other Manner, than as by this Act is directed, unless the Title of such Tythes be in Question.' This Clause, in all the Petitions presented by the Clergy against the Bill, was called, 'An Excluding them from the Benefit of the Laws then in being for the Recovery of Tythes and other Dues, and thereby putting the Clergy of the Established Church upon a worse Foot than the rest of his Majesty's Subjects;' therefore the said Section was read, to shew, That the assigning of a proper Method for the Recovery of any Right, and excluding the Persons intitled, from any other Remedy, was not a putting of such Persons upon a worse Foot than the rest of his Majesty's Subjects, nor was it without Precedent; for by the aforesaid Act of King Charles II. all Suits for the recovering of Church-Rates or Assessments, within the City of London, are to be brought before the Lord Mayor, or upon his Neglect to execute the Powers thereby granted, before the Lord Chancellor, or Keeper of the Great Seal, or two Barons of the Exchequer; and, by the said 14th Section, it is enacted, 'That no Court or Judge shall hold Plea of Money due by Virtue of that Act, other than the Persons thereby authorized;' and yet the Clergy of London never had complained, nor could complain, that they were excluded from the Benefit of the Laws of their Country, or that they were put upon a worse Foot than the rest of his Majesty's Subjects.'
Which is committed.
After reading the above Section, a Motion being made for committing the Bill; and the Question being put, it was carried in the Affirmative, by 221 to 84; after which it was resolved that the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.
Debate upon the Report of the Resolution of the Committee for granting the above Sum of 70,000 l.
April 14. The Amendments made by the Committee to the Bill relating to Spirituous Liquors were reported to the House, and read a first Time, after which most of them were agreed to by the House, without any Debate; but upon Reading the Clause for giving 70,000 l. to the Civil List, a Proposition was made for altering that Clause, and for settling it in such a Manner, that if the whole Hereditary and Temporary Excise should, in any one Year after that Time, fall short of what it had produced upon a Medium to be computed from his Majesty's Accession to that Time, that Deficiency should be made good by the very next Session of Parliament.
Arguments against that Resolution.
'By the Clause as it stands at present, we are to make a new Grant to the Civil List of 70,000 l. a Year during his Majesty's Life: Now there can be but two Reasons for our making this new Grant: It must be either, because we suppose that the present Amount of the Civil List Revenue will be diminished in a Sum equal to 70,000 l. a Year, by the Regulation we are about to make; or it must be because we suppose that the present Amount of the Civil List Revenue, is not sufficient for supporting his Majesty's Houshold and Family, and that therefore we ought to grant an Addition of 70,000 l. a Year to that Revenue. These are the only two Reasons that can be assigned, and if both of them appear to be without any Foundation, we cannot surely agree to this Clause as it now stands.
'To suppose that the present Amount of the Civil List Revenue, will be diminished in a Sum equal to 70,000 l. by the Regulation we are about to make, is contrary to Fact, and contrary to Experience: For supposing the Civil List's Share in the Duties on Spirituous Liquors, upon a just Computation, does amount to 70,000 l. yearly, yet we may be convinced by Experience, that the Consumption of Beer and Ale will always increase in Proportion as the Consumption of Spirituous Liquors decreases; and as the Civil List has a much, greater Share of the Duties on Beer and Ale, than it has of the Duties on Spirituous Liquors, it is, in my Opinion, certain, that the Civil List will get an Increase of more than 70,000 l. a Year by that Increase in the Duties upon Beer and Ale, which will be occasioned by the Regulation proposed by this Bill.
'To confirm what I have said, Sir, Let us look into the Accounts that are upon our Table, and from them we shall find, that the Amount of the Duties upon Beer and Ale has constantly and regularly decreased, as the Amount of the Duties upon Spirituous Liquors has increased for these several Years backwards. In the Year ending at Midsummer 1725, the Excise on Beer and Ale produced 1,094,953 l. in the same Year the Duties on home-made Spirits produced but 88,622 l. From that Time to Midsummer 1729, half a Year before the late Gin-Act took place, the Duties on home-made Spirits gradually increased, and accordingly the Excise on Beer and Ale gradually decreased, so that in the Year ending at Midsummer 1729, the former produced 104,373 l. whereas the latter produced but 963,763 l. which was 131,190 l. less than it produced in the Year ending at Midsummer 1725.
'In the Year 1729, the late famous Act against Geneva, and other Compound Spirits, was passed; and tho' that Act was evaded by the Sale of a new Sort of Spirit call'd Parliament-Brandy, yet, ineffectual as it was, it diminished a little the Consumption of Spirituous Liquors, and consequently the Produce of the Duties on such Liquors; so that in the Year ending at Midsummer 1732, they produced but 100,025 l. which was 4348 l. less than they produced in 1729. But as to the Excise upon Beer and Ale, what was the Consequence? As soon as that Act passed, that Excise began to increase, so that in the Year ended at Midsummer 1732, it produced 1,071,240 l. which is 107,477 l. more than it produced in 1729.
'Again, Sir, upon the Repeal of the late Gin-Act, the Consumption of Spirituous Liquors began to increase, and consequently the Produce of the Duties on such Liquors, so that in the Year ended at Midsummer last they produced 154,094 l. and the Consequence with respect to the Excise on Beer and Ale we find to be the same; for in the Year ended at Midsummer last, it produced but 1,021,370 l. which is 49,870 l. less than it produced in 1732. From all which, Sir, I think it is as plain as Figures can make it, that the Consumption of Beer and Ale has hitherto always decreased or increased, as the Consumption of Spirituous Liquors has increased or decreased; and as that has been the Case in all Time past, we must suppose it will be the Case in all Time to come.
'This then being laid down as a Maxim confirmed by Experience, let us consider how greatly, I may almost say how entirely, the Consumption, not only of home-made Spirits, but of all Spirits, will be diminished by the Bill now before us, and what an Increase that will make in the Consumption of Beer and Ale; but that I may not be accused of any extravagant Calculations, I shall suppose that the Consumption of Spirituous Liquors may hereafter be but one Third less than it was before; the natural Inference from thence is, that the Consumption of Beer and Ale will be one Third more than it was, and consequently that the Excise on Beer and Ale will, from the Time this Bill takes place, produce about one Third more yearly, than it produced in the Year ended at Midsummer last, which is 340,456 l. I shall farther suppose, that upon the Consumption of Spirituous Liquors growing less by one Third, the Consumption of Beer and Ale should increase but one Sixth more than it was before; even by this Supposition there must be a yearly Increase in the Excise on Beer and Ale, of one Sixth more than it produced in the Year ended at Midsummer last, which is 170,228 l. yearly; and as very near one Half of the Excise on Beer and Ale, stands appropriated to the Civil List, consequently one Half of this Increase in the Excise on Beer and Ale, being 85,114 l. yearly, must accrue to the Civil List, which is 15,114 l. a Year more than it can be supposed to lose, by taking from it the Share it formerly had in the Duties on Spirituous Liquors.
'From these Calculations, Sir, which are all taken from Accounts lying upon your Table, I think it is evident, even to a Demonstration, that the present Amount of the Civil List Revenue will not be diminished; but on the contrary, that it will be a Gather at least 15,114 l. by the Regulation we are now about to make. I know it may be said, that these Calculations are founded upon Facts which are in their Nature uncertain; and that, tho' they have formerly fallen out in the Manner I have represented, we cannot be sure of their falling out in the same Manner hereafter; yet I hope it will be granted, there is a strong Probability of their falling out in the same Manner hereafter, as they have done heretofore: The same Causes generally produce the same Effects; and unless we have really a Mind to grant a new additional Revenue to the Civil List, this Probability ought to be a prevailing Argument with us, at least, to agree to the Proposition now made; for tho' it has been insinuated, that the Parliament may hereafter call for an Account, and dispose of the Increase that may arise in the Excise on Beer and Ale, we know, and the Case now in hand may convince us, how difficult it is for the Parliament to reassume any Revenue, or any Part of any Revenue, that has been once granted to, and established as a Part of the Civil-List. If it should hereafter appear, that the Civil-List has got 100,000 l. a Year, or perhaps 200,000 l. a Year, which may probably be the Case, by the Increase of the Excise on Beer and Ale, occasioned by this Bill, I am very certain, if we agree to this Clause as it now stands, the Parliament will never be able to lay hold of any Part of that Increase, in order to apply it to the Aggregate Fund, for making good the 70,000 l. a Year, to be taken from that Fund by this Clause; nay, I question much if any future Parliament will be able to reassume that 70,000 l. a Year, or to discharge the Aggregate Fund from the future Payment of it, tho' it should then be made appear, that the Excise had actually increased, as plainly as I have now made it appear, that it probably will.
'This Difficulty, Sir, may be prevented by our agreeing to the Proposition now made to us; and by our settling the Clause in the Manner proposed, the Civil List may be a Gainer, but it is impossible it can be a Loser, even with respect to the Surplus it may now have above 800,000 l. a Year; which Surplus, we have been told, the Civil List has as good a Right to, as it has to any Part of the 800,000 l. a Year: But I widely differ from the honourable Gentleman who told us so [Sir Robert Walpole]; for if the Duties appropriated to the Civil List now produce a Million Yearly, and those Duties should by any Accident produce hereafter but 850,000 l. yearly, the Parliament, according to the present Establishment of the Civil List, would not be obliged to make good so much as One Shilling of that Decrease; whereas if they should hereafter produce but 750,000 l. yearly, or any Sum less than 800,000 l. the Parliament stands obliged to make good whatever they may produce yearly less than that 800,000 l. so that there is at least this Difference between the 800,000 l. Establishment, and the 200,000 l. Surplus, that the Parliament now stands obliged to make good the 800,000 l. Establishment, but does not now stand obliged to make good One Shilling of the 200,000 l. Surplus; therefore it can by no Means at present be said, that the Civil List has as good a Right to the Surplus, as it has to the Establishment: But, Sir, if we agree to the Proposition now made, the Civil List will then really have as good a Right to the present Surplus, whatever it may be, as it has to the Establishment of 800,000 l. yearly; for which Reason, if this Proposition be not agreed to, I must conclude, that the 70,000 l. appropriated to the Civil List by the Clause as it stands at present, is designed as a new additional Revenue to the Civil List, and not as a Compensation for the Loss it may sustain by the Regulation we are about to make.
'This, Sir, leads me naturally to the next, and the only other Reason that can be assigned or supposed, for our agreeing to the Clause as it now stands, which is, because we suppose, that the present Amount of the Civil List Revenue is not sufficient for supporting his Majesty's Houshold and Family, and that therefore we ought to grant an Addition of 70,000 l. a Year to that Revenue, during his Majesty's Lise at least, but I may say in all Time to come; for I do not find an Instance, where less has been granted to a Successor, than had been formerly enjoy'd by his Ancestor.
'Now, Sir, as to this Reason, whatever the Gentlemen, who are immediately concerned in the Disposal of the Civil List Revenue, may suppose, I am very certain his Majesty does not suppose any such Thing; because, if he had, he would certainly have communicated the same to his Parliament, either by a Speech from the Throne, or by a solemn Message, and would have desired such an Addition, as he thought necessary. There is no other Way by which his Majesty can communicate any such Want to his Parliament; and until he does it in this Manner, no Gentleman, as a Member of this House, can suppose, nay, as a Trustee for the People he is bound not to suppose, that his Majesty stands in need of any Addition to his Civil List Revenue, or to any other Revenue. This therefore can be no Reason for us, as Members of this House, to agree to the Clause as it stands now before us; and I hope this House will never, without very strong and publick Reasons, take such a large Sum of Money from that Fund which is appropriated for the Payment of our Debts, and for freeing the People from that heavy Load of Taxes they now groan under.'
Argument in Favour of the above Resolution of the Committee.
'The Question now before us, has been already so fully debated, and set in so clear a Light, that I am surprised to hear any new Difficulties started. The true and the only Reason for our agreeing to the Clause as it now stands is, that by the very preceding Clause we are to take from the Civil List, and appropriate to the Aggregate Fund, a Revenue, which, upon a Medium since his Majesty's Accession, has brought in 70,000 l. a Year: This being the true State of the Case, is it not evident that the Civil List will lose, at least, 70,000 l. a Year by the Regulation we are now about to make? And as we are to take that yearly Sum from the Civil List, and appropriate it to the Aggregate Fund, is it not most just and reasonable, that we should charge the Aggregate Fund with the Payment of that Sum yearly to the Civil List? 'Tis true, as the Produce of the Duties upon Spirituous Liquors will certainly be very much diminished by this new Regulation, the Aggregate Fund may not perhaps receive so much yearly by the Share the Civil List formerly had in those Duties; but this signifies nothing to the present Question, for if we were to take off any of our Taxes now appropriated to the Civil List, or to the Payment of the Interest growing due upon any of our Debts, we should be obliged to charge the Aggregate Fund, or some Part of the Sinking Fund, with the Deficiency thereby occasioned, tho' that Fund should get nothing to answer the new Charge laid upon it.
'But we are told, Sir, That if the Civil List be a Loser by taking from it its Share in the Duties on Spirituous Liquors, that Loss will be fully made good by the Increase in the Excise on Beer and Ale, which will naturally be occasioned by the new Regulation we are now about to make. Sir, whatever Increase may happen hereafter in the Excise on Beer and Ale, the Civil List has a Right to its Share of that Increase without any new Grant from us, nor can we take that Right from it without doing a manifest Injustice; so that it appears to me a little extraordinary to say, that the Loss of that Right the Civil List now has to a Share of the Duties on Spirituous Liquors, will be compensed, or made good, by another Right it was before intitled to, and which we neither could give nor take from it.
'But, Sir, to wave this Argument for the present, and to suppose that a Right which we do not give, may be a Compensation for a Right which we actually take away, I cannot think it would be just in us to take from the Civil List a certain Revenue of 70,000 l. a Year, and give nothing in Return but an uncertain Produce, which may for what we know be worth little or nothing; for even by the very Calculations that have been mentioned of the other Side, it appears that the Excise on Beer and Ale does not always increase, or decrease, in Proportion as the Duties on Spirituous Liquors decrease or increase. In the Year 1729, the Duties on the latter produced but 104,373 l. whereas in the Year 1735, they produced 154,094 l. from whence we ought to conclude, that the Produce of the Excise on Beer and Ale was much higher in the Year 1729, than it was in the Year 1735, yet we find that in 1729, the Excise produced but 963,763 l. and that in the Year ended at Midsummer last, 1735, it produced 1,021,370 l. which is 57,607 l. more than it produced in 1729.
'This shews, Sir, that the Proportion between the Increase or Decrease of the one, and the Decrease or Increase of the other, does not always hold; and in Fact it has certainly always been, and will always be so: The Increase or Decrease of the Excise upon Beer or Ale, as well as the Increase or Decrease of the Duties on Spirituous Liquors, depend upon so many other Accidents, that they cannot depend entirely upon one another, nor can any Man guess at the Increase of the one, from any Knowledge he may have of the Decrease of the other. I shall mention only one Accident, which was, I believe, the chief Reason of the Decrease of the Excise on Beer and Ale in the Year 1729. It happened in that Year, the Price of all Sorts of Corn, especially Malt, was much higher than it was for several Years before or since, and for this Reason we may suppose none of our Brewers brewed any more Beer or Ale in that Year, than what was absolutely necessary for the immediate Consumption; none of them brewed any large Quantity for Staling, as they call it; whereas, in a Year when the Price is low, they all brew great Quantities, which they keep by them as a Stock in Hand, to be ready to answer any future Demand. This is more particularly the Case with respect to those Sorts of Strong Beer or Ale, which the Brewer may keep several Years in his Cellars, and is generally the better, the longer it is kept; and to this Accident, I believe, we ought chiefly to ascribe the great Decrease in the Excise on Beer and Ale in the Year 1729.
'Sir, I am so far from thinking, that the Increase or Decrease in the Consumption of Beer and Ale, depends upon the Decrease or Increase in the Consumption of Spirituous Liquors, that I believe they generally increase or decrease together; it is not the Consumption of either of the Liquors, necessary for the Support of Nature, which raises the Excise to its present Height: It is the Consumption occasioned by the Debauches and Extravagancies of the People, and these depend upon so many Accidents, that it is impossible to account for them in Time past, or to guess at the Consumption that may be in Time to come. But I am persuaded that nothing will tend more to the rendering our People sober, frugal, and industrious, than the removing out of their Way the many Temptations they are now exposed to, by the great Number of Gin-Shops, and other Places for the Retail of Spirituous Liquors; for before a Man becomes flustered with Beer or Ale, he has Time to reflect, and to consider the many Misfortunes to which he exposes himself and his Family, by idling away his Time at an Alehouse; whereas any Spirituous Liquor in a Moment deprives him of all Reflection, so that he either gets quite drunk at the Gin-Shop, or runs to the Alehouse, and there finishes his Debauch. From hence, Sir, I think it most natural to conclude, that the Bill now under our Consideration, if passed into a Law, will diminish the Consumption of Beer and Ale; and consequently the Produce of the Excise on those Liquors, as well as the Consumption of Spirituous Liquors, and the Produce of the Duty on them.
'I come now, Sir, to the Proposition this Day made to us, which I must say I look on as a very extraordinary one; because it would entirely alter the very Nature of that Grant of the Civil List, which was made to his Majesty in the first Year of his Reign; and I wonder how Gentlemen can propose making any such Alteration in that Grant without his Majesty's Consent: I think they should, at least, in Decency have ushered it in with a Motion for an Address to his Majesty, humbly to pray that he would give his Consent to their making such an Alteration; for by the Establishment of the Civil List as it stands at present, and as it was granted to his Majesty in the first Year of his Reign, he is to have during his Life the Produce of all those Duties then appropriated to that Revenue without any Account; yet now it is modestly proposed, that he should from henceforth be obliged to give an Account, every Year, to Parliament of the Produce of every one of those Duties, or otherwise to lose, at least, a Part of the Benefit of that Establishment which was intended, and was then actually granted to him by Parliament.
'Having thus, Sir, put this Proposition in a true Light, I am convinced that we cannot come to any such Resolution, or agree to such a Clause in any Bill, without his Majesty's Consent; and as I have shewn that there is no Certainty, that the Civil List will be a Gainer by the Increase of the Excise on Beer and Ale; but on the contrary, that there is a Probability that it will be a Loser by the Decrease of that Excise, I think there arises from thence a sufficient Reason for our making good to his Majesty the Loss he must sustain, by taking from the Civil List its Share in the Duties on Spirituous Liquors, therefore I shall add no more, but declare that I am most heartily for agreeing to the Clause as it now stands.'
Reply to the Arguments in Favour of the Resolutions of the Committee.
'From some of the Arguments now made use of, I think we may already begin to see the Truth of what was foretold in the Beginning of this Debate. We were then foretold, Sir, that if it should hereafter appear, that the Civil List had got 200,000 l. a Year, additional Revenue, by the Increase of the Excise on Beer and Ale occasioned by this Bill, the Parliament would never be able to lay hold of any Part of that Increase, or even to re-assume the 70,000 l. Annuity, we are now to grant, upon a Supposition that the Civil List will get nothing by such Increase of the Excise on Beer and Ale. The Truth of this, I say, Sir, begins already to appear; for the honourable Gentleman [Sir Robert Walpole] has told us, that by increasing the Consumption of Beer and Ale, and consequently the Excise on those Liquors, we give nothing to the Civil List but what it had before a Right to; whereas by diminishing, or taking from the Civil List its Share in the Duties on Spirituous Liquors, we take from it what it had formerly a Right to, and that therefore we cannot pretend to compensate a Right which we actually take away, by a Right which we do not give. If this can be admitted as an Argument for our agreeing to this Clause, it must always be a much stronger against the Parliament's ever pretending to take any Part of the Increase, that may be occasioned in the Excise, or to re-assume the 70,000 l. Annuity we are now to establish.
'Altho' I have never yet admitted, nor can admit, that the Civil List's Share in the Duties on Spirituous Liquors ought to be computed at 70,000 l. yet now, Sir, I shall take it for granted, because it signifies nothing to the present Dispute; for the principal Question now in Dispute I take to be, Whether the Civil List has such an absolute Right to that Share, that we can make no Regulations whereby the Value of that Share may be diminished, without granting a Compensation from some other Fund? And the next Question I take to be, Whether, if by the same Regulation the Value of the Civil List's Share in some other Duties or Excises be increased, we may not in Justice and Equity insist upon it, that the Advantage occasioned in the one Case may be admitted, so far as it will amount, as a Compensation for the Loss in the other.
'As to the first Question, Sir, 'tis true, the Crown has a Right to the whole Produce of certain Duties appropriated to the Civil List, but that Right is to be considered in a twofold Respect. The Crown has a Right to the whole Produce of all those Duties, so far as may amount to 800,000 l. Establishment, without being subject to any Accident or Contingency whatsoever, because if the Produce should not amount to that Sum yearly, the Parliament stands obliged to make it good; and if the whole Produce of those Duties shall amount to more than 800,000 l. the Crown has likewise a Right to the Surplus: But that Right is subject to all Accidents and Contingencies, because if that Surplus should be by any Accident diminished, the Parliament is not obliged to make it good. Now, Sir, among the many Accidents to which that Surplus in its own Nature remains liable, surely this is one, That it may hereafter become necessary for the Welfare, perhaps for the Preservation of the Nation, to prevent or put a Stop to the Consumption of some Commodities, the Duties upon which contribute towards the producing of this Surplus: Would the Parliament be obliged in such a Case to make that Surplus good; or to establish any other Fund for compensating the Loss the Civil List might sustain by such an Accident? No, Sir, it certainly would not; unless that Loss should become so heavy, as to reduce the Surplus, and even diminish the Establishment; then indeed a Demand would arise upon the Parliament, and we should be obliged to make the Establishment good.
'Suppose, Sir, that France, Spain, Portugal, and the greatest Part of Italy, should be united in an Alliance against us, which by our late Management may happen to be the Case; would it not then be absolutely necessary for us to prohibit the Importation or Consumption of all French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Wines? Would not this very probably almost quite annihilate the Whole of what I have called the Surplus of the Civil List? Yet will any Gentleman say that the Parliament could not prohibit the Importation or Consumption of those Wines, without making good to the Civil List its Share in the Duties upon them, to be computed at a Medium of the Produce for the preceeding seven or eight Years, when perhaps the Consumption of them was at a higher Pitch than was consistent with the good of the Nation, or Health of the People? Surely, Sir, no Man will pretend to say any such Thing; the Parliament would not be obliged to make good any Part of the Loss the Civil List should sustain by such Prohibition, unless the Produce of the Duties appropriated to that Revenue should be so far reduced as not to amount to 800,000 l. yearly: And even in that Case, the Parliament would be obliged only to make the 800,000 l. good, they would not be obliged to make good any Part of that Surplus, which the Crown had formerly received and enjoyed by Means of the Duties upon those Wines.
'Is not the Case now before us the very same? Our People have by Accident lately taken such a Turn, that it is become necessary for their Preservation, to prohibit the Consumption of Spirituous Liquors by Retaile. Is not this, as well as the one I have mentioned, one of those Accidents, to which the Crown's Right to the Surplus of the Civil List Revenue always was, and still is subjected? And can any Gentleman with Reason say, that we cannot prohibit the Retail of such Liquors, without making good to the Civil List the whole Surplus that has accrued to it, computed at a Medium of the Produce of those very Years, when the Abuse of those Liquors was at its highest Pitch?
'The other Question, Sir, is, Whether, if by the same Regulation by which the Civil List's Share in some Duties is diminished, its Share in other Duties be increased, the Advantage occasioned by that Regulation in one Case, ought not in Justice and Honour to be admitted, so far as it will amount, as a Compensation for the Damage occasioned in the other? This, Sir, is a fair and a true State of the Question, without that Disguise of compensating a Right which we actually take away, by a Right which we do not give. Having thus stated the Question in its proper Light, I shall make use only of a familiar Parallel in private Life, for shewing that it ought to be resolved in the Affirmative. Suppose a Gentleman in my Neighbourhood has a very large Marsh in his Estate, every Year increasing so as to threaten his Estate with almost entire Ruin, and that the Water from that Marsh, after running through a Part of his Estate, falls upon a Part of mine, and there makes a new Marsh, by which a great Part of my Estate is rendered useless, and the whole brought into Danger: Suppose that upon surveying my Neighbour's Marsh, and the several Fields round it, I find that, by a Cut through another Part of his Estate and a Part of mine, his Marsh may be thoroughly drained; and that the Water, by being carried into a new Channel, will be prevented from overflowing any Part of my Estate, and will very much improve my Neighbour's: Suppose again, that upon a fair and just Survey, it appears, that the Rents of his Estate will, by the Cut or Water-drain to be made, be diminished to the Value of 20 l. a Year, but that by the draining of his Marsh, and rendering it good Pasture or arable Land, the Rents of his Estate will be augmented to the Value of 50 l. a Year, so that upon the whole he will be a Gainer to the Amount of 30 l. a Year. In this Case I must ask every Country-Gentleman that hears me, if my Neighbour ought, in Prudence, to prevent my making that Cut or Water-drain through his Estate at my own Expence; or if he could either in Justice or Honour pretend, that I ought to give him 20 l. a Year out of my Estate, in Compensation for the 20 l. a Year, he pretends he is to lose, by making the Cut or Water-drain through his Estate? I believe no Gentleman will say he could in Prudence refuse the one, or in Justice insist upon the other: Yet, in this Case, the Compensation he receives for the Right I take away from him, arises from a Right I do not give, a Right he was intitled to before I took the other from him.
'Having now, I think, Sir, demonstrated, that, if the Loss the Civil List may sustain by the present Regulation, be made good by the Increase in the Excise on Beer and Ale occasioned by the present Regulation, we are neither in Justice nor Honour obliged to give any other Compensation. I may give up the other Question, and admit, that we are obliged to grant a Compensation, in case the Loss is not made good by the Increase of the Excise on Beer and Ale, because, notwithstanding what the honourable Gentleman has said, I am still of Opinion, that it is not only probable, but apparent, that the Loss in one Way will be sufficiently made good by the Advantage in the other. The very Nature of the Thing is to me a sufficient Proof; for granting, that the greatest Part of the present Amount of the Excise proceeds from the Debauches and Extravagancies of the People, it is well known, that those who once get into the Way of committing Debauches in Gin, can have no Relish even for the strongest Malt Liquors; and I am convinced there are very few Instances, if any, that ever a Club of excessive Gin-drinkers went from a Gin-shop, to finish their Debauch at an Ale-house; because even to quench their Thirst they generally take small Beer or Water, and mix it up with Gin; and many of them continue at the Gin-shop till they cannot find the Way to an Ale-house, or even to their own Beds, if they have any, but content themselves with the clean Straw, which at some of those Places they have for nothing: So that even from the Nature of the Thing we must conclude, that those who have once taken to the excessive drinking of Gin, give over almost entirely drinking of Beer or Ale; and if we can lay those People under a Necessity of returning to the drinking of strong Beer or Ale, we must necessarily very much increase the Consumption.
'By the Report, Sir, of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace at Hick's-hall in the Month of January last, we find, there were then within Westminster, Holborn, the Tower, and Finsbury Division (exclusive of London and Southwark) 7044 Houses and Shops, wherein Geneva and other Spirituous Liquors were publickly sold by Retail, of which they had got an Account, and that they believed it was very far short of the true Number: From hence, Sir, if we include London, Southwark, and the other Places within the Bills of Mortality, I may modestly compute there are 20,000 Houses and Shops within the Bills of Mortality, where Geneva and other Spirituous Liquors are sold by Retail; and tho' the People within the Bills of Mortality are computed to be but a fifth, or a sixth Part of the People of England, yet I shall reckon but 20,000 Houses and Shops in all the other Parts of England, where Spirituous Liquors are sold by Retail, the Whole being 40,000. Now to each of these Houses I shall allow but ten Customers, who are excessive Drinkers of Gin, such I call those who may drink about half a Pint a Day, one Day with another; and ten Customers who are moderate Drinkers of that Liquor, such I call those who do not drink above half a Quartern a Day, one Day with another. This makes in England 400,000 excessive Drinkers, and 400,000 moderate Drinkers of Spirituous Liquors; and considering how universally the Custom of drinking such Liquors has got in among the common People, Men, Women and Children, I believe this Number will not be reckon'd too large.
'Let us next suppose, Sir, that if the Retail of such Liquors were entirely prohibited, and these Drinkers of Gin should return to the Use of Malt Liquors, that each of the excessive Drinkers of Gin would for the future drink a Pint of Strong Beer a Day, one Day with another; and that each of the moderate Drinkers of Gin would for the future drink half a Pint of Strong Beer a Day, one with another, more than they drink at present; we may from thence see how greatly the Consumption of Beer and Ale would be hereby increased; for 400,000 Pints, and 400,000 half Pints, makes 600,000 Pints, or 75,000 Gallons a Day, which makes 27,375,000 Gallons, or 805,147 Barrels in a Year: The Excise at 4 s. 6 d. per Barrel upon this Increase in the Consumption, would produce an Increase in the Excise upon Beer and Ale of 181,158 l. yearly, one half of which being 90,579 l. would belong to the Civil List; so that according to all the Ways of Computation, the Civil List will get more by the Increase in the Excise upon Beer and Ale, than it can be supposed to lose, according to the highest Computation, by taking from it the Duties on Spirituous Liquors; and that my Computation of Gin-drinkers is within Bounds, appears from hence; that the supposed 400,000 excessive Drinkers at half a Pint a Day, and the 400,000 moderate Drinkers at half a Quartern a Day, according to this Computation, consume but 31,250 Gallons a Day, which is 11,406,250 Gallons in a Year, the Duties upon which, at 3 d. a Gallon, amount to but 142,5781. per Annum; whereas the Duties upon these Liquors for this last Year, amounted to 154,094 l. and we cannot suppose but that there are some Frauds, with respect to the collecting of these Duties, as well as in most others.
'I have chosen this new Method of Calculation, Sir, not because I think the other false or deceitful, but to shew, that whatever Method we choose, and from the most modest Calculations we can make, this general Truth will always appear, That by prohibiting the Retail of Spirituous Liquors, the Civil List will get more by the Increase of the Excise on Beer and Ale, than it can lose by the Decrease of the Duties upon such Liquors: And now with respect to the Observations made upon the other Method, I must say, that the Gentlemen of the other Side treat us, as Free-thinkers are treated by some of their Antagonists: They state a weak or a false Argument for us, answer it, and then triumph in the Victory they have obtained. I have never heard it said, Sir, in this House, nor in any any other Place, that as the Duties upon Spirituous Liquors decrease or increase, the Excise upon Beer and Ale must always increase or decrease in an exact Proportion: That if the Duties upon the former decrease or increase one fifth, one sixth, or one tenth, the other must increase or decrease exactly one fifth, one sixth, or one tenth, and neither more nor less. No, Sir, there are many other Accidents may contribute to the Increase or Decrease of the Excise on Beer and Ale, and therefore this Proportion cannot be exact: Yet I cannot allow, that the Accident mentioned by the honourable Gentleman, could have any great Influence upon the Excise in 1729; for the Price of Malt was not, so far as I remember, so high that Year, as to put our Brewers out of the common Way of Brewing; and besides, we know that the Strong Drink brewed for common Draught, from whence the greatest Part of the Excise is raised, is never designed to be kept a great many Years; so that in such Sort of Drink the Brewers never think of laying up a great Stock to provide for a Year of Scarcity: But I shall mention one Accident, which, I will take upon me to say, has greatly contributed to keep up the Excise these last two Years, and yet has contributed nothing towards raising the Produce of the Duties, at least, on Home-made Spirits; I mean, Sir, the late general Election for this Parliament, and the many very extraordinary disputed Elections that have been since; for it is certain that these Elections and Disputes have added greatly to the Consumption of Beer and Ale, tho' I have never yet heard of a Candidate, who treated his Voters or Witnesses with Gin.
'And lastly, Sir, with respect to the Proposition this Day made to us, I am surprised to hear the honourable Gentleman say, that it alters the Nature of the present Establishment of the Civil List; for upon the contrary, it pursues exactly the Nature of that Establishment: With respect to the present Civil List, so far as the Parliament stands obliged to make it good, his Majesty is accountable; for he cannot make any Demand upon the Parliament, till he has laid an Account of the Civil List Revenues before them, in order to shew them the Deficiency: By the Proposition now before us, we are to enlarge that Establishment, we are to oblige ourselves to make a future Sum yearly good to his Majesty; and I hope the honourable Gentleman would not have us lay ourselves under such an Obligation, and at the same Time put it in the Power of any future Minister to come and tell us, whenever he pleases, that there was a Deficiency as to that further Sum; and that therefore he insisted upon our making it good, without laying any Account before us from whence that Deficiency might appear.
'To conclude, Sir, from the whole that has been said upon this Subject, it appears evident to me, that if the Surplus of the Civil List should be diminished by what we are now about, we are not obliged to make it good: That if we were obliged to make the Loss good, it ought not to be computed at 70,000 l. per Annum: That if it should be computed at 70,000 l. per Annum, it is apparent that it will be made good by the Increase of the Excise: That if this were not apparent, the Proposition now made to us will fully answer that Uncertainty: That the Proposition now made to us is exactly conformable to the Nature of the present Establishment of the Civil List; and that if it were not, it is become necessary, by the Demand now made upon us in favour of the Civil List; so that in no Case can I find any Reason for taking such a Sum as 70,000 l. a Year from the Sinking Fund; and therefore I cannot agree that this Clause, in the present Form, should stand Part of the Bill.'
The House resolve to agree with the Committee in their Vote of 70,000 l. for the Civil List.
A Clause offer'd for excepting Punch out of the Bill relating to Spirituous Liquors.
April 6. The House resumed the Consideration of the Report from the Committee on the Bill for preventing the Retail of Spirituous Liquors, when the following Clause was offer'd for excepting Punch; viz. 'Provided always, that nothing in this Act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to charge with any of the Duties directed to be paid, levied, or collected, by this Act, any Spirits or Strong Waters, to be made into the Liquor commonly called Punch, to be retailed and consumed in the House, or Houses, of any Person, or Persons, keeping a publick Inn, Coffee-house, Victualling-house, or Ale-house, who shall have been first licensed to sell Wine, Beer, Ale, or other Liquors, or to subject the Makers, or Retailers of the said Liquor called Punch, to take out Licences from the Commissioners of Excise, as herein before directed for Retailers of Spirituous Liquors, or Strong Waters. Provided the said Liquor called Punch, so to be retailed and consumed as aforesaid, be made or mixed with two third Parts Water at the least, in the Presence of the Buyer, and that the Spirit with which the said Liquor is to be made, be not sold, or retailed, in a less Quantity than one Pint, or at a less Price than after the Rate of 5 s. per Gallon; and all and every Person, or Persons, acting contrary hereto, shall forfeit the Sum of 5 l. for every Offence, one Moiety thereof to the Informer, or Prosecutor, that shall inform or prosecute for the same, the other Moiety to his Majesty, his Heirs and Successors: And the Proof that the same was so mixed and sold at such Price as aforesaid, shall lye on the Vender or Seller thereof, and not on the Informer or Prosecutor.'
Arguments in favour of that Clause.
'As the Complaint, which occasioned the bringing in of this Bill was chiefly aim'd against the excessive Use of Homemade Spirits among the common People, which proceeded entirely from the low Price, and from the Liberty many Persons took to retail them without a Licence, I have always been of Opinion, that the Evil complained of might have been cured, without laying on such heavy Duties as will amount to a Prohibition of the Retail of all distilled Spirituous Liquors: However, as the Consumption of Rum, when made into Punch, has never occasioned the least Complaint, and as that Consumption is of very great Consequence to this Nation, I must beg Leave to offer a few Words in favour of the Clause propos'd.
'I believe, Sir, no Gentleman in this House is ignorant of the present declining State of our Sugar-Colonies: Their Circumstances have been of late so fully laid before Parliament, and every Man who has a Regard for his Fellow Subject, or for the Good of his Country, must be sensibly touched with their just Complaints. Their Rivals in the SugarTrade enjoy a new, rich, and fertile Soil, which produces plentifully without great Labour or Expence. Their Rivals live almost quite free from Taxes, and without being at the Expence of making any Presents to their Governors, or even of maintaining and repairing their own Forts and Garrisons; while They are heavily loaded with Taxes upon Exports as well as Imports, and obliged to pay large Salaries to their Governors, and to maintain and repair their own Fortifications: Their Rivals have a Liberty of exporting their Sugars directly to any Market in Europe, while They remain under a Necessity of landing every Ounce in Britain, and are thereby obliged to pay double Freight, double Commission, and a great many other unnecessary Charges. These Disadvantages have already, I am afraid, made us lose the Benefit of supplying any Foreign Market with Sugars; and in such Circumstances can it be expected, that the Parliament of Great Britain will, without any Necessity, make a Regulation for taking from our Sugar-Colonies the only Market they have left?
'I must confess, Sir, I little expected to have seen, in this Session of Parliament, any new Discouragement given to our Sugar-Colonies; on the contrary, I expected to have seen the most vigorous, and the best concerted Measures taken for relieving them from all the Disadvantages they at present labour under; and for putting them, at least, upon an equal Footing with their Rivals in the Sugar-Trade: Such Measures might have perhaps enabled us to regain the Benefit we have lost, of supplying Foreign Markets with that Commodity; but if we diminish the Sale of their Sugars or their Rum in Great Britain, without enabling them to send it to Foreign Markets, by removing the Disadvantages they are now subjected to, their Rivals may be so thoroughly established in the Trade, that it will be impossible for us to regain it; nay, the very Islands where our Sugars are now produced may be abandoned; and then instead of supplying Foreigners, it will be impossible for us to supply ourselves, either with Sugars or Rum, which must of course be attended with an infinite Loss to the Nation.
'Let us consider, Sir, what vast Quantities of Manufactures of all Kinds are yearly sent from Great Britain to our several Sugar-Islands, and from thence we must see how greatly the Value of our Exports must be diminished. This of itself would be an infinite Loss to the Nation; but then, if we could have no Sugars or Rum from those Islands for supplying our Home-Consumption, our Loss would be redoubled; for that Consumption would then be supplied from the French Islands: So that the Value of our Imports from Foreign Countries would be considerably increased, at the same Time that the Value of our Exports would be greatly diminished; and how this would affect our Balance of Trade, as well as our Manufactures here at Home, I leave every Gentleman to judge.
'The Duties upon Sugars consumed in Great Britain are said to amount to near 130,000 l. a Year, and as these Sugars pay but 3 s. 6 d. per hundred Weight, we must from thence conclude, that the Sugars comsumed yearly in this Island must amount to above 700,000 hundred Weight; so that if we were obliged to purchase from France all the Sugars necessary for our Home-Consumption at the Rate of 6 d. per Pound, which would probably be the Case, that Consumption only would carry yearly out of this Kingdom near two Millions Sterling: To this let us add the Money that must necessarily be carried out of the Nation yearly for Rum; and the vast Sums that must yearly be carried out of Ireland, and our Northern Colonies, for the Sugars and Rum they stand in need of; and from these two Considerations only, we must, I think, conclude, that by the Loss of the Sugar-Trade only, the Balance of Trade would be entirely turned against us. Then let us consider what vast Numbers of our People are now employed, at Home and Abroad, in the Production and Manufacture of our Sugars; what vast Numbers of our Manufacturers of all Kinds are concern'd in providing Necessaries and Utensils for them; and what a Number of our Seamen are yearly employed in transporting our Sugars and Rum to Great Britain; and from thence we may see how greatly the Number of our People, especially our Seamen, must be diminished, and consequently how considerably the Power, and Naval Force, of this Nation must be reduced by the Loss of the Sugar-Trade: But what is still of worse Consequence, and I beg of Gentlemen to consider it, all the Riches, all the Power, and all the Naval Force we may in this Case lose, must necessarily be added to that Kingdom from which we must always have the most to fear.
'Having now, Sir, represented to you the fatal Consequences, with which the Loss of the Sugar-Trade must be attended, I shall next consider how that Trade may be affected by the Bill before us. I believe it will be granted, by every Man who understands any Thing of our SugarPlantations, that considering the Disadvantages they lie under at present, it would be impossible for them to carry on the Trade, or to produce any Sugars, if they had not a ready Sale for their Rum at the Price it now bears; therefore every Thing, that tends towards lessening that Price, must be a Step towards the Ruin of our Sugar-Trade. Now if the Consumption of any Commodity be lessened, the Quantity brought to Market must be lessened, or the Price will sink of Course; and as the Consumption of Rum will certainly be very much diminished by this Bill as it now stands, we must conclude that our Sugar-Planters cannot have a ready Sale for their Rum at the Price it now bears, if they continue to produce as much as they do at present: And we also know, that our Sugar-Islands are not fit for producing any Thing that can turn to Account but Sugars and Rum; so that if we put it out of their Power to get a Sale for them, at such a Price as they may subsist by, a great Number of them must necessarily leave our Islands and settle among the French in Hispaniola or St Lucia, where there is Ground sufficient for them all, and where they will without Doubt meet with Encouragement. The few Sugar-Planters left upon our own Islands may then, perhaps, get a profitable Price for the Sugar and Rum they produce, because we shall certainly endeavour, by Prohibitions and high Duties, to prevent the Importation of foreign Sugars, Rum or Brandy; but we cannot in such Case propose to sell any at a foreign Market: And even with respect to our Home-Consumption, we know how impossible it is to prevent the Importation, or Consumption, of any foreign Commodity, when there is a great Advantage to be got by running it upon us.
'We know, Sir, that in none but our own Markets our Sugar-Planters can sell any great Quantity of their Rum they produce, which is at present equal in Value to one 4th Part of all their other Products: If then by the Bill now before us, we diminish by one half the present Consumption of Rum, as our Sugar-Planters can dispose of it no where else, it is absolutely rendering useless to them one 8th Part of their whole Produce, which is above twelve per Cent. and, I am afraid, is more than any one of our Sugar-Planters can make clear Profit to himself. From hence, Sir, we may see how dangerous it is, to lay such a Restraint upon the Consumption of Rum as is proposed by this Bill: Yet this Restraint, dangerous as it is, I should have readily agreed to, if the Consumption of Rum, either by itself or in Punch, had ever given Occasion to any of the Evils now complained of, or even if we could hope thereby to render our People at home more sober, frugal, or industrious; because, in either Case, I should have at the same Time proposed the freeing of our Sugar-Planters from all Quit-rents and Taxes, from all Salaries or Presents to Governors, and even from all Expence of maintaining and repairing their own Fortifications; and at the same Time I would have been for giving them Liberty to export their Sugars and Rum directly to any Market in the whole World: But neither of these is the Case at present; for the inferior People never have made, nor can make an excessive Use of Rum: It is never used, either by itself, or when made into Punch, but by the better Sort; and by taking from them Punch, we shall only throw them into the Way of drinking Wine, which will be a greater Expence to them, and to the Nation.
'But, Sir, it is not the Consumption of Rum only, that will be diminished by prohibiting the Retail of Punch, the Consumption of Sugar likewise will be greatly diminished; for tho' People may still make use of Punch at their own Houses, we know that our People do not much like Entertainments at one another's Houses: From that Spirit of Liberty so natural to them, and which I hope no Minister shall ever be able to root out, they like to be at a PublickHouse upon an equal Footing and a fair Club; and therefore we cannot suppose that the Consumption at their own Houses will amount to near the Quantity formerly consumed. We are driving the People from the Use of a Liquor almost wholly produced by the Industry of our own Subjects, to the Use of a Liquor produced by Foreigners, with whom we have not, I believe, all the Reason in the World to be perfectly well satisfied.
'I should have been glad, Sir, to have seen this Bill so framed as to have left our People the free Use of Rum; but as the House seems to be of Opinion that this would open a Way for evading the Act; and as the Clause is drawn up in such a Manner, as to prevent its being possible to draw from it any Method of evading the Law; or putting it in the Power of the common People to make an excessive Use of Punch; and as no bad Consequence can accrue from permitting the Use of it among the better Sort, I hope the House will agree to it.'
Arguments against that Clause.
'Although the Complaints, which occasioned the bringing in of the Bill now before us, were chiefly aimed against the excessive Use of Home-made Spirits among the common People, yet I believe it will be granted, that the Use even of Punch, has of late Years become too excessive. It is well known how considerably the Number of our Punchhouses have increased within these few Years, and how much they have been frequented by Persons of all Degrees, especially since the Method of retailing Punch in so small Quantities has begun to be practised: This we may be assured of from the Numbers of Advertisements relating to such Houses, which have daily appeared in our News-Papers for two or three Years past; and as every such House is a Temptation thrown in the Way of our People for idling away their Time, I am of Opinion that it is now become absolutely necessary to remove them out of the Way, or at least to lessen the Number of them as much as we can. I do not, Sir, in the least question but this Evil was foreseen several Years ago; but, among the many Advantages we enjoy by the Nature of our Constitution, we are exposed to this Inconvenience, that it is seldom practicable to prevent an Evil, till it becomes so apparent as to be felt almost by every Man in the Kingdom; and in the present Case, though the Evils now complained of were foreseen a dozen Years since, yet it is certain that no Proposition for preventing them would then have met with any Reception; on the contrary, if any such had then been offered, I believe whoever should have proposed it, would have been looked on as a Madman: Yet I am convinced it will now be granted, that the passing such a Bill would have been of great Service to the Nation; and the Objection of turning a Number of People out of their Way of subsisting their Families, would not then have been so strong as it is at present. This is the Case of every general Nusance, which always contributes to the Advantage of some particular Persons, who will oppose its Removal as long as they can, but when it comes to be sensibly felt, they must then submit; and the Advantage or Convenience of particular Persons is not to be regarded.
'I am sensible, Sir, of the present bad Circumstances of our Sugar-Colonies, and as desirous to have the Hardships they complain of removed, as any Gentleman can be; and therefore I shall readily concur with any Measures for their Relief, that do not tend to the Ruin of their Mother Country: But for the Sake of encouraging the Sale of their Rum or Sugars, I cannot submit to the Continuance of an Enormity, which will evidently tend to destroy the Health and Morals of the People of Great Britain. For this Reason I am against making any Exceptions to the Bill now before us: The Disease we are now fully sensible of, the Remedy we have in our Hands, do not let us mix that Remedy up with any. Palliative which may lessen, perhaps entirely prevent its Effect. We may find many Methods for giving our Sugar-Colonies a full Compensation for the Disadvantage they may be subjected to by this Bill; but that cannot be granted by the Bill now before us, it is a Subject of a quite different Nature, and will therefore require a separate Bill. This we may not perhaps be able to accomplish in the present Session, but their Case may be fully examined into before the next, and a proper Relief be granted, and in the mean Time their Loss cannot be very considerable.
'I shall not, Sir, dispute the Consequence of our SugarIslands to this Kingdom, or its being a Loss to them to lessen the Consumption of their Rum in Great Britain; but I am convinced they might sell their Rum cheaper, and yet have a considerable Profit. If they should lower the Price of their Rum but a very little, they might find a Vent for it in many other Places, a Vent, which would be more than sufficient for answering the small Diminution, that may by this Law be occasioned in the Consumption of it in Great Britain; and that Foreign Vent, would be more to the Advantage of their native Country than selling the same Quantity at double the Price to be consumed in this Island. It is therefore against the general Interest of this Country, to encourage the Home-Consumption so much, as to enable our Planters to sell all they can make at a high Price in Great Britain; and on the other Hand it is our Duty to take all possible Measures for enabling them to sell it at a cheap Rate to Foreigners; for if the Price of Rum could be so much reduced, as that it might be purchased cheaper than Brandy or Geneva, vast Quantities of it would be consumed in North America, in Africa, and in the Countries bordering upon the Baltick; and even at Home the Consumption of French and Flemish Brandies would be very much diminished.
'I do not know, Sir, but by prohibiting the Retail of Punch, some small Addition may be made to our Consumption of Wines; but then it will be with respect to Port Wines only; and as our Trade with Portugal is, in the main, a very profitable Trade, it is our Interest to encourage it as much as we can: However, I rather think most of those who used to drink Punch, will drink Fine Ale and Strong Beer, or those Home-made Wines which we call Sweets; and it is as much the Interest of the Nation to encourage the Consumption of these Liquors, as that of any other. By increasing the Consumption of Fine Ale and Strong Beer, we shall encourage the Tillage of our Lands in Great Britain; and by increasing the Consumption of Homemade Wines, we shall encourage the Trade of our SugarIslands, because in the making such there are great Quantities of Sugar used; so that if they should become of as general Use as Punch is at present, our Demand for Sugars must necessarily be increased.
'To conclude, Sir, if you exempt Punch from the Duties to be imposed by this Bill, you will render it altogether ineffectual; for under the Name of the Liquor exempted, every Sort of Spirituous Liquor will be retailed: Our Brandy-Shops and our Gin-Shops will then be all turned into Punch-Shops, our People will be as much debauched, and our Streets as full of Objects of Pity and Contempt as ever. For this Reason, Sir, I am for making an Experiment, at least, for one Year, of the Bill as it stands at present: As it is a very extraordinary Regulation, we shall probably in next Session have Occasion to make some Alterations: By that Time we shall see what Effect the diminishing the Retail of Punch will have upon our People; we shall likewise see what Effect it may be like to have upon our Sugar-Colonies. In the mean Time the Prohibition cannot be attended with any extraordinary bad Effect, and therefore I shall be against adding the Clause which the honourable Gentleman has proposed.'
Farther Arguments in Favour of the Clause.
'When the honourable Gentleman [Sir Joseph Jekyll] was pleased to find Fault with the great Number of our Punch-Houses, I wish he had added Taverns and Alehouses, for I am convinced the great Number of the latter is as sensible a Grievance as the former; and have contrived more Temptations for People to loiter away their Time: But the unbounded Liberty so many Years given to setting up Publick Houses of all Kinds, proceeds from an Error in Politicks, by which it was the Interest of those to multiply such Houses, who only had the Power to prevent their Increase. This, Sir, is the true Cause of that prodigious Number of Houses of Entertainment set up in every Part of this Kingdom; and the Power of those, to whom we had given an Interest in such Houses, has been so considerable, that it was in vain for any Gentleman to propose a Remedy. Notwithstanding the terrible Outcry, that was universally raised against the excessive Use of Spirituous Liquors amongst the Common People, I doubt much if we could have applied any effectual Remedy, unless some Persons had found it their Interest to agree to it.
'I shall readily agree, Sir, that the present Number of our Punch Houses is too great; but there is a great Difference between too great a Number, and none at all: By the Proposition now made, the Retailing of Punch will be confined to Houses where other strong Liquors are by Licence to be sold, which will of Course very much diminish the Number of our Punch-Houses; and where Men are allowed to drink any other Sort of strong Liquor, I can see no Reason why they may not be allowed to drink Punch, for I am persuaded it is as wholesome a Liquor as can be found at such Houses. I with, Sir, that effectual Methods had been taken, many Years since, for preventing our People from supporting their Families by the Retail of Spirituous Liquors: I am convinced, that thereby the Labour and Industry of all our People has been very much diminished, and therefore I wish some effectual Restraints had been laid upon those, who have the Power of granting such Licences. Though the publick Good certainly requires an immediate Restraint upon the excessive Use of Spirituous Liquors, yet I cannot think that a Prohibition of selling any such Liquors by Retail, especially when they are rectified by Water, or made into Punch, can be absolutely necessary: Nay, if such a Prohibition were necessary, my Concern for the Numbers of People who now live by that Retail is such, that I should rather be for introducing the Prohibition by Degrees; by which Method a general Distress would be prevented; because some would die in the mean Time, and the rest would have Time to provide a Livelihood in some other Way.
'This Bill would, I believe, have met with very little Success, if it had not been supported by another Proposition which is now made Part of it. I shall admit, Sir, that those who find a private Interest in any publick Nusance, generally endeavour to oppose its Removal, even although they are fully sensible that their Country must be ruined by its Continuance. Of such Men, I am afraid we have too many in this Kingdom, but I hope not one in this House.
'With respect to our Sugar-Colonies, Sir, I am surprised to hear such Reasoning upon that Subject. They may probably be ruined by prohibiting the Retail of their Rum in Great Britain; but Gentlemen say, we may give them a full Compensation the next Session; which to me seems the same as if I should say to a Man, I must now knock your Brains out, but next Year I'll do something to bring you to Life again: For God's Sake, Sir, let us consider the unfortunate Case of many of our Sugar-Islands, whose whole Subsistence depends upon the Sale of that Moiety of their Rum, which we are by this Bill to deprive them of: The Produce of their whole present Crop of Sugars, and the other Moiety of their Rum, may be necessary for defraying the Charge of their next Year's Crop; and if we disappoint them in the Sale of what they designed for subsisting their Families, they must break in upon the Stock necessary for producing another Crop; by which Means every Sugar-Planter, who is not beforehand with the World, must necessarily be undone: This I am persuaded will be the Case of most of our small Planters, and in them we know the Strength of our Sugar-Islands consists; tho' the Regulations we are next Year to make may be a Compensation to those who can stand the Shock. There is no Pretence for saying that the Use of Rum when made into Punch, for one Year longer, will destroy the Health or Morals of the People of Great Britain, therefore why should we do an Injury to our Sugar-Planters, 'till we are ready to grant them a proper Redress? Why should we prevent the Sale of their Rum in Great Britain, 'till we have made such Regulations as may enable them to sell it to Advantage at some other Market?
'We are told, Sir, that our Sugar-Planters might sell their Rum much cheaper, and yet have a considerable yearly Profit from their several Plantations; but I wish that fort of Reasoning had been founded upon Facts known to the House; for I believe, if we were to examine our SugarPlanters, they would give us strong Reasons for convincing us, that in their present Circumstances it is impossible to sell their Sugars or Rum cheaper. We all know how dear living it is in our Sugar-Islands, what Taxes they pay, and what monstrous Prices they give for their Slaves, and for every Thing else necessary for the Production of Sugars: We likewise know at what a cheap Rate both Sugars and Rum are sold upon the Spot where they are produced, and if we compare the Expence and the Profits together, the Impossibility of selling cheaper will fully appear. It certainly would be an Advantage to the Nation, to enable our Sugar-Planters to sell their Rum at foreign Markets rather than in Great Britain; but it is not the Price the poor Planters sell it at, which prevents its being sold in foreign Markets; it is the wise Regulations we have made here at home; for we seem to have taken Care to prevent its being in their Power to dispose of their Rum at any foreign Market: In the first Place, their Rum must be all landed in Great Britain, before it can be carried to any foreign Market in Europe; so that it must be charged with double Freight and double Commission, besides Porterage, Wharfage, and several other small Items upon the Importation and Exportation, all which, upon such a cheap and such a bulky Commodity, must amount to more than the Value of the prime Cost: And in the next Place we know that, in order to make Rum palatable, it must be kept in a good Cellar for several Years; now there are but few of our Planters can spare to keep their Rum by them, nor would it be proper to keep it in those hot Climates; and yet by obliging our Merchants at home to pay the high Duties upon it soon after its landing, we render it impossible for most of them to keep it 'till it is fit for any Market; or if some of them do, the Interest of the Duties upon it at home rises so high, that it becomes impossible to sell it to Advantage at any foreign Market. Both these Disadvantages might be very easily removed; and when this is done we may perhaps make free with our Home-Consumption of that Liquor; but 'till then I am convinced, the putting a Stop to our Home-Consumption, will be running the Risk of ruining intirely our Sugar-Colonies.
'It is said, Sir, that upon our prohibiting the Retail of Punch, our People will fall naturally into the drinking of Fine Ale, Strong Beer, and Home-made Wines. I wish it may be so; and I am convinced the putting a Stop to the Use of Spirituous Liquors, will increase the Consumption of Beer and Ale, tho' this has been denied, or at least much doubted of, by the same Gentlemen in a former Debate on this Bill; but as for most of our Punch-Drinkers, they are generally the better Sort of our People, and most of them will fall into the drinking of foreign Wines, which Consumption will not be confined to the Wines of Portugal only; for the Spanish and Italian Wines will certainly come in for a Share, as well as French Clarets. As for our Home-made Wines, the Use of them will never become so general as the Use of Punch; and unless this happens to be the Case, our Sugar-Colonies will suffer in the Consumption of their Sugars as well as their Rum.
'I will allow that by prohibiting the Retail of Punch, some little Addition will be made to the Consumption of our Home-made Wines; but I am convinced the chief Addition will be to the foreign Wines, which must necessarily be a great Disadvantage to the Nation, tho' it will be a double Advantage to the Civil List; for that Revenue will be considerably increased by the great Number of new Wine-Licences, that will of Course be taken out, every Shilling of the Duties upon which belongs to the Civil List; and it will besides get a great deal more by the Consumption of Wine, than it could have ever got by the Consumption of Rum made into Punch; for as one Bottle of good Rum made into Punch, will go as far as four Bottles of Wine; and as the Civil List gets at least 16 d. by the Consumption of four Bottles of Wine, and but 9 d. or 10 d. at most by one Bottle of Rum made into Punch, the Civil List will be a double Gainer by this Change of Liquors. 'Tis true, a considerable Addition has always been made by Adulteration to foreign Wines after they are imported, so that we cannot suppose the Civil List will get 4 d. by every Bottle hereafter to be consumed: But then if the drinking of Punch be continued, we cannot reckon that the Civil List could get 9 d. or 10 d. by every Bottle of Rum made use of, because great Quantities of Punch have always been made of Rum run in without paying Duty; and the Quantity of Punch, made from such Liquors, will always be at least equal to the Quantity added by our Wine-Coopers to foreign Wines after Importation.
'The Clause now offered is, in my Opinion, Sir, drawn up so cautiously, that it is impossible to make any Handle of it for evading the Law. The Punch, to be retailed by this Clause, must be mixed with two third Parts Water at least, in the Presence of the Buyer, and must not be retailed in a less Quantity than one Pint, or at a less Price than after the Rate of 5 s. per Gallon: It will therefore be impossible to sell any spirituous Liquor under the Name of Punch, unless it be mixed with two third Parts Water; and the not allowing it to be sold at a less Price than 5 s. per Gallon, or in a less Quantity than one Pint, will prevent Tippling as much as possible. To pretend that the Frauds cannot be discovered, because the Drinkers will always be Parties to the Evasion, is an Objection that will hold equally strong against every Clause in the Bill; for the Drinkers must be Parties to every Fraud that can be committed, and yet it is to be presumed, that they will generally be the Informers: Nay, even with Respect to the retailing of Gin, it may safely be sold and drank in a private Corner, without any Danger of Discovery, unless the Drinkers themselves become Informers.
'The Bill now before us may indeed, Sir, very properly be called an Experiment: It is, I believe, one of the boldest Experiments in Politicks that was ever made in a free Country; and seems as if intended to try the Submission and Obedience of our People: Even, tho' the Clause now proposed be added, like Saul, it will ruin its Thousands; but if this Clause be not added, like David, it will ruin its ten Thousands; and if by this Bill our Sugar-Trade should be destroyed, it will ruin the whole Nation at last. I truly, Sir, make no Question, but that the Bill will be found to stand in need of some Amendments in the very next Session; I do not know but a great Part of it may then be repealed; but as for that Part of it which relates to the Civil-List, I doubt much if it will ever be in our Power to get it repealed: I am convinced, that before next Session it will be found necessary to alter the whole Scheme of this Bill, and to contrive some new Method for preventing the excessive Use of Spirituous Liquors among our common People; but in the mean time Thousands of our People abroad and at home will be utterly undone: And as such Persons cannot be recovered, nor receive any Benefit, by those Alterations we may then think proper to make, I am for preventing the spreading of this Desolation as much as possible, and therefore am for adding the Clause now proposed.'
The Clause offer'd for excepting Punch out of the Bill relating to Spirituous Liquors is rejected.
The Bill relating to Spirituous Liquors pass'd, and sent up to the Lords.
Farther Debate on the Quaker's Bill.
April 21. The House resolved itself into a Committee upon the Quakers Bill, when great Alterations were made to every Clause; and it was proposed to leave to every Person intitled to Tythes, an Option to sue for the Recovery of them, either before the Justices of the Peace, as directed by that Bill, or before any of his Majesty's Courts in Westminster-Hall: But as this seemed to be inconsistent with the Preamble of the Bill, and with the Intention of the whole, it was strenuously opposed; and upon the Question's being put, it was upon a Division carried in the Negative by 202 to 96.
Farther Proceedings on the Yorkshire Election.
April 22. The House proceeded on the Hearing of the Petition complaining of an undue Election for the County of York, (on which Affair they had sat every Tuesday and Thursday since the presenting of the said Petition, p. 147.) and the Counsel for the Petitioner Sir Rowland Winn, summed up their Evidence; by which they alledged they had disqualified several Persons as not being assessed to the Publick Taxes, Church Rates, and Parish Duties; Others, as having no Freehold in the Place where they swore that their Freehold did lie; and of them several as having no Estate at all, being Curates, Schoolmasters, Parish-Clerks, HospitalMen, Leaseholders and Copyholders; Others, as not having Freeholds of the Value of 40 s. per Annum; Others, as being Minors; Others, as having purchased their Freeholds within one Year before the Election; Others, as having been influenced to vote by Threats; Others, as having voted twice; One, as being an Alien; and Others, whose Votes appeared upon the Poll, though there were no such Persons either in the Place where they swore their Freeholds did lie, or in the Places where they swore that their Abode was: Hereupon the farther Hearing of the Affair was adjourned to the 29th; when it was farther adjourned to the 4th of May.
Motion for an Address to the King, on the Marriage of the Prince of Wales.
April 29. A Motion being made for an Address of Congratulation to the King, on Account of the Nuptials of the Prince of Wales with the Princess of Saxe-Gotha, to whom his Royal Highness was married on the 27th, Mr Lyttleton stood up, and spoke as follows:
'Though I have nothing to add to what has been said so well by other Gentlemen, on this happy and agreeable Occasion; yet, as I think, that nobody should be silent on a Point to which nobody can be indifferent, I beg to be indulg'd in a few Words, to declare with how much Pleasure I concur in the Motion that has been made you: And indeed he must be void of all Affection to the Safety, Peace, and Liberty of his Country, who does not rejoice in the Increase of the Royal Family, on the Support and Continuance of which among us all those Blessings immediately depend. But, Sir, there is yet another Reason for our Joy on this Occasion, a Reason, which every Gentleman that hears me will allow to be a strong one; I mean, a particular Regard to the Happiness of the Prince, which can no more be separated from our Duty to his Majesty, than the Interests, or Inclinations of so good a Father from those of so dutiful a Son.
'There may be something in the Dignity of Persons rais'd very high above the Rank of other Men, which might set them at, perhaps, too great a Distance from the Love of their Inferiors; and make us often participate no farther in their Pleasures, or their Pains, than Duty or Interest requires: But he, who in a Station thus exalted above the Wants and Miseries of Mankind, can feel them with the Tenderness of an Equal, while he relieves them with the Beneficence of a Superior; whose Heart is as open to the Sentiments of Humanity and Benevolence, as his Mind to the Impressions of Truth and Justice; such a Prince, in all the Incidents of Life, will find every body sympathise with himself; his Grief will be a national Affliction, his Joy the Joy of a whole People.
'Sir, It is right and decent, and agreeable to our Inclinotions, to ascribe every Thing that is done for the publick Good to the paternal Cares and Goodness of the King: But in this Instance it is peculiarly our Duty; for this is a Merit which must belong to him alone: In this, none of his Servants can have a Share: The most assuming Minister could lay no claim to it; it is his own Act; to him we are obliged for it, and to him our Acknowledgments are due. He has heard the Wishes of his People, who foresaw the Dangers they were exposed to, if his Royal Highness, by marrying too late in Life, should, according to the ordinary Course of Nature, leave an Heir to the Crown in a Minority; a Minority, which is always a State of Weakness, Distraction, and Oppression; a Minority, the most pernicious of all Governments, because it is the Government of Ministers. It was therefore the general Desire of every good Englishman, that a Marriage so necessary to the Publick should no longer be delay'd; and his Majesty has graciously been pleased to comply with that Desire: He has remov'd those uneasy Apprehensions; and by strengthening, and increasing the Royal Family, has added a new Security to our Happiness, and, we may hope, entail'd it on our Posterity.
'As our Thanks are due to him for the Marriage, they are no less so for his Choice of a Daughter-in-Law; a Princess in whom Piety and Virtue are hereditary Qualities: The eminent Merit of whose great Ancestor in the Defence of the Protestant Religion, which was then in Germany, as it now is in Great Britain, united to the Cause of publick Liberty, has been so amply set forth by other Gentlemen, particularly the honourable Person [Mr Pulteney] who made this Motion, whose great Abilities are most equal to this, or any Subject, that nothing is left for me to add, but an ardent Wish that the same Virtues may revive again with equal Lustre, and happier Fortune, in her Posterity.
For all these Reasons, for many more, more than the Zeal of my Heart can now suggest to me, more than the Eloquence of others can express, we ought most joyfully to congratulate his Majesty on an Event, which must give him the greatest Pleasure, because it does so to his People, for the Satisfaction of neither can be perfect but when it is reciprocal. Let us therefore join our Thanks to our Felicitations, and let our Unanimity in doing it, refute the Calumnies of those, who dare to insinuate out of Doors, that Gentlemen who sometimes differ here from the Measures of the Court, differ at all from those whom they oppose, I mean the very Best of them, in sincere Attachment to the Government, and affectionate Regard for the Royal Family.'
'I am unable to offer any Thing that has not been said by the honourable Persons, who made you the Motion, in a Manner much more suitable to the Dignity and Importance of this great Occasion: But, Sir, as I am really affected with the Prospect of the Blessings, to be derived to my Country from this so desireable and so long desired Measure, the Marriage of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales; I cannot forbear troubling you with a few Words to express my Joy, and to mingle my humble Offering, inconsiderable as it is, with this great Oblation of Thanks and Congratulation to his Majesty.
'How great soever the Joy of the Publick may be, and very great it certainly is, in receiving this Benefit from his Majesty, it must be inferior to that high Satisfaction which he himself enjoys in bestowing it: And if I may be allowed to suppose, that to a Royal Mind any thing can transcend the Pleasure of gratifying the impatient Wishes of a Loyal People, it can only be the paternal Delight of tenderly indulging the most dutiful Application, and most humble Request of a submissive obedient Son. I mention, Sir, his Royal Highness's having ask'd a Marriage, because something is in Justice due to him, for having asked what we are so strongly bound, by all the Ties of Duty and of Gratitude, to return his Majesty our most humble Acknowledgments for having granted.
'The Marriage of a Prince of Wales, Sir, has at all Times, been a Matter of the highest Importance to the Publick Welfare, to present and to future Generations; but at no Time has it been a more important, a more dear Consideration, than at this Day; if a Character at once amiable and respectable, can embellish and even dignify the elevated Rank of a Prince of Wales. Were it not a Sort of Presumption to follow so great a Person through his Hours of Retirement, to view him in the milder Light of domestick Life, we should find him busy'd in the noble Exercise of Humanity, Benevolence, and of every social Virtue: But, Sir, how pleasing, how captivating soever such a Scene may be, yet, as it is a private one, I fear I should offend the Delicacy of that Virtue I so ardently desire to do Justice to, should I offer it to the Consideration of this House: But, Sir, filial Duty to his Royal Parents, a generous Love for Liberty, and a just Reverence for the British Constitution; these are publick Virtues, and cannot escape the Applause and Benedictions of the Publick: They are Virtues, Sir, which render his Royal Highness not only a noble Ornament, but a firm Support, if any could possibly be necessary, of that Throne so greatly filled by his Royal Father.
'I have been led to say thus much of his Royal Highness's Character, because it is the Consideration of that Character which, above all Things, enforces the Justice and Goodness of his Majesty in the Measure now before you; a Measure which the Nation thought could never come too soon, because it brings with it the Promise of an additional Strength to the Protestant Succession in his Majesty's Illustrious and Royal House: The Spirit of Liberty dictated that Succession, the same Spirit now rejoices in the Prospect of its being perpetuated to latest Posterity: It rejoices in the wise and happy Choice, which his Majesty has been pleased to make of a Princess so amiably distinguished in herself, so illustrious in the Merit of her Family; the Glory of whose great Ancestor it is, to have sacrificed himself to the noblest Cause for which a Prince can draw his Sword, the Cause of Liberty and the Protestant Religion. Such, Sir, is the Marriage, for which our most humble Acknowledgments are due to his Majesty; and may it afford the Comfort of seeing the Royal Family (numerous, as I thank God it is) still growing and rising up in a third Generation; a Family, Sir, which I most sincerely wish may be as immortal as those Liberties, and that Constitution which it came to maintain; and therefore I am heartily for the Motion.'
The Quakers Bill ordered to be engrossed.
Farther Debate on the Quakers Bill.
May 3. A Petition of the Clergy of Surrey was presented to the House, setting forth, That since they had been heard by their Counsel, in relation to the Quakers Bill, they had been informed of several new Clauses that had been inserted in the said Bill, which they conceived to be prejudicial to the Rights of themselves and the other Parochial Clergy; and therefore praying to be heard by their Counsel, in relation to the said new Clauses, before they received the final Assent of that House.
This Petition was ordered to lie upon the Table, and then the Bill was read the third Time, when several new Amendments were made to it; and a Motion being made, That the Bill do pass, the same was opposed by Mr Talbot [of Wilts] Mr Maister [of Cirencester] Sir William Carew, and others, who urg'd, 'That besides the many material Reasons which had been given against passing the Bill, there was one relating to Form, which was unanswerable; for the Bill, which was first brought in, had been so thoroughly and so entirely alter'd in the Committee, that it could not now be looked on as the same Bill; even the very Title of it had been entirely altered in the Committee, and that Bill which was before called, A Bill to enlarge, amend, and render more effectual the Laws then in being, &c. was upon the third Reading to be called, A Bill for the more easy Recovery of Tythes, Church Rates, and other Ecclesiastical Dues from the People called Quakers; which they could not but take to be a very improper Title, for in their Opinion it ought to be called, A Bill for preventing the Recovery of Tythes, or any Ecclesiastical Dues, from the People called Quakers. That by the Bill as it was at first brought in, the Jurisdiction of the Justices of Peace was to have been confined to Tythes of a certain Value, which was certainly designed to be Tythes of a small Value; the Justices were to order and direct the Payment, so as the Sum ordered did not exceed ***; but the Committee, by the Bill they had drawn up, which was then read to them, had given the Justices an unlimited Jurisdiction where the Title was not in Question. That this was a Power which they thought no Committee upon a Bill could take; they might perhaps have filled up the Blank with any Sum they pleased; they might have filled it up with such a large Sum as would have in Effect been the same with granting the Justices an unlimited Jurisdiction: But they could not grant a general and unlimited Jurisdiction by a Bill which, when it came before them, was a Bill for granting a particular and confined Jurisdiction; and if the granting of such a Jurisdiction was then thought necessary, the only Method they could take, according to the established Forms of that House, was to order the Bill then before them to be withdrawn, and a new Bill to be brought in; in which Case, those who thought they might be aggrieved by any Thing in the new Bill, would have an Opportunity of being heard against it, which no Man could ever have, if the Method observed in passing the, Bill then before them should become an usual Practice; for no Man could know whether he was to be injured by a Bill or not, 'till after it had passed thro' the Committee, and then it would be too late for him to apply.'
To this it was answered by Mr Glanville, Mr Archer, and Mr Hampden, 'That the Bill then before them was in Effect the very same with the Bill first brought in; many of the Clauses had, indeed, been altered and amended, but the general Scope and Intention of the Bill was the very same; and they did not think the Committee had taken any Liberties with the Bill but what were usual, and such as they were fully intitled to take; for the Reason of their granting an unlimited Power to Justices of Peace with respect to the Value of the Tythe, was because, upon mature Consideration, they found, that all Actions and Suits for Tythes, where the Title was not controverted, were for small Sums, for Sums much smaller than any Sum that was ever intended to be filled up in that Blank; and since it was acknowledged, that the Committee might have filled up the Blank with such a large Sum, as would have in effect been the same with granting the Justices an unlimited Jurisdiction, they could see no Reason why the Committee might not do directly and in express Terms, that which they might certainly have done in a hidden or indirect Manner.'
Sir John St Aubin.
'I think that a Bill of this Consequence, which affects so large a Property, should undergo the wisest Scrutiny of those regular Forms, which have hitherto circumscribed our Proceedings, and guarded our Constitution from any sudden and disguis'd Attacks: But this Bill, faulty as it was at first, after two Readings in the House and Counsel had been solemnly heard against it, went avowedly into the Committee to be almost intirely alter'd: A new Bill, for so I may justly call this, arises out of the Ashes of the old One, with the same fallacious Title indeed, and less formidable than before: However, it is still suspected that there are latent Mischiefs in it, and against those, the Parties who are aggrieved, are deprived of an Opportunity of a fresh Defence. I hope therefore, that the learned Gentleman, who could not have been so defective in his first Enterprize, if new Inconveniencies were not perpetually to be encountered in the Alteration of settled Constitutions, will at least be so candid as to withdraw his Scheme for the present, take Time to consider afresh, and not hurry a Bill, thus defective in Form and but half understood, in the Conclusion of a Session, when many Gentlemen, quite worn out with a close and tedious Attendance, have been forced to retreat. This cannot long retard the great Work of Reformation which is at Hand: The Delay will be but a few Months only: The same favourable Tide will continue, and whatever new Schemes, therefore, the learned Gentleman may have ready to produce, I hope he will indulge us in so short a Respite. But left this Bill should pass, I hope you will permit me to enter my publick Protest against it, for I am one of those who think it fundamentally wrong.
'There is no one more ready than I am, to give all reasonable Indulgencies to the several unhappy Sectaries among us; I think, that in Points of Religious Worship, Compulsion ought never to be used, but Truth is to have the fair Opportunity of Working by its own Force upon the natural Ingenuity of the Mind, and the Supreme Lawgiver has the only Right to interpose in such Matters. But human Authority has certainly a secondary Power to restrain those wild Excesses, which under the false Colour of Religion would invade the Order and Discipline of Civil Society. In this we are all united, and there is one Medium, one common Resort of our Laws, for the Protection of our respective Rights and Privileges. I am very sorry therefore, that any of the Dissenters should now see Occasion to complain of their distinct Allowances, and that stated Measure which must be preserved in our civil Union. Let them look upon the Structure of our Constitution in general; are the several Members well proportioned? Have they a mutual Dependence and regular Connection with each other? And is there one Law of Convenience which runs through the Whole? If this be so, and the Preheminence is only maintained by a due Subordination of the inferior Parts; if the Building was erected by the most able Hands, and when Architecture was at its Height; I am not for inverting the Order of it, in Compliance with the Gothick Fancy of any Pretenders to that Art.
'Thus our Constitution at present stands, and the Laws of Toleration are in this Sense become a Part of it; they protect, as they certainly ought, the Established Religion of our Country, and, at the same Time, allow a separate Right in Religious Worship: Such, only, have not the Advantage of them, who deny the exterior Forms of our Government, whose Consciences are a civil Nusance, and therefore forfeit the Condition of this Right. What then is it that the Quakers want? Have not all their most intemperate Desires been from Time to Time complyed with? Are they not exempted even from appealing to the great Author of Truth in their legal Testimony? But not contented with all this, by a most strange Abuse of the permissive Liberty they enjoy, they send circular Exhortations to their Brethren to oppose the civil Jurisdiction of our Laws; and having thus cherished and strengthened an Obstinacy, they approach the Legislature itself with harsh Revilings, unsupported by Evidence, against the Clergy of our Established Church; denying a constitutional Right; begging that the legal Remedies may be abated by which it is to be acquired; and unjustly complaining of Severities, which, by their repeated Contumacy, they wilfully draw on themselves; for the Law in its ordinary and natural Course will proceed to an Enforcement of its own Decree. Is this that Passive Obedience and Non-Resistance, that mild and charitable Disposition, with which they have been so largely complimented? Is this Conscience, in any true Definition of it? No! it is perverse Humour, a false and delusive Light, an Ignis Fatuus, which arises from a Degeneracy and Corruption of the Mind. If this is Conscience, then all those Riots and Tumults, which at any Time oppose the Execution of the Law, and the Authority of the Government, may with equal Justice lay Claim to such a Conscience. Tythes are a distinct Property from the Inheritance of the Land, and by the Laws of our Constitution are applied to certain Purposes. They are due of Civil Right, and no matter to whom they belong, tho' I should think that the Maintenance of our Clergy deserves some favourable Share in our Considerations.
'No human Wisdom can at once foresee the sufficient Extent of legal Remedies, but they must from Time to Time be proportion'd to the Degrees of Obstinacy with which they are to contend. At the Time of the Revolution, when our Constitution was resettled, and our several Rights and Privileges confirmed, the former Remedies were found insufficient, and, therefore, by the 7th and 8th of King William, a new one was created, but the others were suffered to subsist. The Clergy have now their Option which Method to pursue, and I believe they always follow this, unless they suspect an unjust Partiality. For they want only their Right, and are undoubtedly willing to come at it the cheapest and most effectual Way; so that by this Bill, which obliges them to repair to the Justices in the first Instance, you enjoyn them nothing but what is already done; but at the same Time give a new Interest to the Quaker in being contumacious: For I apprehend by the Bill, as it now stands, if the Quakers should not appear, but suffer Judgment to pass by Default, or should appear and not litigate or gainsay, that there is a Power given to the Justices to settle the Quantum of the Tythes, and the Clergy are hereby deprived of any farther Redress. It is the Liberty of avoiding the Justices, which is some sort of Controul upon their Judicature; and it is the Force of the several subsisting Remedies, which obliges many of the Quakers in some Shape or other at present to submit. For it is not the Punctilio of one Gun only (as the learned Counsel said) which the Garrison wants; and when Men are obliged to surrender there is no Dishonour in doing it: But they have got unjust Possession, and would have you withdraw your Forces, that they may strengthen the Fortification, and make it capable of a stouter Resistance. Sir, I think the Comparison has been inverted; that Party is in Possession who have a just Title, and they only desire to keep what they have, without extending their Territories; and it would be extremely unjust to pull down their Fences, upon an idle Report that the Enemy would take no Advantage of it.
'As to the Ecclesiastical Courts, the Quakers have been defy'd to produce any Instances of their being much troubled here; and indeed they are exceedingly few: Every Thing in the Course of Time will degenerate from its original Institution, and undoubtedly there are many Abuses crept into these Courts, which may deserve our Attention; but then let us proceed upon fairer Inquiries, and with a Disposition to reform and not to destroy. These Courts, from the earliest Days of our Constitution, have had Cognizance of Tythes; and if the chief Argument against them is drawn from their Defect of Power in giving Redress, I am rather for supplying the Defect, than that their Authority herein should be wholly rescinded.
'I would not be thought, by any thing I have said, to be for extending the Power of the Clergy; I am for keeping that as well as all other Power, within its due Bounds. But, surely, the Clergy are not to be the only Men in the World, who, when they are assaulted, have not a Liberty to complain, and to fly to this Asylum for their necessary Defence; I think this is all they now do, and it is very unfair to be seeking industriously for particular Instances of Blame; and from thence to take Occasion of casting an Odium upon the whole Function. Those frightful Ideas, therefore, of Church Power, upon which so many Changes have been rung of late, I take to be very unnecessary at this Time; it is now at a very low Ebb, and it is very well if it can keep its just Ground.
'The Mischief which is growing up is of another Sort, and our Liberties are no longer in Danger from any Thing which is founded in Religious Pretences; the Enemy has erected Batteries all round our Constitution; but as the Church is the weakest Part, it is thought very adviseable to begin the Attack there; and if it succeeds, they will soon mount the Breach, and take Possession of the whole; for we may learn from the fatal Experience of former Times, that Monarchy can only subsist upon the Union and Defence of our Civil and Religious Rights. We all form one Constitution, it is highly necessary therefore that all, who are sincere Lovers of that, should well know, and mutually protect each other; and that the Clergy should wisely consider, that, as at all Times we are ready to oppose any Assaults upon their Quarter, so they are under the strongest Obligations, in the Day of our Need, not to withdraw their Assistance from us in Points of Civil Liberty; for if ever that should be their fatal Mistake, and our Hands are thereby weakened, they will undoubtedly bring their own Establishment into the most imminent Danger.
'I shall say no more, but that I shall at all Times oppose any Innovations, because I think them extremely hazardous; let us rather guard against the intemperate Follies, the Luxury, the Venality and Irreligion of the Age, which have been long gathering like a dark Thunder-Cloud in the Sky. God only knows how soon it may bust, but whenever it happens, and I fear the Day is at no great Distance, it will certainly fall most heavily upon us; I am therefore for keeping up our common Shelters, that we may be protected, as well as possible, against this great and impending Danger.
The Quakers Bill pass'd.
Debate on a Bill for preventing Smuggling.
May 3. Sir Charles Turner presented to the House a Bill, For indemnifying Persons, who have been guilty of unlawfully importing Goods and Merchandize into this Kingdom, upon the Terms therein mentioned, and for inforcing the Laws against such Importation for the future; and the same was then read the first Time, and ordered to be read a second Time.
May 4. The said Bill was read a second Time, and a Motion being made for committing the same, it was oppos'd by several Member, who urg'd, 'That it was very extraordinary to see such a Petition followed by such a Bill: The Petition [See p. 160.] was from many Merchants and Shopkeepers, complaining of too high a Duty upon a certain Sort of Merchandize, and of the Hardships they were subjected to by the Laws lately made for collecting that Duty: Upon the Foundation of that Petition, a Bill had been brought in, which no way diminished the Duty, and instead of relieving the Merchants from any of the Hardships they were before exposed to, laid them under many new Hardships, and such as they thought inconsistent with the Liberties of the People: That this was a Method of Proceeding, by which the Subject would be terrified from ever making an Application to Parliament, for being relieved against those Grievances they thought they had Reason to complain of; for no Man would ever apply to Parliament for Relief, if he could have the least Suspicion that his Case might be rendered more intolerable by such Application.'
To this it was answer'd by Sir Robert Walpole, Sir George Oxenden, and Sir William Yonge, 'That the frequent Practice of Smuggling was the Grievance which the Petitioners chiefly complained of; therefore any effectual Method for preventing that Grievance, was a proper Consequence of such a Petition: That the Duties complained of, were engaged for the Payment of old Debts, or for the Support of the Government, and could not therefore be lowered, without replacing them by establishing some new Fund, which could not then be done: And that none of the Penalties to be inflicted by that Bill, could be any Hardship upon fair Traders, but only upon Smugglers, and the more Difficulties they were exposed to, the better it would be for the fair Trader.'
Farther Objections to the Bill.
Then some Members objected to a Clause in the Bill, by which it was enacted, 'That any Ship, not exceeding the Burthen of 100 Tons, shall be forfeited, if she take in from another Vessel at Sea, within four Leagues of the British Coasts, any Foreign Goods, Wares, or Merchandizes, without Payment of the Customs, unless in case of apparent Necessity:' And to another Clause by which it was enacted, 'That all Goods found concealed in any Ship or Vessel, at any Time after the Master thereof shall have made his Report at the Custom-house, and which shall not be comprized or mentioned in the said Report, shall be forfeited.' With regard to the first Clause, it was said, That it would be a most terrible Hardship upon the Owners of any Ship, to make them forfeit their Ship, only because of the Captain's, or perhaps some of the Sailors, taking a Pound of Tea, or an Anchor of Brandy, Rum, or Arrack, from on board another Ship they accidentally met with at Sea: That in Penal Laws great Care ought always to be taken, not to subject any Man to a Penalty or Forfeiture, except such as were really guilty; but by that Clause the Owners of a Ship were to be subjected to a great Forfeiture, tho' they neither were, nor could be any way guilty of, or so much as privy to, the Crime for which that Forfeiture was inflicted: That the Hardship upon them was the greater, because it would be impossible for them to guard against it; for every one knew, that, for the most Part, the Command of Merchant Ships was given to Persons who had no Fortunes of their own, and therefore could not make good to the Owners the Damage they might sustain by the Forfeiture of their Ship: That the Owners of Ships never looked for any Thing more in a Master, but the Character of an honest careful Man, and an expert Sailor; but in this Case, neither of these Qualities could be a Safegard to the Owners, because their Ship might be forfeited and lost by the Knavery, perhaps by the Treachery, of any common Sailor on board, without any Fault in the Master: That the Estates vested in Shipping were already liable to so many Penalties and Forfeitures by our Custom-house Laws, and were subject to so many Dangers from other Accidents; and the Employing of any Estate in that Way was in itself of so little Advantage to the Owner, that many Gentlemen had already withdrawn their Fortunes from that Branch of Trade: That if that Clause should pass into a Law, no Man, who had a Regard to his Family, would employ or continue any Part of his Estate in that Branch; which would certainly be a great Disadvantage to our Shipping, and a great Discouragement to our Seamen.
'As to the other Clause it was alledg'd, That a Merchant might thereby forfeit a valuable Parcel of Goods, by the meer Negligence or Forgetfulness of the Master of a Ship, whom he had never known or entrusted; and that without its being possible for him, by the utmost Care and Diligence, to prevent such a Forfeiture; because the Goods might be forfeited before it was possible for him to hear of the Arrival of the Ship, or to know that he had such a Parcel of Goods on board such a Ship; for the Master always made his Report immediately upon his Arrival, and before he had Time or Opportunity to rummage his Ship, or to send to any of the Merchants to come and take care of their Goods; and as Masters are generally in a great Hurry at their setting out, when small Parcels of fine Goods are usually sent on board, a Master might very probably forget to mention some of them in his Report, which by this Clause would occasion a Forfeiture, such Goods being always lodged in Places that would be called concealed; whereas the Law then stood, if the Master upon rummaging and searching his Ship, which every Master did before Clearing, or if the Merchant upon hearing of the Ship's Arrival, or receiving Advice of his having such a Parcel of Goods on board, should come to look after his Goods, tho' they had been forgot in the Report, a Post-entry might be made, by which all Forfeitures and Penalties would be prevented. That they thought this Bill would be a new Hardship upon Merchants, and a new Discouragement to Trade, which was before, by our late Statutes relating to the Customs, subjected to so great an Expence, and so many Difficulties, that it was impossible for our Merchants to carry it on at so easy a Rate as our Neighbours, which was the true Cause of our being under-sold by Foreigners in all Markets of Europe.'
To this it was answered by the Advocates for the Bill, That all these Hardships and Dangers might easily be prevented by the Care of Masters of Ships: That Owners or Merchants who intrusted their Ships or Goods to idle careless Men, were certainly in some Fault, and therefore deserved to suffer if there were no Necessity for making them do so: But that in the Cases then before them, it was absolutely necessary to lay some Part of the Penalty upon them, for the very Reason that had been given against it; because the Masters imployed by them were often so poor, that it was impossible to recover any Penalties from them. That with respect to the Forfeiture of Ships, as the Clause was amended, and confined to Ships not exceeding 100 Tons, it could not much regard any Branch of our foreign Trade, it would chiefly regard our Coasting Vessels, and our Holland and French trading Sloops, many of which, they were afraid, were chiefly imployed in Smuggling. That they should be sorry if any Person suffered thro' a meer Oversight; but if they gave by Law too great, or, indeed, any Indulgence to Oversights, fraudulent Designs would always be cloaked under pretended Oversights, and therefore it was necessary to make the Law severe, tho' in the Execution of that Law, some Indulgence might be shewn in any Case which appeared clearly to those who had the Execution of the Law, to be but an Oversight. That we had many Customs and Duties upon Goods imported, and the Laws for collecting them might probably subject our Merchants to some Inconveniencies, and to some Expence; but there was no Country in the World where their Trade was free from Customs and Duties: That they believed the Merchants of this Kingdom were subjected to no greater Inconvenience or Expence on that Account, than the Merchants of our neighbouring Countries; so that if Foreigners under-sold us in any Market, some other Reason was to be assigned for their so doing, and when that Reason was assigned, if it was possible to remove it, they would join in any Measure that could be proposed for that Purpose.'
The Bill against Smuggling committed.
The Yorkshire Petition dropt.
The same Day the House resum'd the Consideration of the contested Election for the County of York, and after the Counsel for the sitting Member were heard, who alledged that they would soon shew, that most of the Objections made to their Voters were either false or frivolous, and that they would effectually disqualify a much greater Number of the Voters for Sir Rowland Winn, the Petitioner, than he, or the other Petitioners had pretended to disqualify of theirs, the Matter was adjourn'd to the 11th, on which Day no Notice being taken of the Affair it was intirely dropt.
Debate on a Bill for explaining the Bribery-Act.
May 11. A Motion was made by Mr Henry Arthur Herbert, for Leave to bring in a Bill, to explain and amend so much of an Act made in the second Year of his present Majesty's Reign, intitled, An Act for the more effectual preventing Bribery and Corruption in the Election of Members to serve in Parliament, as relates to the commencing and carrying on of Prosecutions grounded upon the said Act; which was accordingly granted, and the said Mr Herbert, Mr Richard Lloyd, Mr Knight and Mr More, were ordered to prepare and bring in the same: Accordingly a Bill for that Purpose was presented to the House the same Day, and read a first Time.
The Reason assigned for bringing in this Bill was, That by a Clause in the above Act it is enacted, 'That no Person shall be made liable to any Incapacity or Penalty by the said Act imposed, unless Prosecution be commenced within two Years after the Crime committed, nor in Case of Prosecution within that Time, unless the same be carried on without wilful Delay:' But this Limitation was not sufficiently full and explicit, because the suing out of an Original was a Commencement of a Prosecution, which might be done without letting the Party prosecuted know that any such Prosecution was commenced; and the Limitation being saved by the suing out an Original in this private Manner, Prosecutions upon that Act might be depending privately against Men for many Years after the supposed Offence, which would be of the most dangerous Consequence, and therefore it was necessary to bring in a short Bill for explaining and amending that Clause, so as to make it necessary to give the Party prosecuted Notice of the Prosecution within the two Years.
Sir J. H. Cotton.
After the second Reading of this Bill the next Day, Sir John Hind Cotton, took Notice, 'That upon a serious Attention to that Bill, he was not at all surprized to see it brought in so late in the Session, and passed in such a Hurry; for as it was drawn up with a Retrospect, it was really an Act of Indemnity for almost all the Bribery and Corruption Men might have been guilty of at the last general Elections for Members of Parliament, and might very probably be an Injury to several private Men, who had already done all that was made necessary by that Act for intitling themselves to carry on Prosecutions against Offenders; for as the two Years since the former Election were then just expiring, if a Gentleman had just sued out forty Originals against forty different Offenders, and had thereby intitled himself to proceed against them at his own Conveniency, he would be intirely disappointed, and lose the whole Expence he had been at; because the two Years would very probably be expired before he could hear of this Act, and then it would by this new Act be past the Time for serving even those very Originals, which he had regularly sued out in the Terms of the former Act; therefore he hoped the Committee would amend the Bill, so as to prevent its having a Retrospect, or doing an Injury to any Gentleman who had been guilty of no wilful Delay or Omission, as the Law then stood; for it was very probable that a great Number of Originals had been sued out, but not served or prosecuted, because the Prosecutors would in common Prudence wait 'till a few Cases of the same Nature had been determined, in order that they might from thence learn how to proceed.'
Mr Lloyd. ; Mr More.
To this it was answered by Mr Lloyd and Mr More: That whatever Lawyers might mean by a Prosecution commenced, the Meaning of the Legislature when that Law passed, certainly was, That no Prosecution should be understood to be commenced, unless the Person prosecuted had Notice of it, within the Time limited, by an Arrest, Summons, or some other legal Method; and as this was the Meaning of the Legislature, they believed most Gentlemen had taken it in that Sense, for they had never heard of any Prosecutions commenced in the other Manner, nor could any Gentleman in that House give an Instance where a Prosecutor had sued out a Number of Originals without summoning or arresting the Persons against whom they were sued out; from whence it was to be presumed, that if there were any such Instances, they were so rare as not to deserve the Notice of that House.'
The said Bill passed.
The Bill against Smuggling read a third Time and sent up to the Lords. ; Debate on an Amendment made by the Lords.
May 14. The Bill against Smuggling was read the third Time, and a Motion being made that the Bill do pass, the same was opposed by some Members; but the Question being put, it was resolved in the Affirmative by 88 against 39, and (fn. 1) Mr Willes was ordered to carry the Bill to the Lords, and desire their Concurrence.
May 20. The said Bill was returned to the House of Commons, when they took into Consideration an Amendment made by the Lords; and the said Amendment being twice read, Mr Speaker acquainted the House, 'That when any Thing occurred which might any Way look like an Incroachment upon the Privileges of that House, he thought it was his Duty to lay the Case impartially before them, and then to leave the House to do in it as they should think fit: That in all Bills by which any Tax or Duty was to be imposed upon the Subject, it was the undoubted Privilege of that House, and they had always inststed upon it, that the other House should not make any the least Amendment to any such Bill; but were in all such Cases either to pass the Bill without any Amendment, or to reject it if they thought fit: That as the Taxes and Duties granted by that House, could not be raised or collected without prescribing proper and effectual Methods for that Purpose, therefore in all Bills for imposing any Tax or Duty upon the Subject, certain Methods had been prescribed for effectually raising that Tax or Duty; and if the Methods prescribed should afterwards by Experience be found ineffectual, new Methods had always been contrived, and proper Bills passed for establishing those new Methods; which last Sort of Bills had generally been looked on as Appendixes to the first Bill by which the Tax or Duty was granted; therefore such Bills were looked upon as Bills of the same Nature with the first, and consequently that House had generally insisted upon it, that the other House could not make any Amendment to this last Sort of Bills, no more than they could have done to the Bill by which the Tax or Duty was granted: That as the Bill then before them was for enforcing the Laws made for securing the Revenues of Customs and Excise, it was properly to be considered as an Appendix to the Laws by which those Revenues were originally established; and as the other House had made an Amendment to it, he did not know but their making an Amendment to such a Bill, might be looked on as some sort of Incroachment upon the Privileges of that House; for which Reason he thought it his Duty to state the Case to them, before they proceeded to take the Amendment into their Consideration. That he had searched the Journals of the House for Cases of the same Nature, and would read such of them as he thought most applicable to the Case then before them.'
Which is agreed to and the Bill passed.
Upon this several Journals of the House were read, relating to Amendments made by the Lords to Money-Bills, or Bills of the same Nature: The reading these Journals occasioned a Debate in the House in relation to their Privilege: But at last the Question was put for agreeing to the Amendment, which was carried in the Affirmative; and Mr Willes was ordered to carry the Bill to the Lords, and acquaint them, That the House had agreed to the Amendment.
The King's Speech at putting an End to the Second Session.
"I acquainted you, at your first Meeting, that Preliminary Articles had been concluded between the Emperor and the most Christian King; since which Time, a farther Convention, concerning the Execution of them, hath been made, and communicated to Me, by both these Courts, and Negociations are carrying on, by the several Powers engaged in the late War, in order to settle the General Pacification.
"I return you my Thanks for the Provisions you have made for the Service of the current Year; you can never better recommend yourselves to my Esteem, and to the good Opinion of those you represent, than by raising the Supplies necessary for the Support of my Government, and for the Service of the Publick, in a Manner the most effectual, and the least burthensome to my People.
"It is a great Concern to Me, to see such Seeds of Dissention sown among my good People, as, if not timely prevented, may prove very prejudicial to the Peace and Quiet of my Kingdoms; it is my Desire, and shall be my Care, to preserve the present Constitution in Church and State, as by Law established, perfect and entire, and not to countenance any Attempts to the Prejudice of either. Good Harmony, and mutual Affection, among all the Protestants of this Nation, have been the great Security of the present happy Establishment, from the Revolution to this Time; by this united Strength they will be able to resist the secret and open Attempts of its common Enemies; but divided, they may become a Prey to them. My Protection shall be impartially dispensed to all my Subjects, in the full Enjoyment of their Religious and Civil Rights; let it be your Care, by your Conduct, in your several Stations, to make my Endeavours for your common Happiness effectual.
"It being necessary for Me to visit my Dominions in Germany again this Year, I have resolved to appoint the Queen Regent here, during my Absence. The Experience you have already had of Her just and prudent Administration, will, I doubt not, engage you all, to make the Weight of the Publick Affairs as easy to Her, as Her wise Conduct will render the Government agreeable to you; and this I recommend to you in a particular Manner.