The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 9, 1734-1737. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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'Whether a further Reduction of Interest, natural or legal, may tend to the Advantage or Disadvantage of the Nation in general, or whether the natural Interest of Money, lent on public Securities, be below 3 per Cent. are Questions I shall not at present give you the Trouble of enquiring into; but if both be resolved in the Affirmative, which every Gentleman must do, who is for agreeing to what is now proposed, I can see no Reason for our confining our Resolution, or the Scheme depending thereon, to South-Sea Annuities only. For if a further Reduction of Interest must prove a Benefit to the Nation in general, we ought to extend that Benefit as far as we can suppose it will go; and if the natural Interest of Money upon public Securities, be below 3 per Cent. it is not, in my Opinion, to be questioned, but the other Creditors of the Public will be as ready to accept of 3 per Cent. irredeemable for 14 Years, as the South-Sea Annuitants.—For this Reason, Sir, if we come to a Resolution for enabling his Majesty to open Books of Subscription, it ought, I think, to be general; it ought to comprehend all the other public Creditors, as well as the South Sea Annuitants. But, Sir, there is another very strong Reason for making our Resolution general, which is, that a particular Resolution with respect to the South-Sea Annuitants only, will, in my Opinion, be partial, and consequently unjust, consider it in what View we please, for that Resolution must be advantageous, or it must be disadvantageous to the South-Sea Annuitants: If we look upon it as a Resolution that may be advantageous to them, it will be shewing a Partiality in their Favour, and will consequently be doing an Injustice to the rest of our Creditors; on the other hand, if we look on it as a Resolution that may be disadvantageous for them, it will then be shewing a Partiality to our other Creditors, and will consequently be a Piece of Injustice done towards the South Sea Annuitants.— From these Considerations, Sir, I think, if we come to any Resolution or Resolutions for redeeming any of our public Funds, and for enabling his Majesty to borrow Money at 3 per Cent. for that Purpose, we ought to come to a Resolution, to redeem all the public Funds redeemable by Law, that now carry an Interest at 4 per Cent. per Annum, and then we may come to another Resolution for enabling his Majesty to borrow Money at 3 per Cent. for that Purpose.— These, Sir, are my Sentiments with respect to the Affair now under our Consideration; and if the House seems to approve of them, I shall then rise up and move for such Resolutions, as, I think, we ought to come to, agreeable to these Sendments.'
To this it was answered by Sir John Barnard and others, in Substance as follows, viz.
Sir John Barnard.
'There are two Methods of defeating any Scheme or Proposition offered to this House, both of which have been often practised with Success. One is the plain, blunt Way of putting a Negative upon it at once; and the other, which has likewise been practised in former Parliaments, is what we may call a Sort of Parliamentary Play, which is, by making such Improvements upon it as must necessarily render it abortive. I am far from thinking the Hon. Gentleman has any such Intention with respect to the Improvement he has now offered, but there is an old and a true Proverb, Grasp at all, lose all. We have been told by several Gentlemen in this Debate, that the Scheme, as first proposed, would certainly prove impracticable in the Execution; and if there was the least Foundation for such Apprehensions, surely that Foundation must be very much widened, and rendered at the same Time more solid, by the Improvement that has been now offered. Our South Sea Annuities both old and new amount to about 24 Millions only; all our redeemable Funds bearing an Interest of 4 per Cent. amount to above 44 Millions; and will any Gentleman say, but that it may be easy for the Government to borrow Money at 3 per Cent. sufficient for paying off such of the Proprietors of 24 Millions, as are not willing to accept of that Interest, and yet it may be found very difficult for them to borrow Money at 3 per Cent. sufficient for paying off such of the Proprietors of 44 Millions as may not be willing to accept of the Interest?
If you resolve, Sir, to apply all the Money you can borrow at 3 per Cent. only to the redeeming of such of the South-Sea Annuitants, as will not accept of that Interest, all the Annuitants may be of Opinion, you can borrow as much Money as will be sufficient for that Purpose, which will of course make all or most of them subscribe their Annuities at that Interest; so that you will have no Occasion for applying any, or but very little of the Money you borrow, towards redeeming any of the South-Sea Annuitants, and may therefore apply almost the whole Money you borrow, towards redeeming the Proprietors of your other Funds, who will not accept of 3 per Cent. upon any Terms you please to offer; whereas if you make that Resolution general, if you resolve to apply the Money you can borrow at 3 per Cent. towards redeeming the Proprietors of all your Funds, which now bear an Interest of 4 per Cent. who will not accept of 3; not only the Proprietors of your other Funds, but even most of the South-Sea Annuitants may be of Opinion, it will not be in your Power to borrow so much Money at 3 per Cent. as will be near sufficient for that Purpose; and thus the Fear of being redeemed, being confined to a very few, you can expect but few Subscriptions in Stock or Annuities at an Interest of 3 per Cent. Thus it appears evident, in my Opinion, that the farther you extend your Scheme, the less Benefit you can expect from it; the more you confine it, the more general and the more certain will your Success be.—However, Sir, as it has been made appear in this Debate, that all our Funds are at an Interest below 3 per Cent. as our 3 per Cent. public Securities now bear a Premium in 'Change-Alley; and as the Intention of the Scheme at first was only to afford an Opportunity to those who are willing to lend at 3 per Cent. of having a public Security for their Money at Par, instead of being obliged to pay a Premium for it in 'Change-Alley, and to afford an Opportunity to such of the South-Sea Annuitants, as are willing to accept of 3 per Cent. for their Money, instead of having 4, and being subjected to the Trouble and Loss of receiving and replacing so much of their Capital yearly, or every other Year; the small Success of the Scheme can be of no Prejudice to the Nation; but on the contrary, the least Success that can be supposed, will be a Benefit; for if but a Million in Stock and Money should be subscribed, the Nation will thereby save 10,000 l. a Year; therefore rather than not have the Assistance of the Hon. Gentleman who has made you this Proposition, and of his Friends, I shall be for agreeing to the Improvement he has been pleased to propose; but I hope the Hon. Gentleman and his Friends will remember, that the Scheme thus amended becomes properly their own Scheme, and that they will not afterwards endeavour to put a Negative upon the Scheme they have thus made their own.
The Scheme, even as thus amended, Sir, may turn out to be of signal Advantage to the Nation; but if that be true which has been hinted in this Debate, by some of those Gentlemen who opposed the first Motion, I must confess, the Amendment would be dangerous. It has been insinuated, that all the public Creditors will join in concerting Measures for defeating the Scheme, that is to say, they will join in concerting Measures for distressing their Country, in order that they may extort a higher Interest from her, than she would otherwise be obliged to pay. This, Sir, is, 'tis true, a Practice too frequent among petty, private Usurpers; but I hope none of the Creditors of the Public will ever deserve such a Name; for if it were possible to suppose them devoid of all Love for their Country, their own Interest must suggest a contrary Behaviour: Their own Prosperity depends upon the Prosperity of their Country; even the Security of their Principal, as well as Interest, depends upon the Prosperity of their Debtor, which can seldom or ever be the Case of private Borrowers and Lenders; therefore we cannot suppose the Creditors of the Public will ever join unanimously in concerting any such Measures. But if any such Thing were to be dreaded, they will surely join more unanimously against the Scheme as thus amended, than it can be supposed they would have done against the Scheme as first proposed. When a Nation has been offended by several of her Neighbours, if she declares War against them all at once, she will certainly unite them altogether against her, and may probably involve herself in Ruin, instead of obtaining that Reparation which she might easily have obtained, if she had attacked them one after another. The Case is the same: If we resolve to reduce only a Part of our public Funds to a lower Interest, the Proprietors of the other Funds not being in the same Circumstances, will never join with them in the same Measures; but if we resolve to reduce them all at once, it brings them all into the same Circumstances, and will, consequently, make them all join in the same Measures. This, I say, Sir, would be the Case, if it could be supposed the Creditors of the Public would ever join in any Measures for distressing their Country: In that Case we ought to look on them as public Enemies, and then we ought in good Policy to take all possible Care not to unite them, by attacking them all at once; but I shall never look upon the public Creditors as public Enemies, nor shall I ever look upon an Endeavour to borrow Money at a low Interest as an Attack, even upon that Part of them who are by means of that Money to be paid off. Quite otherwise, I shall always look upon the public Creditors as public Friends; therefore, I must suppose they will join in Measures for rendering effectual a Scheme calculated for giving an Ease to their Country, and that the more general the Intention of that Scheme is, the more generally, and the more unanimously, they will contribute towards its Success. This, we ought in Charity to suppose, with regard to the public Creditors in general, whatever may be the Behaviour of some few of them; and upon this Supposition, I can apprehend no Danger from the Improvement, or rather Enlargement, proposed.
With regard to the Justice and Impartiality of the Scheme as first proposed, I am surprized, Sir, to hear it questioned by any Gentleman who considers the public Good, or the different Circumstances of our several public Creditors. It would, in my Opinion, be of great Advantage to all the South-Sea Annuitants. An Annuity of 3 per Cent. for their Money, irredeemable for 14 Years, is a Situation which, I am sure, is highly preferable to their present; but this is an Advantage we ought not, for the Sake of public Good, to grant to any of the other public Creditors, if we can avoid it; it is an Advantage the South-Sea Annuitants deserve more than the Generality of our other Creditors; and it is an Advantage which can breed no Confusion among those Annuitants; whereas the granting it to any other Set of public Creditors might breed great Confusion among them. As to the public Good, we must consider, that most of our other Creditors enjoy great exclusive Privileges in Trade, by Means of the Debt due to them; and as it may, in a few Years, be found necessary for the public Good, to destroy, or put an End to those exclusive Privileges, therefore we ought not, for the Sake of public Good, to grant them an irredeemable Term of 14 Years, if we can possibly avoid it; which we may do, if all the South-Sea Annuitants should agree to accept of 3 per Cent. and great Sums in ready Money should likewise be subscribed at that Interest. From hence every Man must see a good Reason for not granting this Advantage to the other public Creditors in general; but with respect to the Bank in particular, it would be Madness and very great Partiality to grant it to them; because their Term expires in 6 Years, so that it would be granting them a Continuance of their Term for 8 Years, which is worth above 800,000l. in present Money, and that for no praticular Consideration at all; for the Reduction of Interest from 4 to 3 per Cent. is a Consideration granted by the other Creditors, as well as by them, tho' none of the other Creditors are to receive any such Advantage.
Then, Sir, as to the particular Circumstances of the South-Sea Annuitants, every one knows they enjoy no Advantage or Profit from the Money they have lent to the Public, but merely that Annuity or yearly Interest paid them by the Public; whereas the Proprietors of our three great Companies have all along enjoyed, and do still enjoy, the Advantage of an exclusive Trade, by which all of them have made, and two of them do still make a large annual Profit, besides that Annuity or yearly Interest paid them by the Public; therefore, if any new Advantage is to be granted to any of our public Creditors, which ought not to be granted to all, if it can be avoided, surely the South-Sea Annuitants have the best Title to that new Advantage. And suppose one Half of the South-Sea Annuitants should agree to accept of 3 per Cent. and the other Half should not, and that the Subscriptions should amount to no more than 2 or 3 Millions; in that Case it would be impossible for the Public to pay off at once, all the Annuitants so standing out; the only Thing that could be done, would be to pay them their 4 per Cent. yearly, and to apply the Sinking-Fund towards them only till they should all be paid off: With respect to the South-Sea Annuitants, this might be easily done, by dividing them into four Classes, two of old and new Annuities at 3 per Cent. or if you please you might make but one of both these, and two of old and new Annuities at 4 per Cent. in which Case all future Payments might be applied to the two latter, without breeding any Confusion, or causing any Disputes: But, suppose this to be the Case of the Stockholders of our Trading Companies; it would breed great Confusion among them, with regard to the Method of dividing the future Profits of their Trade, and it would cause great Disputes; for the Proprietors of Stock at 3 per Cent. might insist, they had a Right to a greater Share of the Profits of their Trade, than those at 3 per Cent. especially if it be true that the Annuity paid to these Companies by the Public, enables them to increase their Trade; and even after the 4 per Cents. were all paid off, they might insist on their Share of the Profits by Trade, as long as the Company continued; in the same Manner as the present Proprietors of East India Stock might insist upon having their Profits by Trade divided among them, proportionably to their respective Shares, then the Debt due to them by the Public should be all immediately paid off.
From these Observations, Sir, it will appear, that the Favour designed by the Scheme, as first offered, to be shewn particularly to the South-Sea Annuitants, proceeds from a Regard for the public Good, from a Regard for their superior Merit, and from a proper Caution not to breed any Confusion, or Dispute among our other public Creditors; and can any Gentleman say, that a Favour founded upon such substantial Reasons, is either partial or unjust? Therefore, if we suppose the Scheme advantageous for the SouthSea Annuitants, we cannot accuse it of any Partiality or Injustice; and we cannot suppose it disadvantageous to any such Annuitant, because, if he does not like the Terms proposed, he may continue in the same Condition he is in at present; he may continue to enjoy his 4 per Cent. till his Capital be paid off, and I hope no Annuitant expects to enjoy it any longer, or imagines it is doing Injustice to him, to put the Public in a Way of paying him off sooner.
After what I have said, Sir, it may be supposed, that I am against agreeing to the Amendment or Enlargement proposed; and if I were, it would not be without good Reasons; for it is certainly inconsistent with the public Good to grant a Term of 14 Years irredeemable to any of our Trading Companies, if we could any way avoid it; and, I am sure, it is inconsistent with the public Good, to make a Present to the Bank of above 800,000 l. which will be the Case, if we grant them a Prolongation of their Term for eight Years without any Consideration; and lastly, I cannot think it very consistent with the public Good to run the Risk of breeding a Confusion and Dispute among any of our public Creditors: But as my Hopes of Success depend entirely upon the hearty Concurrence of the honourable Gentleman and his Friends, I am for agreeing to what he has been pleased to propose; because the first two Disadvantages must, I find, be submitted to, and the last will, I hope, be prevented, by each of our Companies coming to a Resolution in their respective general Courts to accept of 3 per Cent. upon the Terms offered, by which all Confusion and Dispute among their Proprietors will be prevented; therefore I hope the Hon. Gentleman will again rise up, and move for such Resolutions as may be agreeable to what he has proposed'.
Thus much was said upon this new Topick, and there being no Occasion for any Reply, the following Resolutions were moved for, and agreed to, viz.
Resolved, "That it is the Opinion of this Committee, that all the public Funds redeemable by Law, which carry an Interest of 4 per Cent. per Annum, be redeemed according to the respective Provisoes or Clauses of Redemption contained in the Acts of Parliament for that Purpose, or (with Consent of the Proprietors) be converted into an Interest or Annuity not exceeding 3 per Cent. per Annum not redeemable till after 14 Years."
"That it is the Opinion of this Committee, that his Majesty be enabled to borrow from any Person or Persons, Bodies politic or corporate, any Sum or Sums of Money at an Interest not exceeding 3 per Cent. to be applied towards redeeming the national Debt."
On Wednesday, March 30, these Resolutions were reported by Sir Charles Turner to the House; and the first Resolution being read a second Time, and a new Debate arising, a Motion was made for adjourning the further Consideration of the said Report till Thursday, April 14, but upon the Question's being put, it was carried in the Negative.
Then an Amendment to the Resolution was proposed by General Wade, and seconded by Walter Plumer, Esq; viz. That instead of the Words, not exceeding 3 per Cent. per Annum, the Words, not exceeding 3 and a half per Annum should be inserted. Upon which Mr. Samuel Sandys, Esq; took Notice, That the Amendment proposed was such a one as could not be made upon a Report; because it was for a larger Sum annually than what they had agreed to in the Committee; and that therefore if they had a Mind to allow a higher Interest than 3 per Cent. they must recommit the the Resolution. Whereupon Mr. Plumer said, That, as an honourable Gentleman near him (meaning Thomas Gore, Esq; had before taken Notice, the Affair's depending in that House had, he found, occasioned so much Gaming in 'Change-Alley, that if the Amendment he had seconded, could not be agreed to upon the Report, he would be against recommitting; because he was for having the Affair determined some way or other with as great Expedition as possible, in order to put a Stop to that infamous Practice of Stockjobbing.
Nevertheless, a Motion was made for recommitting; but upon the Question's being put, it was, upon a Division, carried in the Negative by 220 to 157.
After which, both the Resolutions were agreed to, and Sir John Barnard, Mr. Wortley, and the Master of the Rolls, were ordered to prepare and bring in a Bill upon the Resolutions so agreed to.
The chief Speakers in these Debates in the Committee and upon the Report, for the Reduction, were, Sir John Barnard, the Master of the Rolls, Edward Wortley Montague, Esq; John Howe, Esq; Thomas Gore, Esq; Samuel Sandys, Esq; &c. And the chief Speakers against the Reduction were Mr. Alderman Heathcote, Peter Burrel, Esq; Samuel Holden, Esq; Sir Charles Wager, General Wade, James Oglethorpe, Esq; Robert Knight, Esq; &c. and Sir Robert Walpole, who spoke not so much against the Reduction, as against its being then a proper Time for undertaking such a Scheme.
As soon as this Bill was ordered to be brought in, Sir John Barnard stood up, and after making a short Speech, moved, "That that House would, as soon as the Interest of all the national redeemable Debt should be reduced to 3 l. per Cent. per Annum, take off some of the heavy Taxes, which oppress the Poor and the Manufacturers."
Upon this Motion there ensued a Debate, in which the Arguments for the Motion were to the Effect as follows, viz.
'As the Increase, or rather the Revival of our Trade, 'is one of the chief Ends intended by the Resolutions we have now agreed to, and as the Prosperity of Trade depends as much upon the low Rate of Wages as upon the low Rate of Interest, I shall beg Leave to make you a Motion for another Resolution, which I take to be a natural Consequence of the two Resolutions we have now agreed to; but before I make you the Motion I intend, I shall take the Liberty to make some Observations upon the Nature of Trade in general; and in the first Place, I must observe, that natural Commodities, however valuable, by which I mean such as are produced without any great Art or Industry of the People, are never of any great Service to a Country, because they maintain no great Number of Subjects, nor enrich many Individuals. The Gold and Silver of the Spanish and Portuguese Settlements in America are Commodities of great Value; but as they are produced by the Labour of Slaves, and enrich only the King and a few great Lords, they have rather diminished than increased the Power and the Riches of both those Kingdoms; the Reason of which is, because they maintain no great Number of industrious Subjects, in which the Power of a Country consists; and the Riches that belong entirely to the King, or to a few great Men, are generally wasted in Luxury and Extravagance, or employ'd in ambitious Projects, which no way tend to the public Good of the Country. This prevents the Increase of natural born Subjects, and render such as they have lazy, idle, and extravagant; so that those very Riches, which are brought in by the Labour of their Slaves, they are every Year obliged to send out, for purchasing the Necessaries of Life, or such Things as are proper for supporting their Luxury.
From hence we may see, Sir, that the only Commodities proper for increasing or supporting the Power and the Riches of a Country, are those which are produced by the Art and Industry of the Inhabitants. The Production or Manufacture, and Sale or Exchange, of such Commodities is that only which can properly be called Trade; and of such Commodities no Country can have any great Quantity, unless they can sell them cheaper than any of their Neighbours can sell Commodities of the same Kind and Goodness. Now as the original Materials of all such Commodities are to be got by the People of all Countries, at pretty near the same Price, the Difference between the Price of such Commodities when worked up in one Country, and the Price of them when worked up in another, must always depend upon the Price of Labour; that is to say, the Wages given to Workmen and Servants; for no such Commodities can be sold so cheap by the People of a Country where the Wages given to Workmen and Servants are high, as Commodities of the same Kind and Goodness may be sold by the People of a Country where the Wages given to Workmen and Servants are low; but in all Countries the Price of Labour, or the Wages given to Workmen and Servants, must depend upon the Price of those Provisions which are necessary for their convenient Support; I say, Sir, their convenient Support, for even the poorest Workman must and will have some of the Conveniences of Life; and that Country where the usual Price of Labour can afford the Labourers most of the Conveniencies of Life, will always at last come to have the greatest Number of Workmen, in all Sorts of Trade and Manufacture. A Glut of Business, or a Scarcity of Workmen, may sometimes occasion the Wages of Workmen and Servants to be higher in one Country than another; but if the Price of the Necessaries and Conveniencies of Life be equal in both, the Workmen will by Degrees leave the Country where Wages are low, and repair to that Country where Wages are high; by which Means the Price of Labour in both Countries will at last be brought upon a Par: This will always be the Case where the Price of the Necessaries and Conveniencies of Life is the same in both Countries; but if the Price of the Necessaries and Conveniences of Life, by Accident or bad Measures, become dearer in one Country than in another, and continue so for some Time, in that Country where such Necessaries and Conveniencies are dearest, the Price of Labour must rise, or their Workmen and Servants will all leave them; for tho' the Desire to live in their native Country may keep them at Home for some Time, and may make them chuse to live much more sparingly by their Labour at Home, than they could do by the same Labour in another Country, yet some will be every Year deserting, and the more that have deserted, the greater Encouragement will those that remain have to desert; so that the Desertion must necessarily and inevitably at last become general.
This, I say, Sir, will certainly be the Event, if the Price of Labour, or the Wages of Workmen, are not raised in Proportion as the Price of the Necessaries and Conveniencies of Life rises in any Country; and if the Price of Labour be raised higher in one Country than it is in another, we may easily see what will be the necessary Consequence. As the Price of the original Materials of all Sorts of Commodities produced by the Art and Industry of the People, is pretty much the same in all Countries, those Commodities may be sold cheaper by the People of that Country where the Price of Labour is cheap, than they can be by the People of that Country where the Price of Labour is dear; the necessary Consequence of which must be, that the former, by underselling, will first beat the latter out of all foreign Markets, and at last even out of their own home Market; for tho' a Country may by severe Laws and high Penalties, for some Time, prevent the Importation of those foreign Commodities which are of the same Nature with their own, yet the Execution of such Laws will at last become so grievous to the People, that it must either be neglected, or the Laws repealed; because the People cann ever be persuaded it is a Crime to buy at the cheapest Hand, nor can they bear to see their FellowCountrymen punished for what they think no Crime: They neither will nor can enquire into the Causes of the Dearness of such Commodities in their own Country, but will think it proceeds from the Covetousness of those concerned in the Trade; therefore such Laws always have produced, and always will at last produce Murmurings and Insurrections among the People; so that the Government at last will be obliged, for the Sake of Quiet, to let the People buy where they best can; and this Liberty will put a full Stop to any Manufactures that may then be remaining among them.— There are many other Considerations, Sir, which contribute towards rendering Trade more flourishing in one Country than another; such as a happy Constitution of Government, and good Laws and Customs for securing the Liberty and Property of the Subject; a Regard and Esteem shewn by the Laws for Merchants and Tradesmen; a low Rate of the natural Interest of Money; and many others: But this I will say, that of two Countries alike in all other Circumstances, the Trade of that Country will flourish most where the Price of Labour is cheapest, and where they may have the original Materials of those Commodities which are produced by the Art and Industry of the People, at the cheapest Rate. Nay, if there be a Rivalship between them, as to the Production of any such Commodity, we may depend on it the former will at last beat the other entirely out of the Business. From hence we may see, how ruinous it must be to the Trade of any Country, to lay Taxes upon any Provisions that are necessary for the convenient Support of their Labourers, Manufacturers, or Tradesmen; or upon any of the original Materials of those Commodities which are produced by the Art and Industry of their People: From hence we must see that the Trade of any such Country must necessarily at last be undone, if their Neighbours be in any Sort of Condition to take Advantage of the Slip they have made: And from hence we must see, how necessary it is for us to take the most effectual and the most immediate Measures for relieving our People from those Taxes which he heavy, not only upon almost all Sorts of Provisions, but upon almost all Sorts of Materials. We may make Laws against Smuggling, we may make Laws against exporting our Wool, we may make Laws against inveigling our Workmen into foreign Countries: These are but quackish Remedies; if we have a Mind to work a thorough Cure, we must remove the Cause, which certainly proceeds from our many heavy Taxes; for none of our Workmen would go to foreign Countries, if they could live more conveniently by their Labour in this, than they could in any other; none of our Wool would be exported, if it could be wrought up in this Country cheaper than in any other, especially, if by our Treaties we took Care to have a free Entry for our Manufactures into every Country; and no foreign Manufacture would be imported upon us, if the prime Cost were higher than the same Sort of Manufacture could be bought for, here at Home.
I know, Sir, it has been said our Taxes are no way insupportable, nor heavier in this Country than they are in Holland or France; but if those Gentlemen would compare the Taxes and the Methods of raising them in this Country, with the Taxes and Methods of raising them either in France or Holland, or any other Country of Europe, they will find that the Taxes in this Country are more burdensome upon Trade, and the Methods of raising them more inconvenient for the Merchant and Dealer, than in any Country of Europe: Insomuch that, if it were not for the natural Advantage we enjoy by means of our Situation, and the many flourishing Plantations we have in the West-Indies, and for that artificial Advantage which has been handed down to us from our wise Ancestors, and which, I hope, we shall take Care to preserve, I mean the superior Excellence of our Constitution, Laws, and Customs; I say, if it were not for these Advantages, I am convinced our Trade would already have been entirely lost. These Advantages, especially our Plantations, and the great Exports and Imports we make to and from them, have hitherto preserved our Trade and our Manufactures; but our Plantations will at last fall upon Ways and Means to furnish themselves with foreign Manufactures, or with such as are worked up among themselves, if they find they can do it at a much cheaper Rate than they can have any such from us; and with respect to our Imports from thence, such as Sugars, Rum, Tobacco, Skins, and the like, we may continue for many Years to supply our Home Maket with such Commodities from our own Plantations, by means of prohibitory Laws and high Duties upon foreign Commodities of the same Kind; but if our present high Rate of Interest and high Duties continue, and if the French continue to improve their Plantations for Years to come, as fast as they have done for these twenty Years past, I am afraid it may soon be put out of our Power to supply any foreign Market with any even of those Commodities; and if all foreign Markets should be shut up against us, both with respect to our Home Manufactures and with respect to the Produce of our Plantations, our Luxury must either greatly diminish, or we should soon have no Occasion to be afraid of Foreigners drawing our Money away from us, by the Sale of their Property in our Funds; for if they could sell that Property for any Price, which is much to be questioned, they would find no Money in the Kingdom to draw out of it, they would be obliged to take and export our Corn, Cattle, Tin, Lead, or Wool, in lieu of the Property they had so disposed of.
That the Dearness of Provisions, and consequently of Labour, in this Kingdom, does not proceed from Money being more plenty in this Country than in France or Holland, is evident, Sir, from the natural Rate of Interest between Man and Man being higher in this Country than in either of the other two; and the Dearness of Provisions and Labour, in and about London, does not so much proceed from a greater Plenty of Money in and about London, as from their Taxes being more numerous, and more heavy, than in any other Part of the Kingdom; for all Taxes are more strictly raised in and about London than in any other Part of the Kingdom; and the Inhabitants in and about London, even those of the poorest Sort, are subject to two most grievous Taxes, which almost every other Part of the Kingdom is free from: I mean the Tax upon Coals, and upon AleHouses by Virtue of the Pot-Act, both which fall extremely heavy upon the poor Labourer and Manufacturer, and must necessarily make both Provisions and Labour much dearer in and about London, than in any other Part of the Kingdom; therefore, I hope, these two Taxes will be among the first to be taken off: For I must think the Manufacturers and Labourers in and about London, if they are not put upon an equal Footing with their foreign Neighbours, ought at least to be put upon an equal Footing with their domestic Neighbours, especially considering that they will be the greatest Sufferers by the Reduction of the Interest payable upon our public Funds. But there is another strong Reason for making Labour as cheap as possible in and about London, because there are many Sorts of Manufactures which cannot so conveniently be carried on in any Part of the Kingdom as in or near London, and all Ships which carry out a Cargo consisting of a great Variety of Sorts of Goods, properly sorted for the foreign Market to which they are bound, must take their Cargo and Departure generally from London; so that a great Part of our foreign Trade, as long as we have any, must always depend upon our Exports from the Port of London; and many of our homeward bound Ships must come to unload the whole, or a Part of their Cargo at London, before they can return to the Port from whence they set out: For which Reason we ought, if possible, to render the Price of Provisions, and consequently the Price of Labour, as cheap at London as it is in any Part of this Kingdom, or in any trading Country in Europe; at least, I am sure, we ought neither to impose nor continue any Tax which must necessarily enhance the Price both of the one and the other.
After having thus shewn the necessary and the fatal Consequences of Taxes upon the Necessaries of Life, or upon the original Materials proper for any Manufacture, I am convinced every Gentleman that hears me will be of Opinion, that as soon as the Interest payable upon our public Funds is reduced to 3 per Cent. we ought to annihilate some Part of the Sinking-Fund, by abolishing some of the heavy Taxes that oppress our poor Labourers and Manufacturers; for that we have some such cannot I think be questioned, after what his present Majesty was pleased to recommend to us from the Throne but a few Years since. And in order to convince all those without Doors that this is our real Intention, we ought, I think, immediately to come to some such Resolution; because it will not only contribute towards the Success of the Scheme we have just now agreed to, but it will likewise contribute towards preventing some of our Workmen from going Abroad, who are now perhaps making Preparations for that Purpose, and towards prevailing with some Masters of Manufactures to continue in their Business, who are now perhaps, through Despair, resolving to give it up. When our money'd Men and other Stockholders see a solemn Resolution of Parliament for abolishing some of our most heavy Taxes, and when they consider the great Benefit that may accrue therefrom to our Trade, and the great Relief it will afford to our poor Labourers and Manufacturers, if they have the least Regard for their Country, they will certainly contribute with the more Alacrity towards the Success of a Scheme, from which so many public Benefits may be reasonably expected; and even the most selfish Stockholders will find in such a Resolution this Comfort, that if their Revenue be diminished by the Reduction of Interest, their Loss will be in some Measure compensated by the Diminution of their Expence, which will be the necessary Consequence of abolishing any of our heavy Taxes, not only with regard to those Commodities which are discharged of the Tax, but with regard to all other Sorts of Commodities; for a Tax upon any one of the Necessaries of Life must enhance the Price, not only of all the other Necessaries of Life, but likewise of all those Things that are proper either for the Conveniency or the Luxury of Life. Therefore, the abolishing of some of our heavy Taxes must necessarily lessen the future Expence of every Family in the Kingdom, especially about London, where all Taxes are most strictly raised, and most severely felt; and consequently a Resolution for that Purpose must naturally tend towards making every Man contribute, with the more Alacrity, to the Success of the Scheme we have now agreed to.
Such a Resolution, Sir, will not only contribute to the Success of the Scheme without Doors, but it will likewise contribute greatly to its Success within Doors; for I must confess, I should myself be very indifferent about its Success, either within Doors or without, if I did not think that the abolishing of some of our heavy Taxes would be the necessary Consequence of the reducing the Interest payable upon the public Funds: If the People were to receive no Benefit by such Reduction, if I thought the only Advantage to be reaped thereby, would be the Increase of the SinkingFund, I should be very little anxious about the Success of the Scheme; because I am now fully convinced, That Fund will never be religiously and regularly applied to the Uses for which it was intended; but will always serve as a Fund for leading the Nation into expensive and unnecessary Projects or Measures; and may hereafter be made use of for rendering successful the most wicked Purposes an ambitious Prince or a guilty Minister can invent or contrive. For this Reason, I am sure there are many Gentlemen in both Houses of Parliament, who will be much more sanguine for the passing of the Bill now ordered to be brought in, than they would otherwise be, if they are assured that the Reduction of Interest will be attended with a Diminution of Taxes; and nothing can contribute more towards giving Gentlemen such an Assurance, than a previous Resolution of this House, that as soon as the Interest is reduced, some of our most burdensome Taxes will be abolished; therefore, whatever Gentlemen may pretend, whatever their outward Professions may be, I shall not easily believe they are really and in their Hearts for passing the Bill we have ordered to be brought in, if they are against the Motion I am now to make.
In the Debate, Sir, upon the Resolution of the Committee, it was, I think, made fully appear, that a Reduction of Interest would be a great Advantage to the Nation in general; and as these Resolutions have been agreed to by the House, I must conclude the Majority are of the same Opinion; yet such is the Selfishness of some Men without Doors, who are great Stockholders, and who consequently will be great Losers by what has been agreed to within Doors, that they will not be, or will pretend they are not convinced of what I think is evident at first View. They not only endeavour to convince themselves, but they endeavour to convince others, that the Nation will be no way benefited by what we have resolved on, but that on the contrary most Tradesmen and Artificers will be Losers; and the chief, nay the only Argument they make use of, or indeed can make use of, is, That we have no Design to abolish any of the Taxes, but only to increase the Sinking-Fund; Thus, say they to Tradesmen and Artificers, you will be no Gainers by this Scheme, because you must pay the same Taxes you did before; and as our Revenue is to be lessened, we must contract our Expence, we cannot lay out so much Money with you as we did before, so that you will be Losers, instead of being Gainers by the Reduction of Interest. This, Sir, is their Argument, and by means of this Argument they may raise up a Spirit of Discontent among the People; for it is not easy to persuade the Generality of Mankind of the Advantages they may reap by the Reduction of Interest, unless they be made to feel some immediate Advantage by the abolishing of Taxes; therefore to evade this Argument, and to obviate the pernicious Designs of such selfish Men, we ought now to come to a Resolution, that as soon as the Reduction of Interest takes Place, some of the most heavy Taxes shall certainly be taken off. It will then be easy for any Man, who is a Friend to the Scheme, or to his Country, to shew to every Tradesman, Shopkeeper, and Labourer, that he must necessarily be a Gainer by the Reduction of Interest; and this will of course reconcile great Numbers of People to the intended Reduction of Interest, and to his Majesty's Government; at least it will put it out of the Power of those who, from selfish Views, are Enemies to both, to raise any popular Discontent against either the one or the other.
From this Observation, Sir, I must beg Leave to say, that no Man, who is a real Friend to the Scheme, and to his Majesty and his Government, can, in my Opinion, be against our agreeing to such a Resolution as I have mentioned; for, however much the Affections and good Opinion of the Populace may be despised by some Men, and tho' I do not think a Popularity should be courted by unjustifiable Means, or by mean and imprudent Compliances, yet I think the Love of the People in general is what every Government, and every private Man, ought to endeavour to obtain, and therefore, when we see the People missed, or attempted to be misled, we ought to take all possible Measures to undeceive them, or to prevent their being deceived by selfish and designing Men. However, Sir, when I say this, I would not have it thought, that I look upon the Revilings or the Applauses of a mercenary Mob, a Mob headed by Clerks of the Treasury and other such mercenary Creatures, to be any Testimony either of the Hatred, or the Affections of the People; for such Creatures I must always look on as Enemies to the People, and shall always be proud of meriting their Resentment.
I think, Sir, I need not add any thing further for shewing the Reasonableness and the Necessity of the Resolution I have mentioned; therefore I shall conclude with making you this Motion, to resolve. That this House will, as soon, &c. (as before mentioned.")
To this is was answered in Substance as follows, viz.
I shall readily agree with the Hon. Gentleman who has made you this Motion, that Taxes upon the Necessaries or Conveniencies of Life must increase the Price of Labour, and that it would be a great Advantage to the Trade of this Country, and a great Relief to the People, if we could abolish some of our most heavy Taxes; but I cannot agree with him in thinking, that the Taxes in this Kingdom are more burdensome upon Trade, or the Methods of raising them more inconvenient for the Merchant and Dealer, than in any of our neighbouring Countries; and much less can I agree with him, that it is either proper or necessary for us to come to any immediate Resolution, to abolish some of our most heavy Taxes, as soon as the Interest of all the national redeemable Debt shall be reduced to 3 per Cent. per Annum. I wish the Hon. Gentleman had been at some more Pains to shew us how the Taxes in this Kingdom are more burdensome upon Trade, or the Methods of raising them more inconvenient for the Merchant and Dealer, than in any of our neighbouring Countries; for these are Facts which, I think, deserve some Proof, and if any such Thing had been attempted, some Methods might have been found for shewing wherein he was mistaken; for to a simple Averment of a Fact, without one Proof or one Argument for enforcing the Belief of it, no Answer can be made but a contrary Averment; and in this, with respect to France at least, I am sure I may be justified; for all their Taxes are not only imposed but raised in an arbitrary Manner, and as most of their Taxes are farmed by Merchants and Dealers, their People are not only loaded with the Tax, but oppressed with a Monopoly, which those Farmers have generally the Address to get into their own Hands, by means of the Privileges they enjoy, as Farmers of that particular Branch of the Revenue. In Holland, indeed, the peculiar Nature of their Country makes it more easy for them to raise their Taxes, than it is possible for us to raise any Tax we can impose; but in the main their Taxes are much heavier upon the Necessaries of Life, and consequently more burdensome to Trade, than they are in any Part of this Country, not excepting the City of London itself; where the Taxes, I shall grant, are more strictly raised; and are more numerous, than in any other Part of the Kingdom; but this does not proceed from any Partiality towards the rest of the Kingdom: It proceeds from the Nature of Things, which renders it impossible to raise the Taxes so strictly, or to impose so many, in any other Part of the Kingdom, as in London, and within the Bills of Mortality; and this Disadvantage is fully made good to the Inhabitants in and about London, by its being the Metropolis of the Kingdom, and the Center, as it were, of all the Trade and public Business within the British Dominions.
With regard to France and Holland therefore, I must think, Sir, and it has been the general Opinion, that the Subjects of each are more loaded and more oppressed with Taxes and Excises, than the People of this Kingdom; and with regard to any other Country of Europe, they may not perhaps have so many or so large Taxes as we have, because their People in general are not near so rich; but in each of them their Taxes are more heavy, in proportion to their Riches, than in this Country, and their Method of raising Taxes is more arbitrary and more oppressive; from whence I must conclude, our Taxes can give no Country in Europe an Advantage over us in Trade, nor can the Price of Labour, or the Wages of their Servants or Workmen, be cheaper than it is here; at least, if it is, that Cheapness must proceed from their not having so great a Plenty of Money, or from their Workmen and Servants being more frugal and industrious, by which they are enabled to live upon less Wages. Nevertheless, I shall grant, the abolishing of some of our most heavy Taxes would be a great Benefit to the Nation, and a great Encouragment to our Trade, because it would give us a great additional Advantage in Trade, over every one of our Neighbours; therefore I wish with all my Heart it could be done, but in our present Circumstances I do not think is possible, or at least not consistent with the present and future Happiness of the Nation; for our Government must be supported, and not only the Interest of our public Debts must be regularly paid, but a Part of the Principal must be yearly discharged, in order that we may at last get free of our Debt as well as of most of our Taxes. If we abolish any of our Taxes before our Debts are paid off, we must remain longer in Debt, and consequently must remain longer under those Taxes that are left unabolished; so that the only Difference is, whether we shall remain under two Taxes of equal Value for 20 Years, or under one of these Taxes only for 40 Years? Which is a Question that in my Opinion is very doubtful, and requires a very mature Consideration. However, suppose I were to admit that some of our Taxes ought to be taken off, as soon as the Interest payable upon our public Funds is reduced to 3 per Cent. suppose I were to admit that it would be better for the Nation to remain 40 Years under a Tax of 100,000 l. yearly, than to remain but 20 Years under two Taxes of 100,000 l. yearly each; yet I cannot admit that it is either necessary or proper for this House, upon the present Occasion, to come to any such Resolution as has been proposed.
Every one knows, Sir, and the Gentleman who moved you this Question is very sensible, that no Parliament has any Power or Authority over a future Parliament, nor can the Resolution of one Session be a Tye or Obligation upon any succeeding Session. The Event which the Resolution proposed relates to, is an Event which cannot possibly happen during this Session: It is impossible to suppose that during this Session the Interest upon all our public Funds can be reduced to 3 per Cent. therefore our resolving what shall be done when that Event happens, is undertaking for a future Session, which we have no Power over, nor can pretend to prescribe to. For this Reason, if the Intention of the Resolution be to encourage our public Creditors to come in and subscribe their respective Debts at 3 per Cent. I must beg leave to say it is in some measure a sort of fraudulent Intention, because it is offering them a Consideration which we have no Power to offer; it is making them a Promise which we cannot fulfil, nor oblige any succeeding Session to fulfil; and I hope this House will always be so careful of its Honour, as never to come to any Resolution or Determination, that may bear the least Imputuation of being any way fraudulent or deceitful.
But suppose, Sir, we had a Power to resolve or determine what shall be done by any future Session, yet upon the present Occasion we ought to avoid coming to any such Resolution or Determination, as what is now proposed; because it will be looked on as a fort of threatning. It is a sort of public Declaration that the Nation shall never be freed from any of its Taxes, till the public Creditors agree to accept of 3 per Cent. for the Money due to them, but that it shall be freed from some of its most heavy Taxes, as soon as they agree to accept of that Interest: By such a Declaration, what an unlucky Circumstance shall we put all our Creditors in! They must give up a fourth Part of their Revenue, which many of them can very ill spare, they must accept of a lower Interest for their Money than any other Man in the Kingdom has, or they must expose themselves to the Malice and Resentment of the People in general; for upon their Refusal every Man in the Kingdom would look upon them as the Cause of all the Taxes he pays, and every unfortunate Man would look upon them as the Authors of his Misery. Nor does it signify any thing to say, that those who do not chuse to accept of, or cannot live upon 3 per Cent. for their Money, may sell out and employ their Money where they best can; for if many of them should resolve to sell out, it would soon bring the Price of every one of our Funds below Par, and then they would be reduced to the hard Necessity of losing a Part of their Capital, or of taking such an Interest as the Public should be pleased to give them. After such a public Declaration therefore, most of those who are now the Creditors of the Public, must necessarily remain so, and if they do, they must either accept of 3 per Cent. or they must expose themselves to the Malice and Resentment of the whole Nation, which is a Circumstance no wise Man would chuse; and for this Reason I must look upon the Resolution proposed, as a sort of threatening and frightening our Creditors into the accepting of 3 per Cent. which is a sort of Treatment I shall never, for any Consideration, agree to.
This, Sir, is a Method of treating our public Creditors, which I hope we shall never have the least Occasion for; and in order to prevent the Nation's being of Opinion that they can never be freed from Taxes, unless the Interest upon all our public Funds be reduced to 3 per Cent. and consequently to prevent any public Creditor from incurring the Resentment of the People for refusing to accept of that Interest, I must beg Leave to put you in Mind, that tho' the Interest of our public Funds be never reduced below what it is at present, yet if our Taxes be continued, and the Sinking-Fund regularly applied, the People may be freed from all their Taxes, except such as are necessary for the current Service, in about 24 Years, supposing our Debts to be 48 Millions, and the annual Amount of the Sinking-Fund to be 1,200,000 l. And that if it should be thought for the Benefit of the Nation to abolish some of our heavy Taxes, before our Debts be wholly paid off, we may now do it without any Reduction of Interest, and yet leave a very considerable Sinking-Fund remaining for the Payment of a Part of our Debts yearly: Nay, all the Advantage we can expect by the great Reduction proposed, is only an Addition of about 400,000 l. a Year to the Sinking-Fund, and that Addition we shall acquire in less than 8 Years, without any Reduction of Interest, or threatening our public Creditors with the public Resentment; so that in less than 8 Years Time we shall be in as good a Condition for abolishing Taxes, and may abolish as many of them, without any such Reduction, as we can do at present, supposing such a Reduction were already brought about: From all which I must conclude, that, with respect to the abolishing of Taxes, it is no Matter of any great Moment to the People, whether the Reduction takes Place or not.
I shall readily grant, Sir, that the Reducing of the Interest upon our Funds from 4 to 3 per Cent. would be a considerable Saving to the Public; but to pretend that the abolishing of Taxes equal in Value to that Reduction, would be a Compensation to the public Creditors for the Loss of one fourth Part of their yearly Revenue, is what I am not a little surprized at; for the abolishing of the Duties upon Candles and Soap would amount almost to the full Value of what we could save by the Reduction; and to pretend that the saving of 1 d. a Pound upon Candles, and Three-halfpence a Pound upon Soap, would be a Compensation to a Man who loses 100 l. a Year or more by the Reduction, is something very extraordinary. But suppose I should admit that the Saving in one Way would be a Compensation for the Loss in the other, that Compensation is what we have no Power to promise, and therefore we ought not to propose it as an Inducement for any of our Creditors to accept of 3 per Cent. nor ought we by any Resolution to give them Hopes of its being a Compensation they will certainly meet with; for I am sure, in private Life, it would not be reckoned very honourable for a Man to promise, or so much as infinuate, a Reward or Compensation, which he had no Power to give; and as in all our Proceedings we have been, so I hope we always shall be as jealous of our Honour, as any private Man can or ought to be.
For this Reason, Sir, we ought not to make any such Promise, or propose any such Compensation, even tho' the People without Doors were so far mistaken about the Power of Parliament, as to imagine the Resolutions of one Session were binding upon every succeeding Session; but as the People without Doors are fully apprized of the Extent of our Power, as it is generally known without Doors, as well as within, that no Resolution of this Session, can lay an indispensable Obligation upon any future Session therefore we cannot expect that the Resolution now proposed, or any such Resolution, can any way contribute to the Revival of our Trade, the Success of the Scheme now before us, or the rendering the People better, or more generally well affected towards his Majesty and his Government, than they are at present. On the contrary, I believe it would have a quite contrary Effect, with regard to every one of these three Purposes; because it would give the People without Doors a mean Opinion of our Proceedings, and the Enemies to the Scheme would not fail to represent such a Resolution in the most ridiculous Light.
From hence, Sir, I must beg leave to differ so far from the Hon. Gentleman, as to think, that no Gentleman, who is a real Friend to our Trade, or to the Scheme, or to his Majesty and his Government, will be for agreeing to the Resolution proposed: I am sure, if the Hon. Gentleman view'd it in the same Light I do, he would never have offered it to the House: And I must say, I have the Pleasure to think, that neither of the Ends proposed stands in need of any such Resolution. Our Trade is now, I believe, in as flourishing a Condition as ever it was; therefore, tho' it might perhaps be increased by an actual Discharge from some of our Taxes, yet it could not be said to be revived even by the Discharge itself, and much less by an insignificant Resolution for that Purpose. Then as to the Success of the Scheme, if the natural Interest of Money upon public Securities be at 3 per Cent. it will take Effect of itself, without any such Resolution; and if the natural Interest of Money be at 4, I am convinced no Gentleman of this House would desire to make use of Threats, or empty Promises, in order to induce the public Creditors to accept of 3. And lastly, as to the Affections of the People towards his Majesty and his Government, I hope they are already so well and so generally established by the Wisdom and Justice of his Majesty's Conduct, that they stand in no need of a Support from any Resolution of Parliament: I am sure every Gentleman of this House would be sorry to think they depend upon such a precarious Foundation as the Resolution now before us, which may be rendered abortive, not only by the Disappointment of the Scheme, but by the next Session's not being of the same Opinion with the present.
I shall conclude, Sir, with observing, that Gentlemen are generally too fond of their own Schemes: Our Schemes are like our Children; we often conceive much greater and more certain Hopes of their Success, than can reasonably be expected. For my Part, as the Scheme is none of mine, as I had no Share in its Conception, I am so far from being certain of its Success, that I am not a little suspicious of our meeting with a Disappointment; therefore, I must think our agreeing to the Resolution now before us, would be a sort of Reckoning without one's Host: I must think it will be Time enough for us to come to a Resolution to abolish some of our Taxes, when we see the Scheme has taken Effect; for if we should now come to such a previous Resolution, and the Scheme should afterwards prove altogether abortive, the whole World would laugh at our Precipitancy; for which Reason I shall give my Negative to the Question."
The Reply was to the Effect as follows, viz.
"I am a good deal surprized to hear it said, that no Proofs or Arguments have been offered for shewing that the Taxes in this Kingdom are more burdensome upon Trade, and more inconvenient for the Merchant and Dealer, than in any of our neighbouring Countries. This, I say, I am a good deal surprized at, considering how many clear Proofs and solid Arguments were laid before us in the Committee on the national Debt, for evincing a melancholy Fact; which happened so lately, that I am sure they cannot have slipt out of any Gentleman's Memory, and therefore I shall not give you the Trouble of repeating them. But I cannot comprehend what the Honourable Gentleman means by Excises in Holland or France, for I never heard of a Gauger or Exciseman in either of those Countries; and upon Enquiry, I believe, it will appear, that none of their Taxes are levied in that Manner. As for the Farmers in France. I do not see how they can set up any Monopoly; because they are often changing; and as every Dealer knows what Duty he is to pay upon any Commodity he has a Mind to deal in, the Farmers can hinder no Man from dealing in what he pleases, and consequently can set up no oppressive Monopoly: Besides, as the Farmers are always they who offer the most Money, they cannot always be either Ministers or the Creatures of Ministers, and therefore would certainly be called to Account, if they should concert Measures for oppressing the People.
Our Travellers, Sir, who make but very superficial Enquiries into the Manners or Customs of any Country they pass through, may perhaps imagine the People in France or Holland are more heavily, or more oppressively taxed, than the People of this Kingdom, because they hear the People complain there as well as they do here; but any Gentleman who understands these Things, and has made a proper Enquiry, may soon be convinced of the contrary; and as for the other Countries of Europe, they have not, 'tis true, such Numbers of rich Merchants, Masters of Manufactures, and Master Tradesmen as we have in this Country, which is the Reason that many of their Poor live in Idleness, or starve for mere Want, because there are few or no rich Merchants or Masters in the Country, that have Money to employ them; but in all Countries, where the Poor have any Employment, they are pretty near equally poor; they neither get nor expect more than a comfortable Subsistence by their Labour, and if you enhance the Means of that Subsistence, by Taxes upon the Necessaries or Conveniencies of Life, their Masters must increase their Wages; so that all Taxes fall at last upon the Masters, foreign or domestic, who must pay for that Increase of Wages in the Price of Goods they purchase; but the Difference is, that a Tax laid directly upon the Master, only prevents his growing rich so fast, or makes him live less luxuriously, but does not enhance the Price of your Manufactures; whereas a Tax laid upon those Things, that are necessary for the Support of the Poor, enhances the Price of Labour, and consequently raises the Price of all your Manufactures both for domestic and foreign Sale, which at last ruins your Trade. Therefore, if the Poor of this Kingdom be more heavily taxed than the Poor in any other Country of Europe, it is what ought to be remedied as soon as possible; it is what will give that Country a great Advantage over us, if they should ever begin to apply themselves to Trade, which every Country of Europe is now aiming at as much as they can.
As for the City of London, Sir, it is indeed, the Centre of all Business in our Dominions, therefore, it may be called the Heart of our Trade; and I am sure, if our Trade has an Oppression at the Heart, it cannot be expected it will thrive in any Part of the Body. I am far from thinking it a good Reason, why the Inhabitants of London, and within the Bills of Mortality, should be taxed more heavily than any other Part of the Kingdom, because they can bear it; for I think no Part of the Kingdom should be taxed, at least in Time of Peace, near so heavily as they can bear. As we have in London great Numbers of idle and extravagant People every Year crowding in upon us from all Parts of the Country, for the Sake of Business, Preferment, or Pleasure, this Concourse must necessarily enhance the Price of Provisions upon the Laborious and Industrious, which is a Disadvantage at least equal to any Advantage they may reap from their City's being the Metropolis of the Kingdom, and the Centre of all Trade and public Business: But if it should be thought proper to lay heavier Taxes upon the Inhabitants of London and within the Bills of Mortality, those additional Taxes ought to be laid upon the Luxuries and Pleasures of Life, and not upon the Food and Raiment of the Poor, such as Leather, Salt, and common Beer; nor upon those Things that are necessary for working up every Sort of Manufacture, such as Coals, Soap, and Candles.
I am sorry, Sir, to hear it said in this House, that our People are more idle and extravagant than the People of any neighbouring Country; and I am still more sorry to say, that I am afraid there is too much Ground for such a national Reflection; but that very Idleness and Extravagance has been introduced among our People by the Multitude of Taxes they groan under; for the Levying of those Taxes has created such a great Number of small Posts and idle Employments, that vast Numbers of our Tradesmen and Dealers spend their Time idly and extravagantly, in Hopes of obtaining one of these Posts or Employments; and our People every Day see such Numbers of idle and extravagant Fellows well provided for, by Means of these Posts and Employments, that the Spirit of Idleness and Extravagance becomes every Day more universal; for as such Fellows are generally what we, in Imitation of the French, call boon Companions, they are mighty useful Men in those Affairs, which most certainly entitle a Man to a Post or Employment; so that after they have ruined themselves by their Idleness and Extravagance, their Neighbours see them better provided for, and enabled to live more handsomely, than ever they did before, or could ever expect to live by honest Industry or useful Labour: This encourages Hundreds to follow their Example, and makes the Distemper spread like a Plague over the whole Kingdom; whereas, if Beggary and Starving were the certain Consequences of Idleness and Extravagance, every such Fellow would be an Example and a Terror to his Neighbours, which would frighten most of them from following any such Courses. Perhaps, Sir, some Gentleman that hears me, may look upon this as an ill-grounded Speculation; but in Confirmation of what I say, if I am rightly informed, there is now a little Borough in a Northern County, not very far distant from London, in which I am told, there is hardly one thriving Merchant, Tradesman, or Shopkeeper, to be met with; for so many of them have already been provided for by means of some public Post or Employment, that all the rest expect the same good Fortune, and every one, by living idle or extravagantly, spends more than he gets by his Business, in Hopes of being soon provided for in another Way.
Thus, Sir, we see that, with respect to our Trade, our Taxes are like a two-edged Sword, they cut both Ways, they not only enhance the Price of Labour, but they diminish the Number of our Labourers; and when we see this, supposing the Taxes in this Kingdom to be no more burdensome upon Trade, nor the Methods of raising them more inconvenient for the Merchant and Dealer, than the Taxes in any other Country of Europe, can we make it a Question, whether or no we ought to take the first Opportunity for abolishing some of them? But when it has been made appear, as it was, I think to a Demonstration, in the Committee, whose Report we have just now agreed to, that our Taxes, and our Methods of raising our Taxes, are more burdensome upon Trade, and more inconvenient to the Merchant and Dealer, than either in France or Holland, ought we not to think and contrive all possible or feasible Methods for removing that Clog upon our Trade, and for putting our People upon an equal Footing at least with any of our Neighbours, especially with those who are our greatest Rivals in Trade and naval Power? The Question is not now, whether we shall remain under one Tax of 100,000 l. a Year for 40 Years, or under two Taxes of 100,000 l. a Year each, for 20 Years? The Question is, Whether we shall preserve our Trade or no? If we continue under the two Taxes, our Trade will be ruined before the 20 Years are near expired; which will diminish the Produce of each, and may perhaps render it impossible for us ever to get free of either: If we abolish one, we must, 'tis true, continue longer under the other; but then we shall preserve our Trade, perhaps improve it, which may make the Produce of that one equal perhaps to the present Produce of the two; in which Case we shall get free from that one, perhaps as soon as if we had continued under both. This, Sir, is the Difference, this is the Question, and this Question can admit of no Dispute. If our People continue subject to all the Taxes they now pay for 24 Years to come, our Trade will certainly be undone, and what is worse, the greatest Part of it will be transferred to our natural Enemies, which will add to their Power at the same time it diminishes ours; whereas, if we abolish a great Part of our Taxes, or the heaviest of them, we shall preserve our Trade, and may get free of our Debts much sooner; for if we should lose our Trade, we could never get free of our Debts, it would become impossible for us to pay them. Therefore, I hope it will never be made a Question in this House, Whether or no we shall abolish some of our heaviest Taxes, as soon as the Interest upon all our redeemable Funds is reduced to 3 per Cent.
If this, Sir, can never be made a Question, what Harm is there in our coming to a Resolution, that that shall be done, which every Man agrees ought to be done? That one Session may engage for another, is a Maxim which I am surprized to hear controverted by those, who have so often proposed to and prevailed with, one Session to engage for another. What! are all our Votes of Credit but one Session's engaging for another? And I am sure there was never one of them that could be called so just or so necessary an Engagement, as what is now proposed. I know, Sir; that one Parliament cannot by any Resolution, no not even by Act of Parliament, legally bind another; for no Act can be passed by one Parliament, but what may be repealed by another; at least no Man can legally question their Power: But will any Man say, that a future Parliament may not in Justice and Honour be bound by a former? Does not the Security our public Creditors have for their respective Debts depend upon this Maxim only? We must therefore grant, that the Acts or Resolutions of any one Session, by which foreign States, or private Men, Natives or Foreigners, are induced to lend Money, or conclude any Transaction, to or with our Government, are in Justice and Honour binding upon every future Session; and that no future Parliament can repeal such Acts, or do any Thing contrary to such Resolutions, so as to injure any of the Parties contracting upon the Authority of those Acts or Resolutions. From such Engagements nothing can set us free but that supreme Law, the Safety of the People. For this very Reason, I am for agreeing to the Resolution now proposed, in order that we may bind future Parliaments as much as we can, and in a Manner oblige them to abolish some of our Taxes, as soon as the Interest upon all our Funds is reduced to 3 per Cent. by making it appear upon our Journals, that the Abolishing some of our Taxes was the Condition upon which our Creditors agreed, and the Consideration which induced them to agree to accept of 3 per Cent. Interest.
'Has any Man pretended, Sir, that the Advantage arising from abolishing our Taxes upon Soap and Candles, or any other Commodity, will be a full Recompence to every one of our Creditors for the Loss he may sustain by the Reduction of Interest? No, Sir; no such Pretence has been set up by any Gentleman within these Walls: The principal Recompence our Creditors are to expect, arises from the Advantage which will accrue from such an Abolition to the Generality of the Nation; and to every one of them, who has any Regard for his Country, this will of itself appear to be a full Recompence. But to talk in the most selfish and most mercenary Manner, the Abolishing of the Duties upon Soap and Candles only, will be a full, or very near a full Compensation to all our public Creditors who have not above 1000 l. Stock, and have Families to maintain or provide for; because the Duties upon Soap and Candles have raised their Price at least double the Value of the Duties; therefore the Taking off of those Duties will be a Saving of 2 d. a Pound upon Candles, and 3 d. a Pound upon Soap for every Pound a Man buys, or that is bought for his Account; which will not only be an immediate Saving in the Expence of his Family, but will diminish the Price of almost every Thing he is obliged to purchase for the Use of his Family. Our Stockholders therefore, who have but 1000 l. or under, and have Families to maintain, can be no Losers by the Reduction of Interest, if all the Taxes mentioned in the former Debate should be taken off; and such Stockholders are, I think, the only Persons, who have or deserve any Share of our Compassion.
'As for the Argument made use of against the Resolution, That it will appear to be fraudulent or deceitful, I think, Sir, I have already fully answered it, by shewing we have a Power to promise such a Compensation or Consideration, and that future Parliaments will be bound in Honour and Justice to make good that Promise; and to pretend, that the Resolution implies a sort of Threatening the public Creditors with national Resentment, is an Argument that, in my Way of Thinking, can proceed from nothing but a most contemptible Opinion of the Knowledge and Understanding of most Men in the Nation. Does not every Man of common Understanding know, that the greatest Part of the Taxes he pays, excepting the Land and Malt Tax, goes towards the Payment of the Principal or Interest of our Debts? And can any such Man suppose, that he will get free from any Part of those Taxes till we get free of a great Part of that Debt, or at least of some Part of the Interest payable upon that Debt? The Resolution therefore can bring no Resentment upon our public Creditors, because it communicates nothing to the People but what they were before fully apprized of. We may, 'tis true, annihilate the whole Sinking-Fund, if we please, by abolishing several of our Taxes, and remain subject for ever to the same Debt we now owe, and the same Interest we now pay; but will any Gentleman say we ought to do so, or that it is consistent with the public Good to do so? It is, in my Opinion, so far otherwise, that I should not be for annihilating any Part of our Sinking-Fund, or abolishing any of our Taxes, before a total Discharge from our Debts, if the present unlucky Circumstances of our Trade did not necessarily require it; because every Shilling paid for Interest is so much absolutely lost to the Nation, being a sort of Expence from which the Nation never did, nor ever can reap any Benefit; but as this Loss will not be so grievous to the Nation, when the Interest is reduced to 3 per Cent. as when it stands at 4, therefore we may then, for the Sake of our Trade, annihilate a Part of the SinkingFund, tho' we cannot in common Prudence, even for the Sake of our Trade, do any such Thing, while the Interest continues at 4 per Cent.—But suppose, Sir, it were consistent with the public Good, to abolish some of our Taxes, and thereby annihilate a Part of the Sinking Fund, before the Reduction of Interest, 'tis certain we could not then for several Years be in so good a Condition for reducing the Interest payable upon our public Funds, as we are at present; which is a strong additional Argument for not attempting any such Thing till that Interest be reduced; and 'tis likewise certain, we cannot now reduce so many of our Taxes, and leave so large a Sinking-Fund remaining, as we might do, if the Interest upon our Funds were reduced to 3 per Cent. In the former Case, if we should abolish the Duties upon Soap and Candles only, we should reduce the SinkingFund to 800,000 l. per Annum, whereas in the latter, we may abolish not only the Duties upon Soap and Candles, but likewise the Duties on Coals, the Duty on Leather or Hides, and the late Tax on the Victuallers in London and within the Bills of Mortality, and yet leave very near the same yearly Sum remaining for the Sinking-Fund.
'Thus, Sir, we see there is a very material Difference between what we may do as Interest stands at present, and what we might do if Interest were reduced to 3 per Cent. but to say we shall be in as good a Condition 8 Years hence to abolish some of our Taxes, tho' Interest should stand for all that Time at 4 per Cent. as we should be at present if it were reduced to 3, is something very extraordinary. Surely, Gentlemen who talk so, do not consider, what a vast Sum the People of this Nation would save in 8 Years Time, by the immediate Abolishing of Taxes to the Amount of 800,000 l. a Year. In the former Debate, it was computed, that the gross Produce of our Taxes, which is the Sum raised yearly upon the People, is near double the nett Produce coming into the Exchequer; and the Accounts lying upon our Table will justify this Computation: Then to this if we add the Loss People are at, by the advanced Price of the Commodity, upon which the Duty is laid, which, with respect to small Duties, is in many Cases near double the Duty; I am sure I may reckon that, by the Abolishing of Taxes to the Amount of 800,000 l. a Year, the People of this Nation will save in their yearly Expence at least 1,200,000 l. a Year; and an Annuity of 1,200,000 l. a Year for 8 Years, at 4 per Cent. Compound Interest, amounts to above eleven Millions, which is a Saving, I think, deserves to be regarded by every Gentleman who has a Sense of the Sufferings of the People. Besides this Advantage which the People will reap by an immediate Reduction of Interest and Abolition of Taxes, 'tis more than probable our Taxes will not produce so much yearly at the End of 8 Years, as they do at present, if Things should remain for that whole Time upon the present Footing; because, if our Trade be upon the Decline, the People will not only be decreasing in their Number, but will be every Year growing poorer: In either of which Cases there will not be such a Consumpt of those Commodities upon which the Taxes are raised, which must necessarily diminish the Produce of each of them; and if at the same Time, we should then be engaged in a War, the yearly Produce of the Sinking Fund may happen to be worth little or nothing; in which Case, we shall then be in no Condition either to reduce the Interest payable upon our public Funds, or to abolish any of our Taxes.
'From what I have said, Sir, it will appear, that if the People continue under all their present Taxes for any Number of Years longer, it is probable they must continue under them for ever, or at least as long as they are able to pay them, and if that should be their unhappy Fate, we may expect they will not only shew a Resentment, but that it will at last break forth into Rage. However, it is evident that neither their Resentment nor their Rage will be owing to this Resolution, but to the Injuries and Oppressions they-feel; and if the public Creditors are entirely passive, if they are not active in concerting Measures, as has been threatned, for preventing the good Effects of the Scheme we have agreed to, the Resentment of the People will be no way directed against the Creditors, but against those who shall be found to have misapplied that Fund, which was appointed for paying them off, and for relieving the Nation from Taxes. The Consequences may, indeed, be fatal to the public Creditors, with regard to the Debt due to them; because, if the Nation should by such Means be brought into Confusion, that Confusion may prevent its being ever in our Power to pay them any Part of their remaining Principal or future Interest; but that Loss will arise not from the Scheme we have agreed to, nor from the Resolution proposed, but from the bad Success of both; and this I hope every one of the public Creditors will take particular Notice of, and will therefore join heartily in promoting the Success of the Scheme, instead of concerting Measures for its Defeat.
'As all the Arguments made use of for shewing that the Resolution now proposed, can neither contribute to the Revival or Support of our Trade, call it which you will, nor to the Success of the Scheme, nor to reconciling or preserving the Affections of the People towards his Majesty and his Government; I say, as all the Arguments made use of for this Purpose depend upon its not being in our Power to engage for, or bind any future Parliament, I have fully answered them already, by shewing that it is in our Power to bind a future Parliament, to the Abolishing of Taxes, as much as it is in our Power to bind them to the Paying of a Debt; and as the Abolishing of some of our heavy Taxes is really in itself a valuable Consideration, and sufficient for inducing our Creditors to come into the Scheme, I think we ought to agree to the Resolution, on Purpose that the World may see, that a future Parliament cannot in Honour and Justice refuse to abolish some of the Taxes, as soon as the Interest is reduced to 3 per Cent. because it would be a defrauding the public Creditors of the Consideration which was promised them, and which was the principal Inducement for their agreeing so unanimously to accept of 3 per Cent. for their Money.
'With respect to the Scheme itself, Sir, it signifies nothing to me who was the Author of it; but if the Hon. Gentleman had no Share in its Conception, I am sure he or some of his Friends have added a very considerable Limb to it, and such a Limb too, that if any Miscarriage happens, it will certainly be owing to that Limb which they have added. If they had proposed no Improvement or Addition, if they had not in some Measure obliged Gentlemen to agree to what they proposed, I am convinced the Scheme as it was first offered would have had the wished-for Success; and if they think that what they have added will render it abortive, they are in the right to disown their being the Authors of the Scheme; but that will not prevent People's imputing to them the whole Blame of the Miscarriage. However, as I think the Scheme, even as it stands now, may meet with Success, and as I think the Resolution now proposed to us will very much contribute to that Success, therefore I shall be for agreeing to it."
The Debate being over, the Question was put upon the Motion, and carried in the Negative by 200 to 142.
The principal Speakers in this Debate were, Sir John Barnard, George Lyttelton, Esq; Samuel Sandys, Esq; Mr. Alderman Perry, William Pultney, Esq; and George Speke, Esq; for the Motion; and Thomas Winnington, Esq; the Lord Baltimore, Walter Plumer, Esq; and Sir Robert Walpole, against it.
On Friday the 22d of April, Sir John Barnard presented to the House, according to their Order before mentioned, a Bill for redeeming all the public Funds redeemable by Law, which carry an Interest of 4 l. per Cent. per Annum, or converting of the same, with Consent of the Proprietors, into a less Interest of Annuity, not redeemable till after the Time therein to be mentioned; which was read a first Time, and ordered to be read a second Time.
On the 29th of the same Month, the said Bill was read a second Time; and a Motion being made for committing it, the same was opposed, upon which there ensued a long Debate.
In this Debate, all the Arguments for and against the Reduction were repeated and enforced; but as we have already given a full Account of most of them, we shall add nothing more upon that Subject. The other Part of the Debate related chiefly to some Informalities and Imperfections which were pretended to be found in the Bill, by those who were against its being committed; because they said they were such as could not be properly altered or amended in the Committee. On the other Hand, those who were for committing the Bill, insisted, there were no Informalities or Imperfections in the Bill, but what might easily be altered or amended in the Committee, with the Assistance of those Gentlemen concerned in the Treasury, who were to be supposed best acquainted with the Method of drawing up such Bills, and who, 'twas to be presumed, would give their Assistance to the Committee, tho' they had refused to give any Assistance or Advice to those Gentlemen who were ordered to draw it up. But as what was said upon this Subject cannot be well understood without a Copy of the Bill, which we have not Room for, therefore, we shall give no further Account of it. Only we must take Notice, That Sir Robert Walpole, in a Speech he made against the Question, spoke to the following Effect, viz.
Sir Robert Walpole.
"I know, Sir, it has been asserted without Doors, that the Honourable Gentleman who first mentioned this Scheme to the House, had several private Conversations with me upon the Subject, and that we had concerted and settled the Scheme between us, before he offered it to the House; but I shall declare, that he and I had never any private Conversation upon the Subject, nor had we ever any Concert about this Scheme or any other Scheme I know of; therefore, I can with great Confidence affirm, I had never any Hand in this Scheme, either in its original Formation, or in any Shape it has since appeared in:"
Sir John Barnard.
Sir John Barnard stood up, and answered in Substance thus:
"I am very much obliged to the Honourable Gentleman, Sir, and therefore, I thank him for vindicating me from the Imputation of having had any private Conversation with him, or of having ever had any Concert with him; and if he is afraid left People should suspect his having had a Hand in the Scheme I proposed to you, I shall be equally just to him by declaring, I never had any private Conversation with him about it, nor did I so much as ask his Approbation or Consent to what I was to offer; but as to the Scheme as it now stands, every Gentleman that hears me, knows it is very different from what I offered; and every one likewise knows that the new Model, which is the Model we have now before us, if it was not offered by the Honourable Gentleman himself, it was at least offered by some of his Friends, and what they proposed was agreed to by other Gentlemen, in order that we might have their Assistance in carrying it through. Therefore the Scheme now before you cannot properly be called mine; and it is very remarkable, that all the Objections made to the Bill, are only to those Articles and Clauses of it, which relate to the Improvements and Additions made to my Scheme, by the Honourable Gentleman's Friends."
John Howe's Esq;
Upon this John Howe, Esq; stood up, and among other Things, took Notice, 'That the Scheme then before them seemed to be like a Bastard-Child that had several reputed Fathers, neither of whom would own it: For his Part, he said, he thought it a very hopeful Child, and therefore if no other Gentleman would take it as his own, he would; for he did not doubt of the Child's thriving, and if it did, it would be an Honour to its Parents.'
The Speakers in this long Debate, were as follow, viz.
For committing the Bill, Sir John Barnard, Sir Wilfred Lawson, the Lord Baltimore, John Howe, Esq; Sir Thomas Sanderson, Master of the Rolls, Samuel Sandys, Esq; Sir William Windham, Sir Edward Bacon.
Against committing the Bill, Sir Robert Walpole, Sir Charles Wager, William Sloper, Esq; Mr. Alderman Heathcote, Robert Knight, Esq; Peter Burrel, Esq; Colonel Bladen, William Bowles, Esq; James Oglethorpe, Esq; the Lord Sundon, and Sir William Younge.
Upon the Question's being put, it was carried in the Negative, which put an End to the Affair for last Session.
After the 11th of March, when the Motion for granting a Million to his Majesty towards redeeming the like Sum of the increased Capital of the South-Sea Company, commonly called Old South-Sea Annuities, was agreed to, there was no remarkable Debate happened in the Committee of Supply; nor was there any remarkable Debate happened upon any of the Resolutions of the Committee of Ways and Means, except that relating to the Duty on Sweets, therefore we shall take no farther Notice of any other Resolution of that Committee; but as this Affair relating to the Duty on Sweets occasioned several long Debates, we shall give some Account of it. The first Time it was mentioned, was on Monday the 7th of March, when the proper Officer was ordered to lay before the House an Account of the nett Income into the Exchequer of the Duties on Sweets, for seven Years ended at Michaelmas then last, distinguishing each Year; which was accordingly presented the very next Day; and on Friday the 18th of March, the House having resolved itself into a Committee, to consider further of Ways and Means for raising the Supply granted to his Majesty, and the said Account having been referred to the said Committee, Sir Robert Walpole rose up, and after a short Speech, moved for the first Resolution relating to the Duty on Sweets, which, after a long Debate, was agreed to: Then the second Resolution relating to the same Affair was moved and agreed to; and the House having, upon the Report, agreed to both these Resolutions, a Bill was ordered to be brought in, which, after long Debates, was passed into a Law.
In these Debates, the Arguments for the Resolutions, and afterwards for the Bill, were in Substance as follow, viz.
'By the Resolutions we have already come to, in the Committee of Supply, it will upon Calculation appear, we have granted his Majesty, for the Service of the ensuing Year, a Supply of about 2,025,000 l. Now as the LandTax and the Malt-Tax which we have granted, do not both together amount to 1,700,000 l. there will be a Deficiency of near 400,000 l. which must be provided for, either by increasing some of the Taxes we have already, or by granting some new Tax, or by taking so much from the Sinking-Fund, or lastly, by the Method I have thought of, and which I shall presently explain to you. As for increasing any of the Taxes we have already, or imposing a new one, I do not think we can make good the Deficiency by either of these Ways; because I do not think the People can well bear any additional or new Tax, and the attempting of any such Thing, may alienate the Affections of great Numbers of the People from our present happy Establishment, and may contribute towards increasing those Mobs and Tumults, which have of late been so frequent all over the Kingdom: And as for the Sinking Fund, the growing Produce thereof is already appropriated towards paying a Million to the South-Sea Old Annuitants; so that we cannot make good this Deficiency out of the growing Produce of that Fund, and I do not think it would be proper to mortgage any Part of the Sinking-Fund for this Purpose.
'There is therefore, in my Opinion, no possible Way left for making good this Deficiency but that I have thought of, which is, not by increasing any present Tax, or imposing any new one, but by reducing an old Tax to one Third of what it is at present. This, Sir, may at first View seem to be a Paradox; but when I have explained myself, the Mystery will vanish, and every Gentleman will, I hope, approve of the Method I am to propose. Every one knows that, ever since the Year 1699, we have had a Duty of no less than 36 s. a Barrel, upon all Sweets made for Sale within this Kingdom, which is so high a Duty that it has in some measure entirely prevented the Making of any such Liquors for Sale; at least if any such have been made, the Makers have always found Means to evade the Law, and defraud the Public of the Duty, so that the Duty, as I have been told, has never produced any Thing considerable, and by the Accounts upon our Table it appears the present Produce amounts to little or nothing. Now, Sir, I am convinced that, if there were a moderate Duty laid upon such Liqours, and the Nature of the Liquors subjected to the Duty fully explained in the Act for imposing it; I say, that in such a Case I am convinced, a very considerable Revenue would arise yearly from the Consumption of such Liquors; because, as the prime Cost is but small, if the Duty were tolerable, I believe there would hardly be an Ale-House in the Kingdom without great Variety of such Liquors; and if they were to be had at every Ale-House, I am persuaded great Quantities of them would be consumed, especially now that our People are debarred the Use of Spirituous Liquors in Drams or otherwise.
'It is not to be questioned, Sir, we already know it by Experience, that our putting an entire Stop to the Retail of Spirituous Liquors, will be a great Hardship upon all those who formerly dealt in that Trade; and many of those who used to be their Customers and Consumers will likewise think it a Hardship to be debarred a moderate Use of such Liquors, in that Method they have from their Youth been accustomed to: Altho' every sensible Man must be convinced, that the putting of this Hardship upon him was absolutely necessary for the public Good, and for preserving the Health and Morals of the People, yet we find there are great Numbers who are apt to murmur at this Regulation; and to prevent these Murmurs, I can think of no Expedient more proper than that of encouraging the Retail and Consumption of those Liquors called Sweets, which may be made to answer all the good Ends of Spirituous Liquors, without being attended with any of the fatal Consequences proceeding from an immoderate Use of such Liquors. This of itself would be a good Reason for diminishing the Duty payable upon those Liquors called Sweets, even tho' there were no Benefit to arise therefrom to the public Revenue, nor any Occasion for increasing that Revenue. But as there is an absolute Necessity for increasing the public Revenue, in order to answer those Supplies you have already granted; and as there is a great Probability that, by diminishing the Duty on Sweets to one Third of what it is at present, you will increase the public Revenue as much as is necessary for answering the present Occasion, I think no Gentleman can dispute the Reasonablenss of making such a Diminution.
'But, Sir, to add to the Weight of those Reasons I have already given, there is another Reason of great Weight with me for endeavouring to encourage the Consumption of Sweets, and consequently for diminishing the Duty now payable upon them, and that is, the great Quantity of Sugar made use of in the Consumption of such Liquors. I believe no Gentleman doubts but that the Consumption of Sugar will be diminished by the strict Prohibition of the Retail of Spirituous Liquors in Punch or otherwise; and as our Sugar Trade will suffer by diminishing this Consumption, I should be glad this Loss were made good to the Sugar Trade, by incouraging and increasing the Consumption of those Liquors called Sweets, in the Composition of which, there is, I believe, more Sugar made use of than was ever used in the Composition of the like Quantity of that Liquor called Punch. To this I shall add, that, as most of the Materials made use of in the Composition of all Sorts of Sweets are the Growth and Manufacture of our own Dominions, and as a great Variety of such Liquors may very much diminish the Consumption of foreign Wines, therefore the increasing the Consumption of the former will not only be a great Encouragement and Advantage to the industrious Part of our own Subjects, but will likewise be an Advantage and Addition to our general Balance of Trade, by diminishing the Value of our Imports.
'From all which, Sir, I hope it will appear not only proper but necessary, that we should abolish the present Duty on Sweets, and instead thereof, lay on such a less Duty as to this House shall seem reasonable. With respect to the new Duty to be laid on, I shall not pretend to prescribe to the House, I shall only beg Leave to give my Reasons why I think 12 s. a Barrel will be a proper Duty. I believe every Gentleman will agree, that as long as we have a Duty upon Malt, and an Excise upon all Malt Liquors, there ought to be some Duty laid upon all other Liquors consumed within the Kingdom, whether they proceed from foreign or domestic Growth or Manufacture; because the Production of Barley and Malt is a Production we ought to encourage as much as any Home Production whatever: Therefore there ought certainly to be some Duty laid upon all Sweets consumed within the Kingdom; and in my Opinion that Duty ought to be higher than the Duties and Excises payable upon the like Quantity of any Sort of Malt Liquors; but not so high as may entirely prevent the Retail of any of those Liquors. If we consider and compute the Malt Duty, and the several Excises payable upon Beer and Ale, we may reckon that every Barrel of strong Beer or Ale pays between 5 and 6 s. a Barrel; and for the Encouragement of our Farmers, by increasing the Consumption of their Barley, I think we ought to make the Duty on Sweets at least double the Duty upon Malt Liquors; for which Reason I reckon 12 s. per Barrel is the least Duty we can propose to lay upon all Sweets, which shall hereafter be consumed within this Kingdom.
This Duty, Sir, as it is but a very little above 4 d. a Gallon, cannot, I think, any way tend to discourage or diminish the Consumption of such Liquors, nor can it enhance the Price by Retail, so as to make our People prefer the Use of any foreign Liquor, to that of our Home made Sweets, when they are skilfully prepared, and proper Care taken to make them palatable as well as healthful; for I am of Opinion that Sweets of all Kinds may be made as palatable and as healthful as any Sort of Punch; and considering that the Consumers must pay for every Gallon even of Rum-Punch at least 4 s. 4 d. Duty, I cannot but think, that upon diminishing the Duty on Sweets as I have proposed, several Sorts of them may be made up and sold at a much cheaper Rate than any Sort of Punch can be; from whence I must conclude, that in a little Time great Quantities will begin to be consumed; and that from thenceforward, this particular Branch of the public Revenue will be very much increased, by diminishing the Duty upon such Liquors; as was formerly the Case with respect to Pepper, the Duty upon which has produced a great deal more yearly since it was reduced, than ever it did before.
It is impossible for me, Sir, to foretell with any Certainty, what this Duty upon Sweets, when so reduced, will bring in yearly. I have seen several Calculations and Computations upon the Head, all of which were founded upon very probable Conjectures; but they differed so widely from one another, that no Man can determine positively, which of them he ought to give most Credit to. By some of these Computations it was calculated that the Duty upon Sweets, when reduced to 12 s. per Barrel, would in all Appearance produce near 50,000 l. a Year: By others, the annual Produce of this Duty was not computed at above 20 or 25,000 l. which is so great a Difference that no Determination, hardly any Supposition, can be made with respect to the future yearly Produce. However, if this Duty be reduced to 12 s. a Barrel, and that Doubt explained, which has arisen upon former Acts of Parliament, in relation to Liquors made for Sale by Infusion, Fermentation, or otherwise, from British Fruit or Sugar, or from Fruit or Sugar mixed with other Materials or Ingredients, and commonly called or distinguished by the Name of Made-Wines, I shall suppose the Duty will then produce 30,000 l. a Year; for the Consumpt of those Liquors called Sweets, has not only been prevented by the extravagant Height of the Duty laid upon them; but the Doubt I have mentioned has always prevented its being collected; because it has always been pretended that such Made-Wines were not chargeable with the Duty of 36 s. a Barrel, and by that Pretence, People have generally got free from paying that Duty even upon Sweets made for Sale by Infusion, Fermentation, or otherwise, from foreign Fruit or Sugar; it being generally impossible to determine, whether such Mixtures are made from foreign or from British Fruits or Sugar.
'Now, Sir, if we suppose that the future Produce of this Duty will amount to 30,000 l. a Year, as it has never heretofore produced, I believe, 30 l. a Year, the Increase upon it will then be a sufficient Fund for borrowing as much as will be necessary for making good the Supplies you have granted for the Service of this ensuing Year. I say it will be a sufficient Fund, not only for paying the Interest yearly, but for paying off the Principal in a small Number of Years; for 400,000 l. will, I reckon, be the highest Sum that will be wanted, and as that Sum may be borrowed at 3 per Cent. a Revenue of near 30,000 l. a Year will pay not only the Interest yearly, but will likewise pay off the Principal in about 17 Years; and if the Duty should produce more than 30,000 l. a Year, it will then pay off the Principal as well as growing Interest much sooner.
'Thus, Sir, I have explained to you, what I think by far the easiest and most proper Way of raising that Sum, which is still deficient for making good those Supplies we have already agreed to. These Supplies must certainly be made good some Way or other; and if any Gentleman will rise up and shew us a better Method for making them good, I shall very readily give up my Project, and agree to any other Method proposed; since I have nothing in my View but to raise those Sums we have thought necessary for the publick Service, in that Method which shall appear to be most beneficial for the Nation, and least burdensome to the People. If the House approves of what I have proposed, the proper Method for carrying it into Execution is, To resolve first to repeal or abolish the old Duty; and then to resolve, That a Duty of 12 s. per Barrel shall for the future be granted to his Majesty upon all Sweets made for Sale; therefore I shall conclude by making you this Motion, That it may be resolv'd, That the Duty of 36 s. a Barrel on Sweets, granted, &c.
To this it was answered in Substance as follows, viz.
"The Hon. Gentleman who has pleased to move you this Question, set out with three or four general Maxims, in which I shall most readily agree with him. The Supplies we have already granted ought certainly to be made good by some Means or other; and I am so far of Opinion that these Supplies must be made good, either by adding to some of the Taxes we have already, or by imposing some new one, or by incroaching upon the Sinking-Fund, that I am sure there is no fourth Way of making them good; therefore the Hon. Gentleman raised my Curiosity not a little, when he told us he had thought of a Method for raising as much as would make good the Deficiency of the Land and Malt Tax, without adding to any old Tax, or imposing any new Tax, and without making the least Incroachment on the Sinking Fund. This, I confess, was to me a Paradox and a Mystery, which I became very impatient to hear explained; but how greatly was I disappointed when this notable Project came to be laid open? for then it appeared to me, and I hope I shall by and by make it appear to the House, that this Project must either be a new Tax, or it must be an Incroachment upon the Sinking Fund.
'I shall likewise, Sir, most readily agree with the Hon. Gentleman in two other Maxims he set out with, which were, that the People cannot well bear any additional or new Tax, and that we ought never to make an Incroachment upon the Sinking-Fund: But this, Sir, we ought to have thought on before granting the Supplies; and if this were considered as seriously as it ought to be, it would make every Gentleman extremely cautious of proposing to run the Nation into an unnecessary Expence, or of asking any Supplies for that Purpose; for after we have once granted Supplies, they must be made good some way or other. We ought to consider that, notwithstanding the many Taxes our People are loaded with, yet all those Taxes, except the Land and the Malt Tax, are mortgaged for making good the Civil List Revenue we have granted, or for paying the Principal, and the Interest, of the Debts we have contracted: We have now no Way of providing for the current Service of the Year, but by Means of the Malt Tax and the Land Tax; and I must say, tho' I am sorry to say it, if we do not fall into a Method of contracting the public Expence in Time of Peace, so as to make those two Taxes answer it, this Nation must necessarily and speedily be undone. We may go on for a few Years contriving Expedients, and mortgaging every little Fund we have left to mortgage; but this must be attended with inevitable Ruin at last; for the richest Man in the Kingdom, if he spent but 10 l. a Year more than the real Income of his Estate, would certainly at last be undone.
'Many Ways might be contrived, Sir, for lessening the public Expence yearly. The Reduction of the Army, or putting them upon a different Foot, is one Method, which is obvious and known to every Man; but there is another Method which would be as certain and as extensive, and that is, by annihilating all those Sine-Cure Posts, and undeserved or ill-deserved Salaries and Pensions, which have been growing upon us for many Years, and which can never be of any Service to the People, unless it be to enable future Ministers to oppress them. Many of these I could mention in every Branch of public Business within this Kingdom; but I shall not take upon me the Malice and Resentment which such a Piece of public Service would draw upon the Author, from all those whose private Interest would be struck at. I do not think it proper or prudent for any private Man to take upon himself such a Burden: It is proper only for a Government to undertake; and whenever the Government does undertake it, I am sure they will, if they make clean Work, save upwards of 500,000 l. a Year to the Public, which is a greater Sum than is wanted for the Service of the ensuing Year.
'This, Sir, is what might have been done, it is what ought to have been done, because by so doing we might have avoided that fatal Dilemma we are now reduced to. The Resolutions of the Committee of Supply have now made it absolutely necessary to load the People with additional or new Taxes, or to incroach upon the Sinking-Fund; and whatever the Hon. Gentleman may think of his favourite temporary Expedient, to every impartial Enquirer 'twill appear, that it must be ranked under one or other of these Methods. The Duty upon Sweets, whatever was the Intention of those Parliaments which established it, has never been raised, at least it has never been raised in so extensive or strict a Manner as is now proposed; therefore, with regard to the People it must be look'd on as a new Tax. If we were to revive the ancient Tax called Danegeldt, we may as well pretend it is no new Tax, as to say that a Tax upon Sweets, which was never before levied upon the People, is no new Tax. The People never before felt any such Tax, therefore when they come to feel it, they will look on it as a new load laid upon their Backs, already almost broken, and will murmur as if it were a Tax which had never before been thought of. They do not look into Acts of Parliament for learning what Taxes they are subject to: They consider only what Taxes they have been accustomed to pay; and therefore they will always date the Commencement of a Tax from that Time when it first began to be exacted upon them. For this Reason our beginning now to exact this Tax, will certainly raise new Murmurs: I shall not say it will make the Murmurings of the People more general; they are already by much too general; and such temporary Expedients are not, I am sure, the most proper Ways for appeasing them, or for preventing those Riots and Tumults which are now so justly complained of.
'But, Sir, even with respect to the Laws by which this Duty has been established, the Method now proposed for supplying the current Service, must be looked on as a Method for doing it by a new Tax in Whole or in Part, or it must be looked on as a Method for doing it by incroaching upon those Funds appropriated to the Payment of the Principal or Interest of our Debts. If it was never designed by any of the Laws now in Being, that Made-Wines should be looked on as Sweets, or subjected to any Tax as such, the subjecting them for the future to a Tax, must be looked on as imposing a new Tax upon such Wines; and if by the Laws now in Being all Liquors made for Sale by Infasion; Fermentation, or otherwise, from British Fruit or Sugar, or from Fruit or Sugar mixed with other Materials or Ingredients, were designed to be looked on as Sweets, and as such to be chargeable with the Duty of 36 s. a Barrel, as well as all Liquors made for Sale from foreign Fruits or Sugar, then the whole Duty now proposed to be abolished, stands appropriated to the Payment of our Debts, and makes a Part of the Sinking-Fund, as may appear from the famous Act of the 6th of his late Majesty, for enabling the SouthSea Company to encrease their Capital, by which this Duty, among others, stands expresly appropriated to that Company. Nor does it signify to say that this Duty never produced any thing; because if the Levying of this Duty was prevented by a Doubt in the Act of Parliament, that Doubt ought to have been explained long before now; for he who grants is always supposed to grant every Thing necessary for making his Grant effectual. Therefore, as the old Duty stands appropriated to the South-Sea Company, and makes a Part of the Sinking-Fund, we cannot abolish it without making an Encroachment upon the Sinking-Fund; and if the South-Sea Company should give up two Thirds of their Grant, in order to make the remaining Third more effectual, or if we should, by way of Repeal, take from the Sinking-Fund two Thirds of this Duty, in hopes the remaining Third would produce more than the whole three Parts formerly did, or could have done, surely the South-Sea Company, as well as the Sinking-Fund, have an undoubted Right to that third Part; so that we cannot appropriate the 12 s. now proposed to be laid upon Sweets to the Service of next Year, without encroaching both upon the Sinking-Fund, and upon the Right of the South-Sea Company.
I hope, Sir, every Gentleman that hears me is now convinced the Project we have under our Consideration must either be called a new Tax, or an Incroachment on the Sinking-Fund; and as the Hon. Gentleman who moved you the Question, admitted, that we ought neither to impose any new Tax, nor make any such Incroachment; I hope he will now admit his Proposition is such a one as ought not to be agreed to; for tho' I shall not say that out of his own Mouth I have condemned him, yet, I think I may say, that out of his own Mouth I have condemned the Project he has been pleased to offer. I know, it may be said, that if we, from the future Produce of this Duty, pay yearly to the Sinking Fund, a Sum equal to what the Duty has produced at a Medium since the first Time of its being granted, we cannot be accused of making any Incroachment upon the Sinking-Fund; but is not this a sort of Play upon Words, hardly becoming the Courts in Westminster-Hall, and much less the Proceedings of this House, where nothing but Equity and strict Honour ought to prevail? A Duty has been granted, Money has been borrowed upon the Credit of that Duty, it has since been found the Duty was so high, that it amounted to a Prohibition, and therefore produced little or nothing; the Creditors come and desire the Duty may be lowered, in order that they may have some sort of Security for their Money: Could we refuse so equitable a Request? Could we in Honour say, No, you shall have the former Produce, which was little or nothing, continued to you; but if, upon its being lowered, it produces more, we must take the whole increased Produce, for answering our own necessary Occasions? The Case before us is still stronger: The old Duty upon Sweets would have produced a great deal more than ever it did, if the Doubt which arose about the Intention of the Law had been explained as now designed; and, if what is now designed, was really the Intention of the Law at first, that Doubt ought to have been so explained as soon as it was taken Notice of, in order to make effectual to our Creditors that Grant, which we had made them for securing the Payment of the Money they lent us in our Distress. We may abolish the old Duty, we may establish one third Part of that Duty only, for the future; but that new Duty, so to be established, in Honour, in Justice, in Equity, belongs to the Creditors who lent their Money upon the Credit of the old Duty; and consequently, we cannot apply it to the current Service, without making an Incroachment upon the Sinking-Fund.
'I have hitherto supposed, Sir, that the Parliament which established the Duty upon Sweets, designed to include those Liquors called Made-Wines; and this I have supposed, only to shew that, even in that Case, we ought not to agree to the Method proposed, because it will be an Incroachment upon the Sinking-Fund; but now, Sir, I shall suppose, and I do insist upon it, that no former Parliament ever intended to subject Liquors made for Sale by Infusion, Fermentation, or otherwise, from British Fruits or Sugar, or from Fruits or Sugar mixed with other Materials or Ingredients, and commonly called or distinguished by the Name of Made-Wines, to the Duty by them imposed upon Sweets; and the Practice ever since those Acts of Parliament were passed, which is above thirty Years ago, has fully justified my Opinion; for we must suppose the Commissioners of the Treasury, the Commissioners of Excise, and the Excisemen, have often taken the Opinion of Lawyers upon this Head; and if they had ever had the Opinion of any tolerable Lawyer in their Favour, we may suppose they would have exacted the Tax with the utmost Rigour; we cannot suppose, without doing great Injustice to those worthy Servants of their Country, that they would have allowed the Public to be defrauded of such a considerable Revenue, if in all that Time they had ever had the Opinion of any noted Lawyer in their Favour; therefore, I must look upon the Proposition now made to us, as a Proposition for imposing a new Tax upon the Subjects of this Kingdom; and I shall now endeavour to shew, that it is a Tax of the most oppressive Nature, and which may be attended with the most fatal Consequences, with respect to our Constitution and the Liberty of the Subject.
The Nature of Excise-Laws, Sir, and the dangerous Consequences of extending such Laws in a free Country, were upon a late famous Occasion so fully explained, that I little expected a further Extension of such Laws would have been attempted for some Years to come; but now, I find, I have been egregiously mistaken; for the Project now before us, I must look on as a new and a wide Extension of those Laws. Every one knows, the Duty upon Sweets is to be raised by the Laws of Excise, and if you subject all those Liquors called Made-Wines to that Duty, there is hardly a Farmer, or a Country Gentleman in England, but will by that means be subjected to the Laws of Excise, if he resolves to make the best Use of his Garden or Orchard. Our Excise-Laws have already spread themselves over every City, Borough, and Village in the Kingdom, and by this new Regulation they are to spread themselves over every Country, and to enter into the most lonesome Farm-House in England; for if a Farmer has a Mind to make a little Money of an Elder-Hedge, or of a Goosberry, Rasberry, or Currant-Bush, or of a Mulberry-Tree, he may have in his Garden, in order to enable him to pay his Rent to his Landlord, his House must be open all Hours in the Day-time to the Gauger, nay, it must be open at all Hours in the Night-time, if the Gauger can but find a profligate Fellow of a Ale-house-keeper in the Hundred, who has got himself named a Constable by the Trading Justices of the County. Can it be supposed, Sir, that this will produce no fresh Murmurs? Can it be supposed our Farmers will all submit patiently to such a Hardship? Or can it be supposed that all our Gaugers will behave with common Decency, when they get into a lonesome House in the Country, at a Time, when, perhaps, the Family are in the Fields a Hay-making, and no Person left at Home but the Farmer's Wife, or Daughter? Then, suppose the Farmer is caught in a Fraud, how will the Landlord look, when he finds himself disappointed of his Rent, by an Extent brought against his Tenant for the Penalty?
'I am sure, Sir, I need not repeat to the House the many good Arguments that have been made use of against ExciseLaws. It has upon a former Occasion been shewn, that they are of the most dangerous Consequence to our Constitution; and the Arguments then made use of are certainly still fresh in every Gentleman's Memory. I shall only take Notice, that as the Authority and Business of Excisemen will be very much increased by this new Project, tho' we have now a greater Number of them than we have Occacasion for, yet their Number must be greatly augmented; for not only many of our Farmers will from henceforth be subjected to their Review, but, I am afraid, every Tavern and Wine-Cellar in the Kingdom. We know what a Clamour was raised against the last Attempt to subject WineMerchants and Vintners to Excise-Laws: That was an open Attempt, and such a one as they could openly oppose; but the Difficulty of such an Attack was then felt; and therefore, they are now to be attack'd in an indirect and hidden Method; for if most of our Dealers in Wine be Brewers of Wine, as is commonly reported, every such Dealer will, by this Method, be subjected to the Review of an Exciseman, tho' he dares not say he is afraid of any such Thing, and, therefore, cannot openly oppose the Project now before us. By this means, the Influence which Excisemen already have, or may have, upon all City and Borough Elections will be very much increased; and as many of our Farmers are Freeholders, the Excisemen will, by means of this Project, have an Opportunity of gaining an Influence likewise in all County Elections; both which are diametrically opposite to our Constitution, and to the Liberty of the Subject.
If by lowering the Duty on Sweets, and preventing the Retail of Spirituous Liquors in Punch or otherwise, those Liquors called Made-Wines should come to be of universal Use, we must suppose that almost every Farmer in England will turn himself towards the making of such Liquors, and the producing of Materials proper for that Purpose; the Consequence of which will be, that he must go to the next Office of Excise, and enter his Name and Place of Abode, together with every Room and Place made Use of by him for making or keeping any such Liquors. This he must do under a great Penalty; and from the Time he has done so, he can no longer call his House properly his own: From that Moment, the Gauger may, any Hour of the Day, and as often as he pleases, require Admittance; and, by taking a Constable along with him, he may, at any Hour of the Night, and as often as he has a Mind, require Admittance: If the poor Farmer should at any Time refuse to leave his Labour in the Fields, or if he should refuse to get out of Bed after a hard Day's Labour, in order to let the Gauger enter his House, he subjects himself to a great Penalty. For these Penalties he is not to be sued according to the common Law, not to be tried in the usual Way, by God and his Country, but he is to be tried before the Commissioners of Excise, or before two Justices of Peace, who may convict him without any Jury, upon the Oath of the Gauger, who makes the Complaint; and all this without any Appeal but to the Quarter Sessions, whose Judgment is to be final. Then after he is once convicted, in order that he may for ever after remain obedient to the Commissioners of Excise, or to the Justices of the Peace, they are impowered to levy the whole or what Part of the Penalty they please, according to the past or the future Behaviour of the unfortunate Convict.
'This, Sir, will be the Case of every Farmer in England, who attempts to make the most of the Goosberries or Currants he has in his Garden; and if, to avoid this Misfortune, he should resolve to sell his Fruits to the Makers of such Liquors, instead of making them himself, he must sell them for little or nothing. From hence I am apt to believe that notwithstanding the low Duty you propose to lay upon MadeWines, the Methods you are to prescribe for raising it, will prevent the Consumption; because no Man will subject himself to the Excise-Laws, for the Sake of any Advantage he may get by the making of such Liquors; and if they are not made, I am sure they cannot be consumed; so that one or other of these Inconveniencies must arise from the Project now under our Consideration: Either a great Number of our People will be subjected to Excise-Laws, who were never before subject to any such, or the Produce of the Duty will come far short of your Expectation. By the former, our Liberties will be exposed to greater Danger than they are at present, or ever ought to be; and by the latter, we shall leave a new Load upon our Posterity, without any competent Fund, for ridding them of that Load; which is, I think, what no Man can agree to, who has any Regard for his Posterity, or the future Happiness of his Country.
'From what I have said, Sir, I hope it will appear, that the Method proposed for making good the Deficiency of the Supplies for this next ensuing Year, is not only a new Tax, but one of the most dangerous Taxes we can impose upon the People. I shall be far from proposing any Addition to the Land-Tax; I think 2 s. in the Pound is the highest our Land-holders ought to be loaded with in Time of Peace; but I am sure it would be better for every Land-holder in England to pay 3 s. in the Pound Land-Tax, than to lay such a Hardship upon his Tenants, as to make it necessary for them, either to subject themselves to the Laws of Excise, or give up making the proper Advantage of some Part of their Farms. An additional Shilling to the Land-Tax is but a short temporary Loss: It is a Loss of a twentieth Part of his Rent but for one Year only; but by subjecting his Tenants to such a Hardship for 17 or 20 Years, he may find himself obliged to lower the Rent of every Farm that belongs to him, much more than a twentieth Part, which will be probably a perpetual Loss, or at least a yearly Loss that may affect him and his Posterity for a great Number of Years. For this Reason, I say, Sir, every Land-holder ought to chuse rather to pay an additional Shilling LandTax, than subject his Tenants to such a Hardship as will be the necessary Consequence of the Project now before us. But there is another Reason why every Man in the Kingdom, as well as every Land-holder, ought to be against this Project, if he has a proper Regard for his Posterity or for his Country; because the Method thereby proposed for raising Money for the current Service, is in general, I think, the most pernicious Method this Nation, or any Nation, can ever chuse for supplying such Services. To establish Funds, and then mortgage those Funds for ready Money, is a Method of supplying the current Service, which I shall now endeavour to shew no Nation ought to take, but in Cases of the greatest Extremity and Danger.
'In every Country, Sir, that which may be called the Estate or Revenue of the Public is the Sum that may be raised yearly from the public Lands, and from those Taxes and Impositions which the People will patiently submit to pay; therefore if in any one Year the public Expence exceeds that Sum, by mortgaging a Part of this public Estate or Revenue, the Public is in the same Circumstances with a private Man who runs out his Estate, and neither the one nor the other can, for the future, be reckoned to have a greater Estate or Revenue than what remains free to him after the Payment of the Interest upon his Mortgages yearly. The only Difference is, that the Revenue of a private Man is certain and always the same, whereas the public Revenue of a Kingdom or State is variable, and may always be greater in Time of War than in Time of Peace; because, during a just and necessary War, the People will patiently submit to greater Taxes than they will do in Time of Peace; but in either Case, if the Government of a Country should make the public Expence exceed the public Revenue, but for one Year only, it is a Step towards their Ruin, and a great Number of such Steps must certainly at last bring them to their Journey's End, which is the Ruin of their Country. For this Reason the Government of every Country ought to take special Care to proportion the public Expence to the public Revenue yearly, so as never to allow any public Debt to be contracted, but what may be discharged by the Produce of the Taxes growing due within that Year.
'Ministers, Sir, and those in the present Possession of Power, may very probably be for loading the Public with Debts, instead of loading the People with Taxes, because the People are sensible only of the Taxes they pay, they are not immediately sensible of the Debt the Public contracts, nor can they probably become sensible of it during that Minister's Administration. This may enable him to run the Nation into a needless Expence, or to squander the public Money, without bringing an immediate Odium upon himself, or raising any Murmurs against his Administration; but every such Debt weakens the Power of the Crown, which depends upon the the annual Revenue of the Kingdom, and may render it impossible even for the very next Successor to protect his Kingdom, either against Invasions and Insults from without, or Tumults and Insurrections from within; therefore no Man who has a true Regard for the Crown, or for the next Successor to the Crown, will, for the Ease of any temporary Minister, agree to run the Nation in Debt, in order that the People may not be sensible of the unnecessary Charge his Ambition, Imprudence, Avarice, or Extravagance, may have brought upon them.
'When such Taxes are imposed and collected within the Year, as are fully sufficient for defraying the Expence of that Year, the People are sensible of the Expence, and will therefore enquire into the Necessity of that Expence, which will always be a Check upon the Measures of the Administration, in Time of War as well as Peace: It will not only make them frugal with respect to every Shilling of the public Money they are obliged to lay out, but it will make them careful not to involve the Nation in any unnecessary War or Expence; and it will prevent their continuing of any War, longer than the future Security of the Nation requires. On the other hand, when the public Expence, or any Part of it, is raised by imposing a small Tax upon any of the Necessaries, Conveniencies, or Luxuries of Life, and mortgaging that Tax for a Number of Years, the People are not sensible of the Expence they are put to, and consequently make no Enquiry about it, which often gives an Encouragement to those in Power to run the People into needless Expences, and lavish the public Money. But if such Measures be continued for any Number of Years, those small Taxes grow so numerous, that they become not only sensible but insupportable: The Complaints and the Murmurs of the People then begin to grow general and loud; but the Misfortune is, that their Resentment falls upon those who have then the ill Fate to be in Power over them, and not upon those who were the original Authors of their Misery.
'Another Misfortune is, Sir, that by contracting Debts, instead of imposing Taxes, the Nation is at last obliged to pay 3 or 4 s. sometimes more, for every Shilling that was ever applied to the public Service; because the Interest and Charges of Management, which the People are obliged to pay yearly till the Principal be discharged, often amounts to double or treble the Sum applied to the Service of the Public. If we were to compute what this Nation has paid for Interest, and Charges of Management, upon all the Debts we have contracted, it would amount to an incredible Sum: I am convinced it would appear to be more than three Times the Amount of the whole Debt we owe at present. Let us but consider the Project now before us: Let us suppose 400,000 l. borrowed at an Interest of 3 per Cent. and that the Tax will amount to but 35,000 l. a Year, which is the least gross Produce we can suppose, upon the Supposition that it will bring a nett Sum of 30,000 l. yearly into the Exchequer; in that Case, the People must pay 35,000 l. a Year for 17 Years, which at 3 per Cent. compound Interest amounts to near 750,000 l. and which must be paid by the People of England in lieu of the 400,000 l. now to be borrowed for the Service of this Year. When so low an Interest, in so short a Time, makes such a Difference, we may easily guess what an immense Sum the People of this Kingdom have paid for Interest and Charges of Management, since that Practice of creating and mortgaging public Funds, was first brought into Fashion amongst us.
'It may, I know, be said, that if the whole Money necessary for the current Service is not raised within the Year, the People must save so much Money in their Pockets, which they would otherwise be obliged to pay out, for making good the Service; and that every private Man may make above 5 per Cent. of the Money so saved, instead of 3 per Cent. upon the Sum which the Public borrows for the current Service; from whence it may be argued, that it is an Advantage for every private Man to run the Public in Debt, rather than raise, within the Year, the whole Sums necessary for the current Service of the Year. But do not we know, Sir, that every Man looks upon the Taxes he is obliged to pay yearly, as a Part of his yearly Expence; and the more Taxes he is obliged to pay, the more he contracts his yearly Expence upon other Articles? This every prudent and provident Man will do, when he feels the Money going yearly out of his Pocket towards the public Expence; but when a public Debt is contracted, and thereby a Load thrown upon future Generations for the Ease of the present, no Man, let him be never so provident, sits down to compute the Ease he meets with, in order that he may save as much out of that Year's Expence, as may enable his Posterity to answer the Load thrown upon them. People consider only the yearly Taxes they are subjected to, and proportion their Expences upon other Articles accordingly; so that Posterity are so far from having the Principal left them, with Compound Interest at 5 per Cent. that they have neither Principal nor Interest left them; nor is it possible to perswade an Heir, that any Part of the Estate left him by his Ancestor, was saved for him, with a View of enabling him to pay his Share of that public Debt, which was contracted in the Time of his Ancestor.
'To these Misfortunes, Sir, let me add another, That the creating and mortgaging public Funds necessarily contributes to the raising and keeping up the natural Interest of Money, or to the draining the Nation of that Gold and Silver which is brought into it by its general Balance of Trade. As the natural Interest of Money, in all Countries, depends upon the Proportion between the Demand for borrowing Money at Interest, and the Demand for lending Money at Interest, by creating and mortgaging public Funds, you increase the first Demand, and consequently the natural Interest of Money must rise, unless you proportionably increase the other, and this you can no Way do but by prevailing with Foreigners to lend you a Sum equal to that public Fund you have established. If you can do this, you keep up the same Proportion between the Demand for borrowing Money at Interest, and the Demand for lending Money at Interest, which you had in your Country before that public Fund was created; but then what is the Consequence? The whole Sum payable yearly by Way of Interest upon that public Fund must be sent out of your Country yearly in Gold or Silver, or it must prevent so much Gold and Silver yearly coming in to you, by means of your general Balance of Trade; for unless you create a new Fund, your foreign Creditors cannot possibly convert their Interest into Principal; and if you create a new Fund, you add to your former Misfortune, by increasing the annual Draught of Gold and Silver from amongst you.
'To apply this, Sir, to our present Circumstances; suppose the whole of our public Debts amounts to 48 Millions, and that but 10 Millions of that Capital belongs to Foreigners, tho' I am convinced their Share amounts to a much larger Sum: In that Case, you have taken 38 Millions from the Demand for lending Money at Interest in your Country, and have added it to the Demand for borrowing Money at Interest, which makes a Difference of no less than 76 Millions, and how this Difference must affect the Proportion between these two Demands, and consequently the natural Interest of Money in this Country, I shall leave to every Gentleman that hears me to judge. Then as to the 10 Millions belonging to Foreigners, 'tis true, it prevents the Difference between these two Demands in this Country being so great as it would otherwise be; but the Consequence is, that the yearly Interest of the Sum of 10 Millions, which is 400,000 l. a Year, must be sent out annually in Gold and Silver, or in Goods and Merchandize; for all Bills of Exchange must at last be answered by one or other of these Funds. If it be sent out in Gold and Silver, it diminishes our National Stock of Gold and Silver; if in Goods and Merchandize, it prevents its Increase; because the Price of those Goods and Merchandize must necessarily at last have been returned to us in Gold and Silver, if we had had no such Interest to have paid yearly to Foreigners. While the general Balance of Trade continues in our Favour, the paying of this Interest to Foreigners will only prevent the yearly Increase of our National Stock of Gold and Silver; but as soon as the general Balance of Trade turns against us, this whole Sum must be drawn out yearly in Gold and Silver, which must necessarily, in a few Years, entirely exhaust our National Stock of those two Metals; and when that Misfortune comes upon us, I am afraid we shall find but little Comfort or Relief in our Paper Credit.
'This Consideration alone, Sir, I should think, would make every Gentleman resolve to submit to any Tax, rather than run the Nation further into Debt; and I am sure it ought to make every Minister resolve to contract the public Expence as much as possible. There are many other Misfortunes and Inconveniencies attending the creating and mortgaging of public Funds; but I shall not trouble you with enumerating any more of them at present; I think, I have said enough for convincing every Man, who has a found Heart as well as a found Head, that any Project for running the Nation into a new Debt must be a most pernicious Sort of Means for supplying the current Service of the Year. If so, I am sure every Gentleman that hears me, would give his Negative to the Question, if there should be an Occasion; but there will not, I believe, be any Occasion for a Negative; because, if the Honourable Gentleman, who made you this Proposition, views it in the same Light I do, I am sure he will most readily give it up. It may, perhaps, be said, Will you leave the current Service unprovided for? Will you allow the Session to break up without providing for those Supplies you have already granted? No, Sir: Several other Methods may be thought of: I have hinted at one, which I am sure would be sufficient; I mean, that of abolishing several of our unnecessary Posts and Employments. A Committee for that Purpose, if we were unanimous, would soon find out a Fund for answering the present Deficiency; and, I am certain, there is no Method that will be more effectual for producing that Unanimity, than our rejecting or dropping the Proposition now before us; for which Reason, if it be insisted on, I shall most heartily give my Negative to the Question.
The Reply was to the Effect as follows, viz.
"I am glad to find, that every Gentleman who has argued for, or against the Question now before us, seems to be of Opinion, the Supplies we have already voted, ought to be made good, some way or other. When these Supplies were granted, I easily foresaw, that the Malt-Tax and a Land-Tax of 2 s. in the Pound, would not be sufficient for answering them; and I confess, tho' I saw the Necessity of the Supplies we had agreed to, I was under some Uneasiness to think how it was possible to make good the Deficiency; because, I thought it would be hard to load the People with any new or additional Tax, or to make any Incroachment upon the Sinking-Fund; but my Uneasiness was fully removed, as soon as my Honourable Friend had explained the Method he had thought of, for making good that Deficiency. The Method he proposed, and which we have now under our Consideration, appeared to me so easy, and I beg his Leave to say, so ingenious, that I imagined it would have been agreed to without any Opposition; but this is a Fate, which I am glad to find few or no Propositions are like to meet with in this House: for a bad one ought, and, I hope, always will be opposed; and a good one derives great Advantages from Opposition, because its Usefulness from thence appears in a much clearer Light. As I very much approve of the Method proposed by my Honourable Friend, for making good the Deficiency of the Supplies for this Year, I shall endeavour to remove the Objections that have been made to it, and then I shall endeavour to shew the Injustice and Impossibility of the other Methods that have been proposed, or rather hinted at in this Debate.
'I as heartily wish, Sir, as any Gentleman can do, that we could contract the public Expence, so as to make the Malt-Tax, and a Land-Tax of 2 s. in the Pound, sufficient for answering it yearly; but the public Expence, as to its Quantity, neither depends upon our Resolutions, nor upon the Will and Pleasure of those who have the Honour to be in the Administration of our Government. The annual public Expence in this Country, as well as in every other Country, depends upon the Necessities of the Government only, and ought to be increased or diminished only according to those Necessities. In Arbitrary Countries, the Ministers are the only Judges of those Necessities, and of the Sums that will be sufficient for answering, as well as of the Ways and Means most proper for raising them; but, in this happy Country, our Ministers are no Judges in either of these Respects: Their Business is only to lay before Parliament what they think will be the Necessities of our Government for the ensuing Year, and what Sums they think will be sufficient for answering those Necessities. When they have done so, they are, as it were, functo officio, they have nothing more to do; for, the Parliament is then to judge, Whether those Necessities are real: Whether a less Sum may not be sufficient for answering those Necessities: And what Ways and Means are most proper for raising those Sums, that shall be thought necessary. Of these three Questions, we have already determined the first two; and now we have the third under our Consideration.
'In determining this third Question, we certainly ought, Sir, to chuse such Ways and Means as may be sufficient for the End proposed; such as may be least burdensome to the People, and such as may seem to occasion the fewest Murmurings against the Government: And, that the Method now proposed to us has every one of these three Advantages, will best appear from answering the several Objections that have been made to it. I shall grant, Sir, that some sort of Comparison may be made between the public Revenue of a Nation, and a private Man's Estate; and that a Mortgage upon either, must be a Loss to Posterity, and a Diminution of the Estate, till that Mortgage be cleared; but there is a very great Difference between what may be called a Loss to Posterity, and what may be called doing them a real Injury: A private Man who mortgages his Estate, in order to support his Luxury or Extravagance, does a real Injury to his Posterity: But he, who by some cross Accident is obliged to mortgage his Estate for the Preservation of himself and Family, does no Injury to his Posterity, tho' he subjects them to a Loss. In the same Manner, a Nation may often, for Self-preservation, be obliged to be at a much greater public Expence than can possibly be raised within the Year, and must then necessarily mortgage some Part of its public Revenue; which is so far from being an Injury to Posterity, that there is nothing more just and reasonable; because, as future Generations are to reap a great Part of the Benefit, they ought to pay some Part of the Expences which were necessary for obtaining and preserving that Benefit.
'Not only Necessity therefore, Sir, but even common Justice may sometimes require, that a public Debt should be contracted, rather than lay too heavy a Load upon the People for any one Year, or for any Number of Years; and whatever Inconveniencies or Disadvantages such a Measure may be attended with, the Necessity of Affairs will always be a full Justification of those, who pursue it. But, I cannot think, the Disadvantages attending such a Measure are near so grievous as have been represented; for as to the Interest and Charges of Management, the Money paid by the People for those Purposes is seldom any real Loss to the Nation, because it is, generally, all divided among our own People; there is but a very small Share of the Interest belongs to Foreigners; and what goes out that way is attended with this Advantage, that it procures the Nation some Friends in foreign States, who have often great Weight in their Councils, and, consequently, may prevent their joining in any Measures with our Enemies. Then, as to the Effect this Measure may have upon the Management of public Money; I hope it will not be said that Ministers are to be judged or punished by the People, in a mobbish and riotous Manner, their Conduct is always to be enquired into and judged of by the Representatives of the People in Parliament assembled; and, surely, no Gentleman of this House will ever be influenced, upon any such Occasion, by what the People feel, or say they feel; nor can we suppose, that any Gentleman of this House will ever approve of any Article of Expence proposed, only because his Posterity, and not he, are to suffer for it.
'I should be glad, Sir, we could raise the Supplies of this Year within the Year: I should be glad our public Necessities never required any greater Expence than what the public Revenue would answer; but for the Reasons I have given I cannot admit it as a general and infallible Maxim, that we ought never to contract any public Debt, or make any public Mortgage; for when it becomes necessary to raise any large Sum for the Service of any one Year, I shall be for giving the People such a sufficient Time for paying it, as may not subject them to any great Difficulty. In private Life it has always been looked on as an Advantage and an Ease to a Man to give him several Terms for paying a large Sum of Money; and the Case is the same with respect to the People; it will be much more easy and advantageous for them to pay 400,000 l. with the growing Interest in 17 Years, than to pay 400,000 l. at one Payment, in any manner you can contrive for raising it; so that if the Method now under our Consideration were really a Mortgage of some Part of our former Revenue, consequently a Diminution of the public Estate, I should be for agreeing to it; but it is really neither the one nor the other: It is an Improvement of the public Revenue and Estate; and surely Posterity cannot find Fault with us for morgaging, for a few Years only, the Produce of that Improvement. If a private Gentleman should by any Improvement add 100 l. a Year to his Estate, and mortgage that Improvement for 17 Years only, surely his Son would have no Reason to blame his Conduct, even tho' he should die immediately after having made that Improvement and Mortgage, and all future Generations would have Reason to bless him.
'From this single Consideration, Sir, all those Objections that are founded upon the Inconveniencies of mortgaging the public Revenue must vanish; and the Debt to be contracted is so small, and the Interest it is to be borrowed at so low, that it can no way affect the natural Interest of Money, either upon public or private Securities. Now, Sir, with respect to the Objection which impeaches the Proposition under our Consideration, with being either a Proposition for a new Tax, or a Proposition for making an Encroachment upon the Sinking-Fund, I was, indeed, not a little surprized to hear it not only said, but insisted on, that the Duty proposed to be laid on any Sort of Sweets was a new Tax; considering how general the Words are of all the Acts of Parliament by which the present Duty was established or continued. The Words of that Law in King William's Time, by which a Duty was first laid upon Sweets, are, 'For every Gallon of mixed Liquors, commonly called Sweets, made from Foreign or English Materials:' And by the Act of the 5th of the late Queen, by which the present Duty was first established, the Words are, 'For every Barrel of Sweets made for Sale.' Tis true a Doubt has since arisen from the Description of Sweets contained in another Act of King William's Reign; but as that of the 5th of Queen Anne is a subsequent Law, and as the Words of it are general, the Intention certainly was to subject all Liquors, commonly called Sweets, to the present Duty, if they were made for Sale; therefore we must suppose that this Doubt's not being clear'd up by a Trial, as well as by the Opinion of Lawyers, does not proceed from any Neglect in the Officers of the Revenue, or from their finding the Opinion of Lawyers against them, but from every Man's being persuaded there was no Foundation for the Question, therefore no Man would stand the Event of a Law-suit upon it; and the small Produce of the Duty must be imputed to the same Cause; for as every Man knew he must pay 36 s. a Barrel, if he made any Sweets for Sale, and that, considering the Height of that Duty, he could expect no Advantage by the Sale, therefore very few Persons attempted to make any such Liquors for such a Purpose, ever since this Duty was imposed. Therefore, the Duty now proposed to be laid on Sweets is so far from being a new Tax, that every Man in the Kingdom will look upon it as a Release from an insupportable Tax, and as a Restoring him to the full Use of his Garden and Orchard, which he has been deprived of ever since the present high Duty on Sweets took place.
'I shall readily acknowledge, Sir, that the present Duty on Sweets stands appropriated to the South Sea Company, and if the Produce of that Duty had ever been or could ever be worth taking any Notice of, the applying it to the current Service would be an Encroachment on the SinkingFund, because it would be necessary to make it good to the South-Sea Company out of the Sinking-Fund; but the South-Sea Company can have no Right to any thing but the Produce of the present Duty, and if you were to abolish the Duty entirely, all that the South-Sea Company could lay Claim to would be a future Annuity equal to that Produce, at a Medium ever since the Duty was first granted to them. Suppose no other or heavier Duty had ever been laid on Sweets than 1 s. per Barrel, which was the first Duty imposed on such Liquors; suppose that Duty had been granted to the South-Sea Company for securing to them the Payment of their Annuity, and suppose we were now to lay an additional Tax of 11 s. per Barrel on such Liquors, would the South-Sea Company have any Right to that additional Tax? Or would the Applying of it to the current Service be any Incroachment upon the Sinking-Fund? For the same Reason, if by any new Regulation you make a considerable Increase in the Produce of the Tax, the South Sea Company can pretend no Right to that Increase, nor can the Application of it to the current Service be deemed an Incroachment upon the Sinking-Fund. The utmost that can be pretended is, that a future Annuity ought to be paid out of that increased Produce to the South-Sea Company, or to the Sinking-Fund, equal to the former Produce at a Medium, from the Time it was first appropriated to the Payment of our Debts. Such a future Annuity would, I say, be the only Thing that could, with any Shadow of Reason, be contended for, and in the present Case that Annuity would be so inconsiderable, that it is not to be regarded.
'Thus it appears, Sir, that the Method proposed for making good the Deficiency in the Supplies for this ensuing Year can neither be called a Proposition for imposing a new Tax, nor can it be called a Proposition for making an Incroachment upon the Sinking-Fund, or upon the Right of the South-Sea Company. But we have been told, that the Duty proposed will either produce little or nothing, or it will subject a great Number of our People to Excise LawsAs to the future Produce of the Duty, it is impossible to foretell with any Certainty what it will amount to; but the lowest Computation I ever heard of was 20,000 l. a Year, and if the future Produce amount to that Sum, it will be sufficient for the End proposed, because it will not only pay the growing Interest yearly, but will likewise pay off a Part of the Principal yearly, so that the Whole may be at last discharged by the Means of this Duty only. Then as to Excise Laws, I have, 'tis true, heard a great many Exclamations against the Rigour of such Laws, and against the Inconveniencies and the Consequences of subjecting our People to such Laws; but the Misfortune is, that all these Suppositions are contradicted by Experience; for we have, for near this Century past, had such Laws in this Kingdom, without being sensible of the least Inconvenience arising from them; and I believe those who are subject to them live as happily and as independently as those who are not. These Laws are certain, and publicly known, and therefore those who are subject to them can be under no Dependance upon the Officers, but upon the Laws themselves: If they conform to the Law, they have not so much as a Favour to ask of any Commissioner or Officer of Excise; and if any Officer behave rudely in the Execution of them, or commits any Trespass, he may be prosecuted for it, as easily as any other Subject This they are sensible of, and therefore they have hitherto generally done their Duty with as much Civility and Good-Nature as was possible; so that fair Traders; who bring themselves under no Suspicion, are seldom or ever subjected to any Inconvenience, nor are they ever visited or disturbed at unseasonable Hours.
'But, Sir, supposing the Excise Laws to be as dangerous and as oppressive as they have been represented, our Farmers, our Wine-Merchants, and Vintners, will be in the same Case they are at present; for if any of them should begin to make Sweets for Sale, they would subject themselves to the Excise Laws, even as the Duty stands regulated by the Laws now in being; and tho' the Consumption of such Liquors should be very much increased by diminishing the Duty, as it probably will, it does not necessarily follow that every Farmer who has an Elder-Hedge, or a GoosberryBush in his Garden, should become a Maker of Sweets, no more than it is necessary for every Man who has an Acre of Barley to become a Brewer or a Maltster: If the Consumption should become very extensive and general, 'tis certain that proper Persons will set up the Trade for making such Liquors for Sale, and will purchase Fruits for that Purpose from the Farmer at a reasonable Price, in the same Way as Brewers, Distillers, and Maltsters now purchase their Barley. The only Difference I can see, is, that by this new Regulation, our Farmers will be put in a Way of making an Advantage of their Farms, which they have been debarred from ever since the high Duty upon Sweets took place; and the more Advantages they are enabled to make of their Farms, the better able will they be to pay their Rent to their Landlords; so that every Landed Gentleman has, in my Opinion, great Reason to approve of the Proposition now before us; for if it does not improve the Rent of his Estate, it will at least contribute towards rendering the Payment of that Rent more certain and punctual.
'I hope, Sir, I have fully answered all the Objections made against the Proposition now before us, and as all the Gentlemen who have spoke upon the other Side of the Question, have acknowledged, that the Supplies we have agreed to ought to be made good by some Means or other, I wish they had directly and plainly proposed some other Method; for upon setting the two Methods in opposite Lights, it would have been very easy to have determined, which of them ought to be preferred. They have, indeed, given us some sort of Hint of two other Methods, one of which, I mean that of an additional Shilling in the Pound upon Land, might have bore some sort of Comparison, if the Land Tax for this ensuing Year had not been already settled, and the Bill actually brought in; so that it is now too late to think of any such Method; but if it were otherwise, if the Land Tax were still to be settled, I am sure it would be very easy to shew, that of all the Methods we can think of for raising Money, that of over-loading the Landed Interest is the most unjust, the most grievous, and the most dangerous. Even 2 s. in the Pound upon Land is a great deal too much, when the whole public Expence does not amount to much above two Millions; for as every Man ought in Justice to be made to contribute to the public Expence, according to the Share of Riches he possesses, and as the Lands in Great Britain are not near equal in Value to the other Riches of the Nation, it is doing an Injustice to the Landed Interest, to make them contribute one Moiety of the public Charge, which will be their Case for this next ensuing Year. But as the Land Tax is now entirely out of the Question, I shall not take up your Time with enlarging upon the Subject.
'The other Method hinted at is a Method extremely plausible in Appearance, but I question much, Sir, if it will ever be found practicable; that I am sure, it cannot be proposed as a Method for raising any Part of the Supplies we have already agreed to for this ensuing Year. In effect, it cannot properly be called a Method of providing for Supplies.; it is rather a Method for diminishing the usual necessary Supplies, and cannot therefore come properly before us in this Committee. I do not at all question but there are many sine-cure Posts in this Kingdom, as well as in every other, and many useless or extravagant Salaries. Some of them might perhaps be abolished; but I doubt much if it will ever be in our Power to abolish them all, and therefore I am afraid the Saving in that Way, upon the severest Scrutiny, would not amount to near the Sum the Hon. Gentleman supposes. However, let it amount to what it will, it cannot be made a Provision for the Supplies of the next ensuing Year; because if we were immediately to appoint a Committee for enquiring into that Affair, we cannot suppose that Committee would be able to go through the Business in this Session, nay, I doubt much if they would be able to make even a partial Report; and as many of those Posts, I believe most of the useless ones, are held for Life, and are a sort of Free-hold, we could not at once, and without any Consideration, turn the present Possessors out of their Freehold; therefore, from such an Enquiry the Nation could not expect any great immediate Advantage; at least, not such a great and immediate Advantage, as would be sufficient for making good the Deficiency in the Supplies for the next ensuing Year.
'I hope, Sir, I have said enough for convincing every Gentleman, that the Method now under our Consideration, for making good the Supplies of this next ensuing Year, will in all Probability be sufficient for the End proposed; and that of all the Methods that have been proposed, or so much as hinted at, it is the least burdensome, and the least liable to occasion any fresh Murmurs among the People; therefore it is certainly the Method we ought to chuse. It is, indeed, in my Opinion, the only Method we have to chuse; for, I think, I have shewn, that the other two Methods that have been mentioned, are both impracticable; and as I join in that which seems to be the general Opinion, that the Supplies we have already voted ought to be made good, I think I am both in Honour and Conscience bound to give my Assent to the Proposition now before us, because it is the only Method we can chuse for doing that which every Gentleman acknowledges ought to be done.'
This is the Substance of the several Debates which happened in this Affair relating to Sweets; in which those who were for the Duty got the better upon every Division, except one, which was in relation to that Clause in the Bill, whereby it is provided, that nothing in that Act contained should extend, or be construed to extend, to charge with any Duty such Wine as the Owners or Occupiers of British Vineyards should make from the Juice of the Grapes only growing thereon; for the Adding of any such Clause, to exempt such Liquors from the Duty on Sweets, was opposed by most of the Gentlemen who were Favourers of the Duty and Bill; however, upon a Division it was carried against them, and the Clause, as it now stands, was accordingly inserted in the Bill.