Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 5. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.
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Thursday, February 21.
Col. Birch.] I moved, the other day, to bring in a Poll-Bill; that people may be registered in the parishes, that walk about the streets in good cloaths, and may pay something towards this charge, who spend more in a week, than a farmer can afford to do in a year. Not two, of thirty of them, are taxed by LandTax All the Money coming up to London, to the head, I would take some blood from it, by a Tax upon New Buildings, and that is but an ounce. I would poll this sort of people.
Mr Swynfin.] This Poll Bill was offered you with great assurance, to leave all your Lands untouched. I would have Gentlemen consider that you are to raise a sum certain, but those that bring these things in, tell us not how much they will ease Lands; they tell you with no manner of certainty what sum this will discharge. Let us go step by step, and know first what this will amount to; some think half the Money, and some more, and thereby we shall lay still as much upon Land, upon this uncertainty. You have one instance of that of the New Buildings. I would have the certainty stated, how much this will ease your Lands.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] What I move you, must be the result of your Debate. Before that be, can any man tell you precisely what this will amount to in the estimate, and what falls short to lay it upon your Land. I wonder, by this way of reasoning, that you lay it so hard upon Land first. I know not how the Gentleman comes by that proposition, "That there is no haste of the Money," by this way of projecting. In the mean time, whilst that Report of the Buildings is coming from the Committee, 'twill be plain and certain that it will not make the whole. I take it for granted, that we must see what these things will bear first, for Land must but bear what it can. The method I move for is a short way. And the Poll is a more ready way than you can lay any thing upon Lands, and I move that (fn. 1) ***** may be raised on the Poll-Bill.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] I doubt that reason given by Birch, "That we are not in haste," will not hold, &c. I believe you are in greater pressures now, than when you shall be in a War. Every day that you lose now, before you come to a resolution, for ought I know, you put still more charge on your Land. For as the War lasts, Land must pay. Whilst we are thus leaping from twig to twig, how to raise this Money, I fear most of the considerable places of Flanders will be taken. [On] this or any other expedient, if the Debate be long, a post or two may bring you such news as three Polls will not make amends for. Not one man believes that the New Buildings will raise a Million, or the Poll-Bill. The event of this War depends upon your expedition.
Saturday, February 23.
Mr Garroway.] If you tax the East India Company, you will discourage that trade, and the Hollanders will get it from you! That trade which you have already is more worth than their whole Country besides.
Mr Powle.] I would be informed how the East India Company are taxed in Holland towards the maintaining the Government. I have heard they are taxed, besides their Customs, and I doubt much their Patents, how legal they are.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] I know no reason why they should not be taxable, as they are Corporations, if their Actions in trade be so great, as they are represented, of so many particular men. Money in the East India Company is Money; a man must pay it, unless he swear himself off.
Sir Robert Sawyer.] There is a stock in the East India Company, as men are Members of it, and a supervenient stock, as borrowed. The several Creditors pay for that, besides the stock the Members of that Company have of ready Money, whether out or in chest. The Member of the Company will say he has no Money, for the Money is the body politic's; and this is a point of Law that they make use of to their profit. I would have you tax them.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] In Holland, they lay not any Tax on trading Companies, but on private mens stocks. The King of France encourages trade, but great Cities, as Paris and Rouen, pay not a farthing of tallage, any more than the greatest nobleman. They buy Land within such a distance of the City, and have it tallagefree. Here Merchants are taxed for their degree, and their Houses, and now will you tax their stock too? Their stock is in a body politic, a bundle of polls, as one person is one poll. How will you distinguish stocks to make the Tax practicable? Where will you gather it? The stock is fluctuating. Will not you tax the Guinea Company, the Turkey, and Eastland Companies? Must this Company be your mark only? At this rate, they will have every joint taxed. I am against the Question.
Mr Garroway.] If you tax those Gentlemen of trade, you put more upon them than you do upon all England. The credit of the East India Company is so secured, that you may call for your Money to-morrow, and have it; and the Company, before your Act pass, may have 100,000 l. called in, and you get nothing.
Sir Richard Temple.] If you tax the East India Company barely, you tax but the ancient stock of the Company, which was not near so much as now it is. But now the Actions are worth 100,000 l. and will you not tax particular Actions?
Resolved, That part of the 1,000,000 l. to be raised to enable his Majesty to enter into an actual War against the French King, shall be raised by a Poll-Bill. And a Bill was ordered in accordingly (fn. 2).
"I do protest before Almighty God, and this honourable House, that neither myself, nor any other, to my knowledge, have taken away, or do at this present conceal, a Bill, entitled, "An Act, &c." In Testimony whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name."]
Tuesday, February 26.
[Debate on the Alliances, &c (fn. 3).]
Mr Secretary Coventry.] The condition of the Confederates is as dangerous now, as I told you formerly it would be, Ghent is taken (fn. 4), and how this comes to be, I know not. The King offered to send men over into Flanders, but was not permitted to do it, unless he signed a Treaty, in one Article whereof they desire the King to set out 90 Ships, and 40,000 l. as the Allies should think fit. The King of Spain is to set out as many Ships as he could, to be disposed of as the Allies should agree, and Galleys. And though the Duke de Villa Hermesa will not put Ostend into our hands, yet we may put men into it. The Spanish Minister received Letters on Sunday, and did not acquaint us with them till Wednesday. Then he brought a paper of Articles, of what he would refuse, and what take—If we send not Men, [there is] no Alliance at all. You have been told, "That our Ships will be ready by the end of May, if Money be timely given;" and, without this Money you are giving, they can do you no good. If the King of France goes on thus, I know not where it will end. Saving ourselves is our end—I would have you but show where the King may have this Money—Else the Ships cannot go out at all. Allow such Money, if this cannot be ready, as to make a Fund for Credit; else, you must be without a Fleet, without Troops, and, for ought I know, without Allies too.
Lord Cavendish.] You have had a lamentable Account of the condition of the Spanish Netherlands. Had the advice of this House been taken a year age, they had not been in so ill a condition now. Coventry says, "There is a necessity of helping the King, by Credit, to ready Money." Nothing can be more ready than the Poll Bill, and, if they know a better Fund, I desire to hear it.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] Though a Poll-Bill be sudden and near at hand, yet you may allow some Fund for the King to take up Money upon, whilst the Bill is passing. You may allow something, in the interim, to enable the King to go on by taking up Money.
Sir Thomas Meres.] We are told, "That for want of Money, Ships cannot go out till the end of May." Why met we not then at Michaelmas, to have considered that? Debates of Parliament must have time; and we have had crowding in Debates of the manner of raising this Money, &c. Let the saddle be set upon the right horse—There is a Clause to raise Money upon interest in the Poll-Bill. If that will not do, let others show you a way to do it. This should have been thought of six months ago. If any man can show you a better thing, let it be offered. It must have its due parliamentary gradations, whatever it is.
Mr Mallet.] Good might have been done at our last meeting, which cannot be now, Mr Speaker, by your desertion of the Chair, which I hope will be a warning to you for the future. We are ready now to give the King assistance to support his Alliances, and I wish our Counsel had been taken before England was blown about by the uncertain winds of Proclamations for putting off our meeting. Hereafter, I hope there will be a regular succession of Parliaments, to prevent these things. But I would have the honourable Counsellors, here by me, know, that Counsels have been ill.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I would have the honourable person a little explain what he means by "our Ships in this business." If there be an Alliance, the thing is already done. But I would know whether the King is pleased to have the advice of this House about the Alliance that has been made—4 Henry V. He was a great Prince, and had War with France, and always exposed his intentions to Parliament. If it may be so now, I move that we may go into a Grand Committee presently.
The Speaker.] I have sent to the Parishes thirty seven Orders, to make speedy returns (fn. 5), and that is all I can say to it.
Col. Birch.] I agree with Clarges, "not now to be finding faults." I would do as much as any man that sees no more than I see. If the thing had been done (Alliances) as clearly as our Address was made for them, this had never been. The Spaniard, it seems, you are told, will not be saved. You were told so a fortnight ago. I know not this Ghent, but 'tis said to be a great place, and all the rest will fall as fast as Ghent. The French made no line of circumvallation; and all the rest will follow. If this be gone, I know not how the United Provinces can stand. If they be in jealousies and finding faults, as is said, what is now to be done? I am glad to hear there is any way to save them. It is said by some, send them present Money; and if any man would think to move a thing afar off, it must be the New Buildings. No Committee can go so fast in the valuation of them as the Parishes, and that will be the last. If Money will save Flanders, I would borrow Money myself to do it. I am for quick doing it. Gentlemen know what comes in by Customs weekly. If we are in this streight, all manner of charges upon the Customs for three months must be stopped, and that will do it. There are vast sums in pension upon them; suspend them for two or three months, and when the Bill is finished there may be a Clause for reimbursing the King the Money. If we are in extremity, 'tis just to take our neighbour's bread and eat it, rather than starve, and not to run about the town for Money. I have known a worse House of Commons than this draw a short note, upon an extraordinary occasion, to secure such as would advance Money (fn. 6), and it was reputed an acceptable service, and they were reimbursed their Money by Bill. I would know what that sum is that will do this work. I could never believe but that the Customs may pay a fourth part of the Navy-charge, and victuals. And for stores, I believe, we are provided, having given Money for them already. And for Hulls, wear and tear, they are paid for—But if this will not do, I would know what they require to thrust the Fleet out; whether 150,000l. will do what is absolutely necessary for our safety? And we know what will do the rest of the work.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] 'Tis a strange and monstrous thing, that Spain will not be saved, by what men we can send them. The King might have sent 6000 foot, by this time, and Spain would not accept of them. The Ratification of the Treaty is come back to Holland; and I hope that, the several districts of the Provinces being returned, you may, upon that, take resolutions.
Mr Garroway.] This is so great a riddle, that I know nothing at all of it. You are told now of great dangers that Flanders is in, butthey are no more than we saw the first day we came here; only the French King is not so complimental a Gentleman as we thought. I would know, Is it a League, or not a League? War, or no War? To tell us of "a League" and a "Ratification!"— I see nothing of it, and know nothing of it, and can say nothing to it.
Sir Henry Capel.] I fear we are not ripe for a Question, but I would not have you go off without some sort of resolution. Faults appear, and we are told of the danger; and Motions are made for Supply for the present occasion. Here is no answer given to what Sum is requisite. Therefore I move to adjourn the Debate till to-morrow, and let the honourable persons, by that time, prepare a Proposal for a Sum.
Mr Sacheverell.] I would gladly know what our Ministers expect from Spain, more than is already offered. We boggle at what they proffer, which is all they can do, and we having brought them so low, what can we require of them more?
Mr Secretary Coventry.] A man that wants Money, and will not be bound to pay it again, is our case with Spain. If the French make a descent into Ireland, or Jersey, or Guernsey, they will not suffer our Ships to go out of the Mediterranean, as they must be employed as they think fit!
Mr Garroway.] If Gentlemen will speak out, 'tis we that have put the Spaniards into this condition, by our sending so many men over into France. Spain, in reason, will not keep that always; that is a burden to him, which was formerly their own Nursery for Arms Coventry says, "'tis our concern"—and we are told of a League in the dark, to make us ridiculous to all people. When I see the League, I will do as much as any man. But as yet I know not where we are.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] Something I said, "That I believed the Spaniard was not willing to be saved." But if Flanders be lost, they lose that which brought 500,000 l. Revenue, and maintained the War, and that which is as equal to us as to Holland, the neighbourhood of the French; and 'tis one of the fatallest Counsels that ever came from Spain—If an Angel gave light, I could have no more satisfaction; and more, man cannot give man.
Mr Garroway.] What I say is, that still we are more in the dark; we never had any thing of Alliances communicated to us, but in general. I will submit my fortune to God, and, if I am in an error, I will ask your pardon for it.
Mr Powle.] The honourable persons are now run aground, and must come to the House, to help them off. They are now past remedy. I cannot hastily look forward, till I look backward. I find our Ministers have the same inclinations and Counsels towards France. We have made several Addresses to the King, with assurances of our standing by him in supporting Alliances, when communicated to us. But the conditions of these Addresses have not been performed, no Alliances have been imparted to us, and we are absolved from our promises of supporting them. We are told, "There is a Ratification of a Treaty from the States General." They are as large a body as we; and it must be communicated to their principals. If this Treaty be known in Holland, why must it be a secret here, unless there be something in it, that we must not know? The Spaniards have just cause to hold back, seeing so much partiality in us towards the French, and will not put themselves into our power. There is no remedy in this case, but to address the King to enquire from whence all these ill Counsels come; and to beseech him to remove the Conduct of his Affairs from them and put them into other hands. And this would remedy things for the future. I did say, "the States General were a small number," but when they consult Leagues, their particular Provinces must be made acquainted with them.
Sir Tho. Meres.] 'Tis usual, when men cannot answer the Substance of a Gentleman's Speech, to find fault with the Circumstances. They that find fault with our greatening France, are not Privy Counsellors for Spain; we are for ourselves. But we are told we must not look back. But why will Spain be hurting himself, and not accept of our assistance? I cannot imagine the reason; unless it be, that you have helped to make him desperate. A man must want tongue and sense that sees it not. Some years since, we might have seen Spain declining—The Triple League, who broke it? When great sums were got from us in Parliament, then our Ministers destroyed that League, and sent men into France, and the Netherlands were lost. And then we said, "Pray leave War with Holland" (in our Address to the King) and can nothing work upon a House of Commons but necessity. 'Tis strange that we mind not affairs of premeditated Counsels, but always upon necessity. We gave 1,200,000l. upon necessity, and we gave it unwillingly, for we destroyed Spain by it—And now must we not see who gave those Counsels? With much labour we had an inclination of Peace towards Holland; but we went on still to hurt Spain, by assisting France. This House, from time to time, has foreseen this, and addressed the King to remedy it; and thus it is that Spain is so low, and we have contributed to our own ruin. Little Counsels on your table will not remedy this; they will not do it. But I see nothing of light, though you address the King, and have no Negative in the House. I have much more to say, but pray give me more time to speak of it.
Lord Russel (fn. 7).] I think that Flanders is in a manner lost, and, if not timely thought of, England may be lost too. I would adjourn the Debate, to consider how we got into this Misfortune, and how we may get out of it.
Wednesday, February 27.
Sir Thomas Lee.] The borrowing Clause has yet no direction. By the drawing the Bill they are very careful that the Money may be spent, but there is not one Clause of Appropriation to the French War. The best appropriating Clause you can put in is, "that all French Manufactures brought into England may be burnt, and the growth of that Kingdom, &c. and they that bring any in, to forfeit the value."
Mr Sacheverell.] On the Bill for forbidding French Commodities, which you ordered the beginning of February, the Committee scarce ever sat. If we have War, we shall have no Commodities come over; but if we have no War, I would have no French Manufactures come in for three years. And that will be some recompence for this Bill. I would have the goods destroyed, wherever they are found in England, and the person that brings them in to pay the value. I desire a Clause may be to that purpose.
Sir Eliab Harvey.] By suffering French Commodities to come, in that abundance, we do maintain his Army to fight against us to doomsday. I see there is no likelihood to preserve Flanders, therefore I would now do something for the good of England. We see that our men in France are not yet come back. By this Prohibition, we shall see whether we are in jest, or earnest, for a War. And I would have such a Clause brought in.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] The Prohibition of the importation of French Commodities to be by a Law, is very just and necessary. 'Tis now moved that it should be part of this Bill, but I thought it would have been by a Bill apart. As it is moved now for a Clause in this Bill, it seems, that whether War, or no War, here is to be a Prohibition universally, in all state of things, and all times. This will not consist with the state of neighbourhood, nor Laws of intercourse of the whole World—That is not consistent with any other state of things, but the state of War. As to the manner of doing it, how far you will make it necessary to this Bill—'Tis of dangerous consequence, and may be very unfortunate. Possibly there may be one precedent of it, but I beg this may not be the second, and may not be part of this Bill.
Mr Sacheverell.] I think Williamson did not take my Motion right. I made it not with intention to have the Prohibition perpetual, but temporary only for three years. We have had three, and three, and three years, and no Articles of Commerce with France, which is a Million of Money detriment to the Nation yearly. We are going into a War with France, and yet, it seems, we fear giving them offence. Williamson says, "This may be of evil consequence, and may be unfortunate, &c." But I say, 'tis the only good thing to put into this Bill, else you will never have the Prohibition at all. 'Twill go with the Money-Bill, and I pray we may have this little thing with the Money, which is the only compensation for our Money.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] Williamson said, "'Twas not usual in Peace to banish all Commerce with a Neighbour." To have no Wine, Salt, Linnen, Silk worked, or unworked, nor Brandy—'Tis plain that Trade will ruin us, as now it is with France, as much as any War can do.
Col. Birch.] I like this Debate, for many reasons; especially that this House of Commons is not afraid of the French King. I think with Coventry, 'tis better to express in the Bill in particular words than in generals. 'Twas said by Williamson, "That this is unneighbourly." Was not the imposing of 80 per Cent upon our Commodities in France unneighbourly? And the French King did it before I told you of "a Crab-tree Cudgel," or that we had any thought of the War. I would have all French goods imported after such a day, destroyed. In this Bill it will be better than in a Bill by itself. More of these Commodities are come in, since we talked of prohibiting them, than can be spent in three years. I would name those Commodities you would prohibit, and put them in this Bill. I am for so doing, because since he has been so unneighbourly, in natural reason we are not to trade with him. If it be Peace, this Prohibition, &c. is just between Prince and Prince, and not unneighbourly. It only makes a balance between Kingdom and Kingdom—The Clause for Credit to take up Money upon this Bill, for present Service, may be at the latter end of the Bill—If the French King be in earnest, the next news will be his taking Ostend and Nieuport. I would not therefore let the French King see we are not able to enter into War with him, without the charge of Land-tax, and all. I take this opportunity, because we may have credit to purpose to put in New Buildings too, and have but one Bill— And as for all Commodities now here, I would, in the same Clause, enumerate sellers of all such Commodities. If this Poll-Bill be executed as former Bills were, there will not be above 400,000 l. raised by it. If by such Commissioners as will go through with it, it will make twice as much—That the World may see you charge not your Land, but keep that for the last.
Mr Sacheverell.] I find my Motion is mistaken. I named "Linnen, Wine, Salt, Paper, [Brandy,] and Silk." My meaning was, that the Merchant might have time to sell what are upon his hands, abroad, and not here; and to have time given him.
The Question [for annexing a Clause to the Bill] for Prohibition of the said French Goods, &c. for three years, &c. [and also for an appropriating Clause, passed in the Affirmative, and was agreed to by the House.]
Sir Eliab Harvey.] I move, as a Merchant, that what the Merchants vend here you may rate what you please, but lay nothing upon those French Commodities that go out of England to be vended. They will raise Brandy from 35 l. per ton, to 60 l. per ton, and so of other Commodities.