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ing, he would not trouble the House any more at present, as he should have an opportunity in the committee, and he hoped several times before the bill passed, of pointing out to the country the danger there was in passing this bill, and the mortal stab it would give to the constitution of this country.
After a long debate, the House divided on the question, That
Mr. R. Smith 527 tone NOES ( Mr. Sheridan 60.
19 (Mr. R. Smith $271.–Noes Lord Maitland ?
BILL FOR THE RESTORATION OF THE ESTATES FORFEITED
IN THE REBELLION OF 1745.
THIS day Mr. Dundas moved for leave to bring in a bill to en
1 able his majesty to grant to the heirs of the former proprietors, upon certain terms and conditions, the Forfeited Estates in Scotland, which were vested in a board of trustees by an act passed in the 25th of George the second, and to repeal the said act. Mr. Pitt seconded this motion.
Mr. Fox said, the proposition had his most hearty approbation. The execution of some, and the confiscation of the estates of others, had sufficiently atoned for their crimes; and their descendants had been punished by forty years deprivation of their fortunes for the faults of their ancestors. The principle of restoration was just, generous, politic, and humane, and he did not see that any one could form an objection to it. He approved so much of the principle, that he thought the proposition ought. not to stop where it did ; if the principle was good, it ought to be carried as far as it would go, and, therefore, it ought to extend to all forfeitures of estates in England, as well as in the highlands of Scotland for the same
rebellion. Gentlemen would feel, that he alluded particu-larly to the case of a noble lord, to whom he had the honour
of being related, he meant the Earl of Newburgh, the present representative of the Derwentwater family. He did not wish to speak of crimes long since committed, and long since atoned for; nor did he mean to justify rebellion; but this much he
the Hourch hospite the existin
thereenwich has the former id not existerwentwate
would say, that there were circumstances in the case of the Derwentwater family, which palliated, excused, nay, did every thing but justify, the treason committed by it. He was aware, that with respect to the Derwentwater 'estate, there were difficulties, which did not exist in the cases then before the House, as the former was appropriated for the support of Greenwich hospital; but he submitted to the consideration of the chancellor of the exchequer, whether some means might not be devised to extend the munificence of parliament to Lord Newburgh, to which he had as good a claim as those who were now about to enjoy it; the principle was equally applicable to all; and though he was convinced no partiality existed in the minds of those who patronised the present measure, still it would be more complete and free from cavil, if the English estates were restored as well as the Scots. He did not expect thatanything would be done in this session for Lord Newburgh; but he hoped the right honourable gentleman would turn the case of that noble lord in his mind, so as to be able to propose something on that head next year.
As this measure had for its object the relief of individuals, whose unequivocal attachment and loyalty to his present majesty and his family could not be supposed to be tainted or affected by the crimes of their ancestors, it met with the perfect approbation of the commons.
ON the 21st of June, Mr. Chancellor Pitt moved several reso.
lutions, as the foundation of the act, since known by the name of the Commutation Act. He stated to the House, that the illicit trade of the country had of late increased to so alarming a height, as to endanger almost the very existence of several branches of the revenue, and more particularly that of tea. It had appeared before the committee on smuggling, that only 5,500,000 lb. weight of tea was sold annually by the East India company, whereas the annual consumption of the kingdom was supposed from good authority, to exceed twelve millions, so that the illicit trade in this article was more than double the legal. The only remedy he could devise for this evil was, to lower the duties on tea to so small an amount, as to make the profit on the illicit trade * not adequate to the risk. It was well known, that in this trade the price of freight and insurance to the shore was about 25 per cent., and the insurance on the inland carriage about 10 per cent more.
The duty on tea, as it then stood, was about 50 per cent., so that the smuggler had an advantage over the fair dealer of 15 per cent., as the voyage from England to the continent might be easily repeated four or five times in the year; he therefore proposed to reduce the duty on tea to 12 per cent. As this regulation would cause a deficiency in the revenue of about 600,000l. per annum, he proposed to make good the same by an additional window tax, This tax, he said, would not be felt as an additional burthen, but ought to be considered as a commutation, and would in fact prove favourable to the subject: a house, for instance of nine windows, which would be rated at ios. 6d. might be supposed to consume 7lb. of tea; the difference between the old duties on which, and the new duty proposed, might, at an average, amount to il. 55. iod, so that such a family would gain by the commutation 158. 4d. But the principal benefit he expected from this measure was the absolute ruin of the smuggling trade, which, he said, subsisted almost entirely on the profit of their teas. Another benefit would be, the timely and necessary relief it would afford the East India company. By this regulation they would find a vent for thirteen, instead of five millions of pounds of tea, and would be enabled to take twenty more large ships into their service. The resolutions proposed by the chancellor of the exchequer were agreed to, in consequence of which he obtained leave to bring in the bill, which met with a warm opposition. On the roth of August, upon a motion for taking the report from the committee on the bill into consideration,
Mr. Fox objected to the principle of the bill, as well as to many parts of its detail, because it was founded on a deception, and held that out as a commutation, which was no commutation whatever; on the contrary, it was taking off a tax upon a luxury, to lay à tax upon a necessary, and not only laying a tax on a necessary, but laying it in a way, at once partial, unequal, and oppressive, by making the poor pay for the rich, and taxing those that did not drink tea, in order to accommodate those who did, and to enable them to drink their tea at a cheaper rate. The bill, to have come before the public fairly, ought to have been divided, and brought in as two bills; the one, a bill declaring, that, for the better prevention of smuggling, parliament found it expedient to take off the subsisting high duties on teas, and in their stead to lay a duty of 12į, per cent. only; and the other, a bill to lay certain additional duties on windows. Had the two bills been so brought in, they would have stood upon their separate principles, and might have been separately examined and dis, cussed. There would then have been no fallacy, no deception, nor any ground for the objection he was now stating, namely, that the bill as it stood, tended to deceive and to mis. lead; that it told the public it did one thing, while in fact it did another, directly the reverse of what it affected to do. The
tion, nor af he bill as ublic it did
new tax on windows, proposed by the present bill, was an exceeding heavy burden laid upon the public : he was far from saying that heavy burdens were not actually necessary: he knew they were, and however other gentlemen might think, he was convinced, that still heavier burdens were necessary and must be imposed before the country could be retrieved ; but what he meant to contend for was, that when burdens were laid upon the people, there should never be practised the smallest attempt to deceive them; they should be dealt with honestly and openly, and not blinded as to the real nature of the tax, which undoubtedly they were on the present occasion, since windows had no more necessary relation to tea, than bricks, or hats, or horses, or any other of the objects selected for taxation this year.
From this remark, Mr. Fox proceeded to consider the bill as to its object; and he said upon this head, undoubtedly smuggling could not be prevented effectually by merely lowering the duty upon teas; spirits, as an honourable gentleman, a friend of his, had well remarked, were an article of smuggling equally necessary to be attended to, but no man could look at the idea of extending the principle of the bill to spirits, without feeling even more horror than they felt on the present occasion, because it was not to be borne, that men should be called on to pay a tax upon their houses for drinking spirits in them. Spirits, he observed, were a species of luxury still more than tea, and to tax all descriptions of men as the present bill did, in respect to the pretence that they might drink spirits in their houses if they chose it, was something too bad to be thought on for a moment. His grand objection to the principle of the bill was, that it was compulsory, and not optional. This was, to the highest degree, unjust and oppressive; and this it was that took from it the semblance as well as the reality of its being a commutation. As the commencement of a system of regulation of finance, it might have been unobjectionable, had it not been compulsory. If, for instance, it had been enacted, that the occupiers of such houses as chose to drink tea were obliged to take out licenses annually, after a rate proportionable to the size of their houses, in that case it certainly would have been a commutation and an optional tax; and had persons convicted of drinking tea in their houses, without having taken out such a license, been subject to a heavy penalty, he should have thought it perfectly fair and Perfectly reasonable. Such a system of regulation might have been afterwards followed by other licenses for wine, &c., but as the tax stood in the bill, the drinkers of tea and those who never drank tea, were confounded together; and in order to lighten the burdens which ought to have been borne by the
former, the latter were taxed, and the poor, who had been too much pressed upon already by the taxes of the year, were to be ground down, and severely oppressed. Tea, Mr. Fox said, was, of all commodities, one of the best objects of taxation, because the best possible recommendation of any tax was, that it would be equally beneficial, whether it proved productive or not. What he meant by this, was, that if the tax proved productive, it answered that way; and, if it did not, in that case the consumption was not sufficiently great to check the consumption of some other article, the manufacture or the growth of our own country, from which a revenue equally large, might be derived. If, notwithstanding that the duties hitherto paid on teas produced 900,oool. it was really wiser to raise that money in another way, we had not, he said, heretofore been so much obliged to the East India company, as had been thought; because that position being admitted, it followed, that without having recourse to the company, the same revenue might have been obtained at home upon our own houses, and our own windows.
He took notice of the minister's readiness to concede on any point that concerned himself and his own opinion merely, and of his obstinacy in refusing to concede in the least, where the benefit of the East India company was the object. It had of late been the practice to cry up the great importance of the East India company, and to contend, that every thing ought to be sacrificed to the benefit of that company; he supposed, therefore, that as the present bill had, for one of its great objects, the assistance of the East India company, the minister, ready as he had been on a late occasion to concede his own opi. nion to clamour and to the arguments of opposition, would not on the present concede in the least, or consent to alter in any material respect, a bill equally unwarrantable in its principle and defective in the detail of its clauses. At times, he said, he had heard taxes for luxuries called for in his mind very idly, because many such taxes, however popular they might sound when proposed, would have tended to detriment the revenue by proving unproductive. He was not, therefore, for having the idea of taxing luxuries carried to the extent that some gentlemen wished, but when a tax was laid upon tea, which undoubtedly was a luxury, but a luxury so much in use, that it came near to be a necessary, and when that tax was so far efficient as to produce near a million yearly, he was not for abandoning that tax to lay a tax on an absolute necessary, which houses undoubtedly were. Nor was he quite so sure, that this tax upon windows would prove as productive as was expected, or that the old window tax would continue as efficient as it had been hitherto found to be. Let gentlemen remember, that when the window tax as it stood at that day, had been