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no matter how great degreeceedings; "Let that Housch a prin
abandoned; and that was, on account of popular clamour, and prejudices which were founded in error. To such a principle he never would accede, nor ought that House to make it the ground of their proceedings; because if it were once known that a great degree of popular clamour and prejudice, no matter how ill founded, was a sufficient inducement for that House to give their consent to the repeal of any tax, the revenue would be in perpetual danger; and that sinking fund, of which the right honourable gentleman was so fond of introducing the mention in almost every debate, and to which they all looked forward with the most anxious expectation, would be only a matter to be talked of, and never to be brought into existence. It was by no means wise in any minister to declare, that he gave up that to prejudice and clamour, which he refused to reason and to fact; he did therefore most earnestly deprecate the principle, and deny that it was the ground on which he seconded the motion. The right honourable gentleman had thought fit to introduce allusions to what he had said in a former debate, relative to the Irish propositions, although no man was more ready than the right honourable gentleman to reprobate others for doing so disorderly a thing as to refer to what had passed in prior debates. The right honourable gentleman would recollect, that the subject of India and a certain India bill, had been repeatedly alluded to by himself and his friends in debates, where the question was infinitely more foreign, than the consequence the passing of the Irish propositions was likely to have upon the people of England, was foreign to the question of reforming the state of the representation in parliament. Besides, in that very debate, the right honourable gentleman had himself introduced the mention of the American war, and other topics equally foreign from the subject at that time under consideration. But the right honourable gentleman had laid down two different rules of conduct, the one for himself and friends to act upon, the other to be applied to those who took part against him. With regard to how far the present subject had a reference to the Irish propositions, he made no scruple to say he thought it had; because undoubtedly, if the tax on fustians had continued, and the Irish propositions passed, the manufacturers would be affected very materially, not indeed in their home consumption, but in their export trade; since the fifth proposition, that of the countervailing duties, would only make it necessary for the Irish to lay on a duty equal to what the revenue received; whereas the manufacturers paying more than the revenue received, in consequence the Irish and they would not export on equal terms. Having stated this, Mř. Fox took notice of what Mr. Pitt had said of his ex
the revered where to lay on
pectation to be vilified and calumniated for the manner in which he had come forward to repeal the tax. The right honourable gentleman had forgot, he said, that the conduct of others had been full as much vilified and calumniated as his own, and, he was satisfied, with as little reason and as little justice. There was no ground for censure in honestly acknowledging an error, and desiring to retract it; there might be ground for question, and for something not very like praise, in declaring that a sacrifice was made to prejudice, and to prejudice merely.
STATE OF THE PUBLIC REVENUE.
April 29. THE order of the day being read,
Mr. Fox rose to make his promised motion on the state of the public revenue, and to call the attention of the House to the calculations and statements which had been recently made by the right honourable the chancellor of the exchequer. He prefaced his motion with saying, that whatever differences there might be in that House upon questions of a political nature, and in speculative opinions, there was no difference with respect to the propriety and necessity of supporting the public credit. The House had in all administrations been uniform in maintaining the credit which had been so useful to us in our difficulties, and in countenancing every measure which tended to the advancement of our revenue, or the security of the national creditor. It would not, therefore, be imputed to him, that he rose this day to agitate the House on the subject from motives of faction, or for the purpose of exciting alarm in the country. In what he should say, he would give occasion for no such charge. It was his first and most earnest desire to see the revenues of this country rendered so indubitably equal to our necessities, that neither cavil nor ingenuity should be able to excite terrors in the breasts of those who had lent their money on the faith of government; and he did not believe there was an individual in the House who entertained different sentiments.
There had been, he said, a good deal of conversation at different times on the subject of the sinking fund, and on the propriety of applying it to the necessities of the state. With
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out entering at all into the question, whether it was wise in all possible cases so to apply it; or whether the public might not be more benefited by its appropriation occasionally to other purposes, this much was certain, that though it had been applied occasionally to make up for the year the deficiencies of any tax which might have failed of producing what it was calculated to produce, or to answer any sudden and unforeseen emergency, it never was yet taken and applied to the permanent payment of the annuity of any sum which we had had occasion to borrow. To this length we never yet had gone; the wisdom of the House had always provided by taxes a permanent fund for the payment of the national creditor ; and the produce of the sinking fund was only held out as an additional security to them, that in case those taxes should fail, their annuities would still be regularly paid. The right honourable gentleman at the head of the finances, had said some days ago, that by the late production of the taxes we had reason to hope that the revenues of this country would annually produce the sum of fifteen millions and a half, which constantly would leave a surplus of one million to be applied to the extinction of the national debt. He would not be confident in the precise words which the right honourable gentleman had made use of in stating this fact; but this was the result, and this his friends had adopted, with the most sanguine disposition.
He was by no means pleased that the state which he should give of the public accounts did not warrant the conclusion which the right honourable gentleman had drawn from them. He by no means wished that his state of the public revenue should turn out to be the true state, in contradiction to that of the right honourable gentleman; but the House must not argue, that because he went into these discussions for the purpose of shewing them that the conclusions which had been drawn from them were not well founded, that therefore he was anxious to affect the public credit, and to lower the state of the funds. He was actuated by no such motive. It was his opinion, that the true and only foundation on which the credit of this country could be maintained, was in the publicity and clearness of our accounts; it was in the evident determination of parliament at all times to look their situation in the face, and neither to deceive themselves, nor to deceive others with fallacious statements which could only serve interested purposes for a moment, while they might produce lasting and dreadful consequences to the country. Utterly to despond was as injurious as to be too sanguine. Despondency would depress the genius, enterprise, and energy of the country: and again, to be too sanguine in our expectations, would pre
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vent us from taking those measures which might be necessary to our deliverance. Apprehending that the state of our finances was very different from that which the right honourable gentleman had held out, it was his opinion, that though our circumstances were bad, they gave no reason for despondency; they were yet to be retrieved; but they were only to be retrieved by our chearfully submitting to new and to heavy burdens. This, in the present situation of the country, was undoubtedly a melancholy prospect; but he had too much confidence in the good sense of the people, and in the wisdom of parliament, to believe, that when the necessity was made apparent for new burdens, the one would either hesitate to impose, or the other to bear them.
He was afraid, that in what he should have to state to the House, he should make the necessity for new burdens too apparent. The right honourable gentleman had laid before the House a paper to shew the comparative produce of the taxes of the quarter ending the 5th of April, 1784, and of the quarter ending the 5th of April, 1785. From the amount of the latter he had argued, that the produce of all the taxes for the year would leave a surplus of one million above the payment of all the annuities and establishments of the year. It had already been stated to the House, that to draw this conclusion from this particular quarter would be fallacious, for that the quarter consisted of eleven days more than either of the other three. The quarter in general was ninety-one days and a fraction; but this quarter was one hundred and two days in length. The amount of the taxes for this long quarter was, by the account produced 3,066,000l. which multiplied by four, undoubtedly made the produce of the taxes for the whole year 12,260,oool. He avoided fractions to make the matter more readily intelligible. The eleven days, however, which were to be taken from this quarter made the amount very different. On an average the amount of the taxes was about 30,000l. per day, which for the eleven days amounted to 330,00ol. and this multiplied by four, made the sum of 1,300,oool. which was to be taken from the calculation of the right honourable gentleman. This, therefore, reduced the annual produce of the permanent annuities to 11,000,000l. Add to this 2,500,000l. for the amount of the land and malt, and the whole was only thirteen millions and a half, which was two millions short of the calculation of the right ho. nourable gentleman.
It was not a fair nor a true way of stating the taxes, by taking the amount of a quarter as a fourth of the year. The quarters sometimes varied exceedingly; and arguing in this way, from this particular quarter, was liable to much fallacy. He had it not in his power to argue by comparisons of all the quarters for any given number of years; but having an account in his hand of the amount of the customs for eleven years, he did not think it would be unfair to argue by analogy from them, and to shew how treacherous it would be to decide on the amount of the customs for a year by any one quarter. In comparing the several years, he would naturally pass over the last year, as by the postponement of the customs due by the East India Company, that year could not be set in comparison so as to give any fair estimate of the public revenue. The total of the customs for the quarter ending the 5th of April last, was 770,000l. To argue that this was a proof that the other three quarters would be equally productive, he was afraid would be very fallacious, and would not be borne out by the experience of former years. It was a fact, that whenever the spring quarter was high, the summer quarters fell off, and whenever it was low, the summer quarters made up for the deficiencies. The years 1778 and 1779 presented instances like the present year of high spring quarters : in the one, the customs amounted to 708,00ol. and in the other to 715,000l., and yet it so happened that these two years were the lowest of all the eleven years, for which the account on the table was made up. Was it, therefore, reasonable to infer from the high amount of the customs in this quarter, that the amount of the year would be equally or proportionably high?
But in this particular quarter on which the right honourable gentleman had calculated in so sanguine a manner, there were several articles which struck him in a very forcible manner as being charged too high. East India goods, for instance, were stated in this quarter to have produced 86,0ool., a sum so much above what they had ever produced in a former quarter, that he knew not how to take that as a fourth of the produce of this article for the year. The average produce of this article for the last eleven years was but 120,00ol. a year; and the quarter ending the 5th of April 1784, had produced but 10,000l. On such experience, it was impossible that he could set down this article at 340,000l. for the year. There must have been in the payments made this quarter, some arrearages paid up, or some extraordinary circumstances which would not enter into the other quarters, and which therefore it would be unfair to calculate upon in this statement.
Another article struck him as curious. The duty of eighteen and a half per cent, on muslins was stated to produce 86,00ol. in this quarter; this was as much as the duty had produced for the whole of the last year. The excise duties