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of it, (as an honourable member had stated to have been the case in regard to the duty imposed on wine some years since), but to forty, or perhaps one hundred times the charge. Ou this occasion, he must beg leave to remind the committee, that nothing could be more easy than to ascertain exactly to what the sum of additional duty per hogshead upon wine came, and what would prove the amount of that duty when divided into gallons, and from gallons into bottles. If, then, in a case so easy, obvious, and intelligible, the retail dealer had barefacedly charged the public five times as much for every bottle as he paid to the exchequer, what an advantage must not be unavoidably made where the distribution of the tax was privately laid on a variety of small articles ! In fact, the consumer, if he paid the tax at all, must imperceptibly and insensibly, even to the shopkeeper, pay it over and over and over again; but he defied the right honourable gentleman to prove that any shopkeeper either had, or could charge it to the consumer. Being therefore undoubtedly a personal tax, he should advise the right honourable gentleman, in this instance at least, to give way, and offer some tax, less exceptionable, in its stead ; in short, the tax was so radically bad, that no modification could cure its defects.
The right honourable gentleman, in the greater part of his argument, had endeavoured to prove that the tax was not personal, and that it must find its level, and fall on the consumer. If this were true, what was there to recommend his modifications ? The right honourable gentleman had stated that he would take off and modify the portion of the tax to be paid by all shopkeepers who lived in houses at less rents than twenty and twenty-five pounds, which would considerably lighten the load, and exonerate the shopkeeper. Would it? Of what would it exonerate him? Of the money paid by the consumer! For if the consumer was to pay the whole of the tax, the consumer would be exonerated by the modification proposed, and not the shopkeeper. In like manner, the generous and compassionate bounty of the right honourable gentleman, in fact, amounted to nothing; because if the consumer really paid the tax, the poor shopkeeper, who was not to pay towards the tax, if he was excused the payment of parochial taxes, was excused from paying that which, according to the right honourable gentleman's argument, was to come out of the pocket of another.
The right honourable gentleman had thought proper to hazard the remark, that the tax would, no doubt, find its level; but that the shopkeepers had not yet found out how to make its distribution. This was an extraordinary thing to say of men, the daily business of whose lives was to lay out large sums
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to purchase articles in the gross, and to draw back and collect the sums so expended by a multitude of minute profits. How strange and idle to impute the sort of ignorance in question to those men, who, of all others, were most in the habits of making such a distribution as that which it had been said they had not discovered how to make! In fact, the laying the tax on the consumer at all was impossible. Upon this occasion he should instance his own receipt tax, which every body, knew was to this day paid by the person who received the money, although he had a legal right to oblige the person paying it to pay for the receipt.
Mr. Fox declared, that though he did not pretend to be above popularity, but, on the contrary, was shocked and affected when it fell to his lot to become unpopular, yet he would, at all times, in spite of unpopularity, stand up an advocate for a tax after it was once proposed, unless, as in the present instance, he thought the tax radically bad, and unfit to remain unrepealed. The present tax was a personal tax, and at the same time partook of the nature of a tax on the consumer in the worst manner, because it left the power of distribution solely at the discretion of the shopkeeper, and, what was more exceptionable, to be by him secretly exercised. The requisite to make a personal tax palatable was, to lay it so that its operation should be general, if not universal. The servant's tax was an unexceptionable personal tax, but, he feared, ill collected. The argument of a worthy alderman was certainly well-grounded in regard to the principle of taxation, though it went a great way farther than he was ready to go upon the subject; but the right honourable gentleman, he thought, went much farther himself, when he had asserted that nine tenths of the revenue depended upon taxes raised upon the principle which the honourable alderman had reprobated—the principle of imposing mere personal taxes, and thoed the peripetite prostih those such as did not affect themselves. Whenever taxes were under consideration, one material defect in the construction of that House manifested itself, and that was, that the city of London, which paid, in general, so large a share of all the taxes, had not a greater proportion of representatives to secure it its due weight in determining of what taxes should consist. The right honourable gentleman, notwithstanding, deserved a tribute of applause for such modifications as he intended to introduce; and, for his own part, having a total aversion to the whole of the bill, he should be glad to discover that, with the aid of the right honourable gentleman, some portion of it might become repealed, if it were vain to hope to see it actually thrown out of parliament. An event of this last desirable and happy nature would rescue the shopkeepers o
secure it its due what honourable sensuch modific
London and Westminster from the burden of an almost intolerable grievance. Anxious to emancipate them from such unmerited oppression, he felt it a duty which, upon the present occasion, he should most chearfully fulfil, to vote in fa-, vour of the motion for an absolute repeal of the act passing during the course of the preceding session.
The committee divided :
For the repeal of the shop tax - 93
Against it - - - - 176 The motion was consequently rejected ; but leave was given to bring in a bill to explain and amend the said act.
MR. Pitt's PLAN FOR THE REDUCTION OF THE NATIONAL
FARLY in this session, Mr. Pitt had taken notice of that part of U his majesty's speech which related to the necessity of providing for the diminution of the national debt; he had at the same time given the House to understand, that such was the present flourishing condition of the revenue, that the annual national income would not only equal the annual national disbursements, but would leave a surplus of considerable magnitude; this surplus, he said, he meant to form into a permanent fund, to be constantly and invariably applied to the liquidation of the public debt. In pursuance of this information to the House, and in order to ascertain the amount of the surplus in question, Mr. Pitt, previous to his entering into the state of the finances, or ways and means for the present year, moved, “ That the several accounts and other papers presented that session, relating to the public income and expenditure, be referred to the consideration of a select committee, and that the said committee be directed to examine and report to the House, what might be expected to be the annual amount of the income and expenditure in future.” This motion was unanimously agreed to, and the select committee having framed their report, laid it before the House on the 21st of March. Mr. Pitt on the 29th, together with the supplies and ways and means for the present year, brought the consideration of the national debt, and his proposition for the diminution of it, formally before the House. After entering at great length into the actual and probable resources of the country, Mr. Pitt said, there was little doubt but that the growing resources of the country, and the contingent receipts of the different sums he had mentioned, would be more than suffi.
cient, without a loan, to discharge the exceedings which our establishments, during the next three or four years, would amount to, beyond their permanent level, as stated in the report. But if it should be otherwise, he nevertheless was cf opinion, that money should rather be borrowed for the discharge of those extraordinary demands, than that the institution of the fund in question should be postponed, or infringed upon at any time after it was established. Mr. Pitt next proceeded to explain the mode he meant to adopt, in order to insure the due application of this fund to its destined object: he proposed, he said, to vest in a certain number of commissioners the full power of disposing of it in the purchase of stock for the public in their own names. These commissioners should receive the annual million by quarterly payments of 250,000l. to be issued out of the exchequer before any other money, except the interest of the national debt itself; by these provisions, the fund would be secured, and no deficiencies in the national revenues could affect it, but such must be separately provided for by parliament. The accumulated compound interest on a million yearly, together with the annuities that would fall into that fund, would, he said, in twenty-eight years, amount to such a sum as would leave a surplus, of four millions annually, to be applied, if necessary, to the exigencies of the state. In appointing the commissioners he should, he said, endeavour to chuse persons of such weight and character as corresponded with the importance of the commission they were to execute. The speaker of the House of Commons, the chancellor of the exchequer, the master of the rolls, the governor and deputy governor of the bank of England, and the accountant general of the high court of chancery, were persons who, from their several situations, he should think highly proper to be of the number. Mr. Pitt concluded by moving, “ That the sum of one million per annum be granted to his majesty, to be vested in commissioners, and to be by them applied to the reduction of the national debt, and that the same be charged upon, and made payable out of, the surplusses, excesses, overplus monies, and other revenues, composing the fund commonly called the Sinking Fund.”
Mr. Fox observed, that the elaborate and far extended speech of the right honourable gentleman, whilst it reminded him how much time had elapsed, suggested also a conviction of the impropriety of trespassing, at the present advanced hour, too long upon the attention of the House; but in the outset of what he had to say, he begged leave to declare that no man in existence was, or ever had been, a greater friend to the principle of a sinking fund'than he was, and ever had shewn himself from the first moment of his political life. He agreed most perfectly with the right honourable gentleman in his ideas of the necessity of establishing an effective sinking fund for the purpose of applying it in diminution of the national debt, however much he might differ with him in
respect to the most prudent and useful mode of making the application, and however much he might differ with him as to many parts of his speech, and a variety of observations it contained.
With respect to the conduct of the committee to whom the papers had been referred, he should not scruple to declare that their mode of taking averages had been not only different from that of every former committee, but totally the reverse of that which had ever been deemed the fairest mode of taking an average. In illustration of this remark, he instanced the produce of the tax on malt, in averaging which, for six years, the committee had stated, that a particular year (the year 1782) was uncommonly deficient. Now, the use of an average had ever been supposed to arise from the averaging a number of years produce, among which years there might be years of extraordinary deficiency, or years of extraordinary plenty. He next pointed out the fallacy of stating the receipt of the present year, which happened to be a year of uncommon rise of revenue, and opposing to it, not the actual expenditure of the present year grounded on the votes of that House; but the probable expenditure of the year 1790. He asked, whether that was a fair comparison of the annual receipt with the annual expenditure, and whetheras the right honourable gentleman had admitted, what indeed no person could deny, viz, that 600,000l. more had been voted for the navy, and 400,000l. more for the army, this year, than appeared under the head of expenditure-it was not manifest, that so far from there being a surplus of 900,000l, there was not a deficiency? He reminded the committee of the difference last year between himself and the right honourable gentleman, respecting their reasoning upon the balances of certain quarters, which had been selected as the most favourable quarters, and said, it now plainly appeared, that if he had at that time calculated the balances, that would result upon the whole of the four quarters, when the year should be completed, somewhat too low, the right honourable gentleman, it was evident, had calculated them much more too high. He reminded them also, that when he had said in argument, on one of those occasions, that he believed there would be some balance, the right honourable Centlemanhas ocho deber werde ich mehr ... gentleman had echoed the words of some balance” with an air of disdain, as if he (Mr. Fox) had talked with ridicule or with contempt of a matter which it was certain would turn out to be a monstrous balance. The fact was now before the committee, and he begged leave to ask whether it was not true, that so far from there being some balance for the present year there was none at all? Though it had turned out to be in