Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

id he, at first, belipon inquiry bea Marybone, aid another villages were parishes, and they were no

seventeen of which were assessed for the city of Westminster alone, twelve for the city of London, and twelve more for the villages adjacent; so that the county of Middlesex paid fortyone parts out of the fifty-nine of the produce of the tax. Mr. Fox reasoned upon this statement, and declared that he could scarcely have imagined, considering the superior opulence of the city of London, compared to the city of Westminster, that the latter should have paid seventeen parts of the produce of the tax, while the former only paid twelve parts; nor could he, at first, believe that the villages in Middlesex paid another twelve, till upon inquiry he found, that under the head of villages were comprehended Marybone, High Holborn, Wapping, the out-parishes, and those non-descript districts which, though accurately speaking, they were not parts of the three cities, if he might so denominate London, Westminster, and their environs, were generally considered as parts of the metropolis. He compared this with the proportion paid by the rest of the kingdom, and said, that though he could not be of opinion with those who thought that the representation of London, Westminster, and Middlesex should be exactly in the proportion of their payment of the taxes, yet that forty-one parts out of fifty-nine was so monstrous a disproportion, that every man who barely heard it stated, must be startled at it, and must feel conviction that the tax was most partial and unjust in its operation and pressure.

Mr. Fox declared, that upon an examination of the assessment throughout the kingdom it would be discovered, that an hundred pounds was all that was assessed for some whole counties, and not above fifty for others. The partiality of the tax, therefore, was so palpable, that he could not see how the right honourable the chancellor of the exchequer could resist the application for its repeal with any colour of reason or of candour. He contended, that the favourite argument of the competition of shopkeepers, which had formerly been resorted to as a proof, that they would lay the tax on their customers, was of itself a proof that the consumer did not pay it, and consequently a confirmation of the argument, that it fell totally on the shopkeeper. He instanced, in a variety of ways, the hardship of thus singling out one description of persons to pay a tax that the rest of the subjects were exempted from, and forcibly argued the injustice of that House insisting upon continuing a tax, to which they did not contribute one single shilling. Unless the bankers were selected, members of parliament could not be said to pay any thing towards it; and if bankers were assessed, what became of the argument of the consumers paying the tax? For surely it would not be pretended that bankers could lay any part of the tax on their customers. He shewed, that so far from shops being an advantage to the houses to which they belonged, in many instances they produced an opposite effect. He mentioned those houses with shops, which on account of their situation were let at high rents, and the shopkeepers of which hoped to assist themselves by letting lodgings. Every gentleman must be aware, that lodgings in houses without shops were deemed preferable to lodgings in houses with shops. In that particu. lar, therefore, and in a variety of others, houses with shops were less proper to be loaded with an additional house tax than other houses.

He contended that it was ridiculous to persist in saying that the consumer paid the tax, when the shopkeepers knew and declared, and were ready to declare on oath, that they paid it themselves. If the shopkeepers came again to the bar, and said, “ we pay the tax, and as it affects us solely, we beg to be relieved from it;" would that House say, “no, you do not pay the tax, we pay it, though you do not know it, and we choose to continue to pay it?” He dwelt on the absurdity of such a mode of reasoning, and said, it would be much better to give up the tax, and adopt some other less objectionable, and less objected against. Speaking of the assessments, he said they were proofs of the strenuous means resorted to, in order to force the tax to become efficient, and were in many instances capricious and extravagant. Mr. Fox instanced Mr: Wells, the ship-builder's yard, and that of a wholesale block-maker for shipping, which were assessed as retail shops, because some of the workmen occasionally sold a few of the chips; and also Greenland dock, because part of the sediment and skum was sometimes disposed of.

After urging a great variety of arguments, Mr. Fox said, that though he knew the house tax to be a very bad mode of taxation, yet if it was thought right to lay an additional tax on houses, he would recommend a general additional tax, as a more equitable measure at least than the shop tax. He concluded a very able and animated speech, with moving for leave to bring in a bill to repeal the act imposing certain du- ties on shops.

The motion was seconded by Mr. Lambton, a young member, who had just taken his seat for the city of Durham, and who de clared that he rejoiced in the opportunity of opening his lips, for the first time within those walls, with a remonstrance against a partial, oppressive, and unjust measure. Mr. Fox was also supported by Sir Gegory Page Turner, Sir Benjamin Hammet, Mr. Mainwaring, Aldermen Sawbridge, Newnham, Watson, and Le Mesurier, Sir Watkin Lewes, and Mr. Henry Thornton. The motion was strenuously opposed by Mr. Pitt. Sir James Johnstone

said, he had been a voter for the shop tax, on account of the legal murder of the hawkers and pedlars which it had occasioned.

Mr. Fox rose, not, he said, to speak upon a question to which he had already spoken so fully, but merely to notice what had fallen from the honourable baronet, relative to what the honourable baronet had called the legal murder of the hawkers and pedlars.” That expression, Mr. Fox said, had reminded him of a matter which he meant to have taken notice of in his first speech, but it had accidentally escaped him. The idea of abolishing hawkers and pedlars had originally been held out as the boon or douceuro to the shopkeepers, to induce them to submit the more readily to the payment of the shop-tax, but, as gentlemen might recollect, the idea was afterwards departed from and given up, and only a slight regulation respecting hawkers and pedlars had taken place. Had they, however, been abolished entirely, the circumstance could not have proved beneficial to the shopkeepers of London and Westminster; it was therefore extremely unfair to urge the operation of the measure taken respecting hawkers and pedlars as an argument against the shopkeepers.

payment to induce out as the

Upon a divisjon there appeared,
Tellers.

Tellers.
Mr. Ald. Sawbridge 147. – Noes Mr. Rose $103.

S Mr. Rousel
| Mr. Ald. Newnhams"
So it passed in the negative.

sel. 783

THE PRINCE OF Wales's DEBTS.

April 30.

N the 20th of April, a subject was brought forward in the House

of Commons by Mr. Alderman Newnham, which had for some time before strongly engaged the attention and feelings of the pub. lic; namely, the embarrassed state of the finances of the Prince of Wales. The establishment of his royal highness's household took place upon his coming of age, in the year 1783, during the administration of the Duke of Portland. It is well known that a great difference of opinion subsisted at that time between the great personage, with whom the final settlement of the affair rested, and the persons, whose duty it was to give him their advice upon the subject, respecting the sum to be allowed for that purpose. Upori

VOL. III.

a full consideration of what was thought becoming the credit of the nation and the exalted rank of the heir apparent to the throne, the great increase in the value of every article of expenditure, and the æconomy of such a liberal provision as might totally supersede the necessity of incurring debt, the ministers of that day are said to have proposed, that an annual income should be settled upon him by parliament of 100,000l. This proposition is said to have been not only entirely disapproved of by the king, but rejected with expressions of such marked resentment, as to make the immediate resignation of those ministers more than probable. In this emergency the Prince of Wales, who had early manifested a favourable opinion of that party, interposed, and signified his desire, that the whole business should be left to the king. He declared his readiness to accept of whatever provision the king in his wisdom and goodness might think most fit; and, at the same time, expressed his earnest wishes, that no misunderstanding should arise between the king and his then ministers, on account of any arrangement, in which his personal interest only was concerned. In consequence of this interference the affair appears to have been accommodated, and an allowance of 50,000l. a year; payable out of the civil list revenue, was settled upon his royal highness. :)

A very few years experience made it but too manifest, that this provision was inadequate to the purpose for which it was designed. In 1786 the prince was found to have contracted a debt to the amount of about 100,000l. exclusive of 50,000l. and upwards expended on Carlton-house. He was no sooner acquainted with the embarrassed state of his affairs, and the great distress, in which it necessarily involved a considerable number of his creditors, than he came to a resolution of taking some effectual measures for their relief. His first application was to the king his father, upon whose affection alone he wished to rely, and to whose judgment he declared his readiness to submit his past and to conform his future conduct. By his majesty's directions, a full account of the prince's affairs were laid before him; but (whether it was from any dissatisfaction with those accounts, or with any other parts of the prince's conduct, or from some other cause, has not transpired) a direct refusal to afford him any relief was conveyed to his royal highness through one of his principal officers of state. In consequence of this refusal, the Prince of Wales appears to have conceived himself bound in honour and justice to have recourse to the only expedient that was now left him. His determination was prompt and manly. The day after he received the message from the king, he dismissed the officers of his court, and reduced the establishment of his household to that of a private gentleman; he ordered his horses to be sold, the works at Carlton-house to be stopped, and such parts, as were not necessary for his personal use, to be shut up. From these savings an annual sum of 40,000l, was set apart, and vested in the hands of trustees, for the payment of his debts.

It was in these circumstances of private distress and public spirit, that the expedient was suggested to his royal highness by sea veral respectable members of the House of Commons, of appealing to the justice and generosity of the nation in parliament. To this measure the prince appears to have assented, not more from a natural wish to free himself from his pecuniary embarrassments, than from a desire to do away any bad impression, that the misfortune of having incurred the royal displeasure, and the consequent refusal of affording him any relief, might have left upon the minds of the public. Accordingly, on the day already mentioned, Mr. Al. derman Newnham demanded, in his place, of the chancellor of the exchequer, whether it was the intention of his majesty's ministers to bring forward any proposition for rescuing the Prince of Wales from his present embarrassed and distressed situation ? For though his conduct, under the difficulties with which he laboured, reflected the highest honour upon his character, yet he thought it would bring indelible disgrace upon the nation, if he were suffered to remain any longer in his present reduced circumstances. To this question Mr. Pitt replied, that it was not his duty to bring forward a subject of the nature that had been mentioned, except by the command of his majesty. It was not necessary therefore that he should say more, in answer to the question put to him, than that he had not been honoured with such a command. Upon this Mr. Newnham gave notice of his intention to bring the subject regu, larly by a motion before the House on the 4th day of May.

In the mean time the friends of the Prince of Wales were inde. fatigable in their endeavours to procure the support of the independent members of parliament to the proposed motion; and at several meetings which were held for that purpose, their numbers were so considerable as to give cause of serious alarm to the minister. On the 24th of April, Mr. Pitt, after requesting that Mr. Newnham would inform the House more particularly of the nature of the motion he intended to make, adverted to the extreme delicacy of the subject; and declared, that the knowledge he possessed of many circumstances relating to it, made him extremely anxious to persuade the House, if possible, to prevent the discus-· sion of it. Should, however, the honourable member persist in his determination to bring it forward, it would be absolutely necessary to lay those circumstances before the public; and however distressing it might prove to him as an individual, from the profound respect he had for every part of the royal family, he should discharge his duty to the public, and enter fully into the subject. At the same time Mr. Rolle, an adherent of the minister, who distinguished himself greatly by his zeal upon this occasion, declaxed, that the question involved matter, by which the constitution, both in church and state, might be essentially affected ; and that if the friends of the Prince of Wales persisted in their attempt, it would be necessary to enquire into those circumstances also. What the circumstances so solemnly adverted to by Mr. Pitt in this conversation were, the House was left, for the present, to conjecture. The menace thrown out by Mr. Rolle was well known to allude to the connection between the prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert, a lady of a very respectable Ronan catholic family, to whom he had for some time manifested a strong attachment. For, notwithstanding the possibility of a marriage between those two parties, was ef

. . . Y 2

« ZurückWeiter »