Page images
PDF

<-: imatc was accordingly made, v hich stated that 979,0001. in .addition to the relief afforded to ihe civil list, by taking 83,0001. from it to other departments, would prevent the necessity of any further recurrence to parliament. It was said that this estimate fell short of the charge; but how this happened to be the case, was left in the dark, and must continue to be so till the appointment of a committee with additional powers.

Sir. T. then went through a rariety of statements of expenditure deduced from the accounts •before the House, with remarks

- upon them, tending to shew the profusion and extravagance which prevailed iu different departments. It was obvious, he said, either that there was some person who gave bad advice to the Prince Regent, or at least some person who ab

- stained from giving good advice; for it was impossible not to believe

4bat his Royal Highness was kept

•in the dark upon these subjects.

~fle concluded by moving, " That

-'a select committee be appointed

to take into consideration the ac

; «>unt presented to the House upon

the 20th of March last by Mr.

•Arbuthnot, by the command of

his Royal Highness the Prince

Repent, relating to his Majesty's

civil list, and to examine the said

account, and report the same as it

*hall appear to them, together

-with theirobservations thereupon,

to the House; and that the said

'cftnmittee have power to send for

persons, papers, and records.

-• The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Mid, that if the Right Honourable

Ocntleman had omitted the latter

clause oFIns-iuovion, be should

have given it his approbation, as it was but anticipating his own intention; but in his opinion no case had been made out to warrant giving powers to a committee never before granted upon the subject of the immediate revenues of the crown. By taking too narrow a view of the accounts Upon the table, he had presented thein ina fallacious light, and had drawn unfair conclusions. The Chancellor then went into a short review of the accounts, and particularly considered the expenditure since 181 li which had been charged with peculiar extravagance. He said, that in this period, Parliament had thrown several burdens upon the civil list for political purposes, and for the establishment at Windsor, which made a great part of the apparent augmentation. The attention of the House had especially been drawn to the three quarters from April, 1814, to January, 1815, which was taking the most unfavourable portion of the year, as it included aU the charges ibr the reception of the Royal Visitors. The remaining branch of the civil list expenditure, was that of the occasional payments, chiefly relating to diplomatic expenses, which he thought ought to be provided for by a distinct grant, as forming no part of the expenditure of the King's household. On the whole, he allowed that it was proper, for the purpose of inquiring into the propriety of some alteration of the plan of the civil list expenditure, as well as into the reason of the excess in the last year's expense, that a committee should be appointed, but he saw no necessity for arming it with extraordinary ordinary powers. He therefore moved as an amendment the omission of the latter clause of Mr. Tierney's motion.

[graphic]

The remainder of the debate, in which several members on each side took a part, turned upon the propriety of giving these powers to a committee; they «ho supported the original motion contending, that without them the committee would prove as ineffectual as all others had been ; while the opposcrs spoke of such an inquisition as indelicate and disrespectful to the 01 own, and endeavoured to lighten some of the charges which had been brought of extravagance in the expenditure. That however a strong impression had been made by the statements produced, was manifest on the division, when the amendment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was carried by no greater majority than 127 to 94.

Mr. Tterney determined upon making another effort for the same purpose. A select committee having been appointed for examining into the state of the • i\ il list, be rose, on May the 8th, m order to make a motion on the subject. He said, that he had made two suggestions to the committee; 1. that the great object ought to be to examine in what way the enormous expenditure of the civil list had been superintended; 2. that the committee ought to give to the House some detailed estimates, in order to ascertain what reasonable bounds ought to be put to the expenditure for the royal family. To the first ef these, the committee had fully eonscnted : with the last they only complied in part, being of opinion,

that such conduct would be indecorous in the committee; but they recommended that a reotJQni,f»r the purpose should be made in the House. The right Uw. g«k->_' tleman then entered into a state- .' ment of particulars of the accounts in the Lord Chamberlain's depatt-. ment, in order to shew the.vaatand growing increase of expenditure, which made a particular inquiry necessary; and he eonreluded with, moving, That tup select committee appointed to take into consideration tlje account pre-. sented to the House on theSOth of last March by command of tluPrince Regent, have power to send for Mr. T. B. Mash, of the Lord Chamberlain's office.

Lord Castlereagh first spoke in reply, and endeavoured to she>v, that there was no necessity to deviate from '* the respeetfiU course which had always been adopted towards the crown." For this purpose he gave explanations of various articles which had been adduced by the mover.

Mr. Rose confessed that in all former applications respecting the civil list, the accounts had been furnished in such a way as to throw no light whatever on the subject; but he said that at present suchminutedetails had beengiven, that every one might judge of its

state without examining witnesses, viva voce.

After several other member^ had spoken, and Mr. Tierney hail, made his answer, the House Ui-. yided, when the motion was ne» , gatived by 175 against 119} the minority beiDg not only considerable in number, but highly rer spectable in weight and character.

The report of the select com-
mittee

mittee referred to, was afterwards printed by order of the House.

Among the benefits expected from the conclusion of a general peace in the last year, scarcely any was more cordially greeted by the people in this country than a liberation from that burdensome and vexatious impost,' the property tax, which was necessarily to expire at a certain period after the signature of a definitive peace. In the suspicion, however, that ministers might be tempted to repew it, as the easiest mode of providing for the great demands which would be occasioned by the winding up of the war expenses, petitions were drawn up in almost all the principal places in the kingdom, to be laid before parliament, warmly deprecating such a measure. Whatever might have been the intention of the government, this decided expression of the national desire had the effect of causing the adoption of other financial plans ; ami on Feb. 9, the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared his intention of submitting to the House of Commons several important measures relative to the public finances ; of which the property tax would not be one, unless in the event of the non-ratification of the treaty with America. On the 20th, at a committee of ways and means, the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced his plan of new taxes to supply the place of the want' of the property tax as far as five millions, of which, however, only the amount of 3,730,000/. was at that time brought forward. Several of the taxes, especially those which bore hard on trade and manufactures, were strongly opposed, and vari

ous modifications were made, the general system being persisted in, till the events in France replunggd the country into all its difficulties.

On April the 17 th the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved the postponement of the second reading of the assessed taxes bill, and declared his purpose of referring, on a following day, the acts relating to the property tax to the committee of ways and means, with the intention of moving the continuance of the same. This took place on the 1.0th, when a long and animated debate ensued, which principally turned upon that political state of affairs, which occa* sioned a recurrence to this finan- ■ cial measure. In the course of it, Mr. Brand moved as an amende ment, the adjournment of the debate till that day fortnight, on the ■ground that it was at present problematical, whether we should be in a state of peace or war. The Housedividingon the amendment, it was rejected by 183 votes to 58, and the original motion was agreed to. On the 20th, a resolution from the report of the committee was read, stating its opinion in favour of granting, for the term of one year, the same duty on property as had been laid by the last consolidated act, which, after the defeat of another proposed amendment for delay, was agreed to, and leave was given to bring in a bill accordingly.

Of the further progress of the bill it is unnecessary to give a detailed narrative, since the measure was fully determined upon; and many of those who disapproved of the tax were convinced of its necessity at the present juncture. A motion by Mr, Grettfell, fbr restraining straining the commissioners of the tax from disclosing the information they obtained in the discharge of their duty, was regarded as an important improvement, and was ag.eed to. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then moved that provision should be made in the bill for rendering the assessments of the year, ending April 5, 1815, the basis of those for the year ending April 1816, and that no new assessments be made, which was carried. A motion by Lord Milton for an instruction to the committee, that they have power to amend the act, was negatived. The third reading of-tha bill took place on May the 5th, after a division of 160 in its favour against 29. - :.

It passed the House of Lords on the 11th, after a single division of 23 contents to 8 noncontents.

In the debates on this bill, particular objections were made to the continuance on the same assessments on landed rents, although the great fall of product had in many instances rendered their payment impossible. The objection had not been attended to during the passing of the billj but at length it occurred with so much force, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a representation on the subject to the Lords of the Treasury, which induced them to enter a minute of their opinion, dated November 14. By this minute, relief was allowed to tenants at rack rent, and to occupiers of estates, in case of proof of new leases at reduced rents, or reduced annual value of estates, for the year commencing in April, 1815; and a circular

was issued from the tax-office to the commissioners of the pjppcrty tax, with diicctions tor carryingthe same into execution.

The benevolent zeal of tl»e opposers of the slave trade was in this session exerted in an endeavour to pass a bill, which was the occasion of much discussion. On April 18, Mr. Barham, after nn introductory speech, in which he mentioned it as a well known fact, that at the present moment a large British capital was employed in this trade, the profits of which had become enormous, moved for leave to bring in a bill " to prohibit British subjects, or persons resident in the united kingdom, from lending capital, or doing other acts, to assist in carrying on the slave trade to colonies belonging to foreign states; or persons residing in this country from lending capital, or committing other acts, the tendency of which was to assist in carrying on the slave-trade of foreign colonies."

Mr. Wtiberforce expressed his full concurrence in this measure, and leave was granted for bringing in the bill.

On May 5th, the House being in a committee on the bill, Mr. Baring objected to it, as it was to have an immediate operation in the different quarters of the world. He also particularly objected to the clause which punished as felons those who lent any money on mortgage, bond, or loan, in any of the Wands which still trafficked in slaves, which, he said, would at once extinguish the trade that existed between this country and the Spanish settlements, since it would be impossible to carry it on without that species of credit

which

■which wte made criminal by the proposed act. With respect to the'first objection, after some discussion, a' clause was adopted, that the" bill should have operation within three mouths after its emwtment, in Europe, Africa, and the- West Indies; and within six, beyond the Cape of Good Hope. Different amendments proposed of the other clause objected to by Mr. Baring were rejected on divisions of the committee. The bill does not appear to have met with any further opposition in the House of Commons.

On June 1st, the second reading of the bill in the House of Lords was moved by the Marquis <•/ Lanstloicne, which being done, it was committed. Being brought under discussion on the 3d, the Earl of Westmoreland objected to its provisions on account of the risk to which innocent persons would be exposed by them. It appeared to him that any person in this country lending money by his a^ent which might be applied to the slave traffic, though entirely without his knowledge, would be liable to be tried where the act was committed, which might be in the West Indies, or on the ctfest of Africa. Lord Ellenborougk ~$b strongly nrgued against a

_ nrtasure by which a crime, very looSfely described, was to be regarded as felony. No one more ardently than himself wished for the abolition of the slave trade

'ill over the world; but he could not give his consent to such crude arts of legislation as that before their lordships -, and he recommended its postponement. The Marquis of Lansdounc then pro

posed some amendments, with which the bill was printed.

The report of the bill being moved by the Marquis on the 16th, the Earl of Westmoreland renewed his objections to it, which he said had not at all been removed by the amendments introduced since it was last under discussion. IJe understood that furtiier amendments were to be proposed;. and not wishing to object to the principles of the bill, he moved for taking the report into consideration on that day se'onight. Lord Elletiborough said, that when~the bill first met his eye, it was n\uch more defective in mercy and in sense than any bill he had Cut known. He doubted whether it would not be better to reject at once such a crude production, as the labour of reducing it to an;. thing like a proper shape would be incalculable, it not only advanced at once to transportation for 14 years, but rendered several things liable to this punishment which were no crimes at all. After some more observations, the bill was ordered to be committed in the next week.

The linal discussion of the bill took place on June 30th, when it was opposed by the Lord Chancellor, and Lord Kllenborough. The latter, in his forcible way of speaking, called it " an emanation of that fanatical irregularity of mind, which would render that excellent measure, the abolition of the slave trade, odious in the West Indies." On the motion for bringing up the report, the house divided, when there appeared, for the motion 19, against it *24. The bill was therefore lost, though it had

the

« PreviousContinue »