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Pitt had thrown on the late administration, he would undertake most unequivocally to refute. The first quarter, in which his right honorable friend was in office, the civil list incurred no arrear. He assigned reasons why there had been an excess in the other quarters; and, after a variety of arithmetical statements and references, he contended, that he had clearly shewn that his right honorable friend had not been to blame; for that it was impossible for him to know of demands that were to come upon the civil list, after the quarter's accounts were respectively made up, because many of those demands came from abroad, and some of them from so distant a quarter as the East Indies. Having amply dilated on those points, he took notice of the nature of the present application, and read the following extract from His Majesty's speech to his parliament, during Lord Shelburne's administration:
"I have carried into strict execution the several reductions in my civil list expenses, directed by an act of the last session. I have introduced a farther reform into other departments, and suppressed several sinecure places in them. I have by this means so regulated my establishment, that my expenses shall not in future exceed my income.'
He observed upon this, that it was a promise made to parliament, while an administration were in of fice, of which the right honorable gentleman made a part; and that, therefore, the house had some sort of right to expect, that while he was in office, at least, the promise would be kept. The fact, however, he said, was, that it was impossible to confine the civil list within the sum allowed for it. The right honorable gentleman had, therefore, acted prudently and candidly, in declaring, that he would not pledge himself that no future debt should arise. After the sum now asked was voted, the right hon. gentleman must come down again next session and do one of these two things: he must either call upon parliament to grant a larger annuity, or propose a
reduction of the establishments. Whether the esta blishments could be reduced was a question, about which there might be some doubts; but he should have thought it would have been more adviseable for the right honorable gentleman to have stated the whole case to the house; and to have asked, at once, for a sum sufficient to answer every probable demand, not only of the present debt, but every debt that might in future be incurred, if a larger sum was not voted for the civil list, or if the establishments were not reduced. Mr. Sheridan gave Mr. Pitt credit for a due attention to economy; and said, it was very true some of the incidents that made up the article of occasional payments in the quarter ending April 5, 1784, would not again happen; and, as to, the expense attending a change of administration, that he was persuaded the right honorable gentleman was sincere in wishing it might not very soon be incurred. He contended farther, that the present application was a virtual repeal of Mr. Burke's bill; and, therefore, to prevent a repetition of a similar circumstance, he recommended the right honourable gentleman to ask, at once, for a sum equal to the occasions of the civil list, so that there might not be any farther necessity of applying to parliament for relief.
After this speech a long contest ensued on the point, whether any excess was incurred or not in the administration of the Duke of Portland. At length the sum of £60,000, moved for the discharge of arrears, was granted without a division.
WAYS AND MEANS.-TAX ON QUALIFICATIONS, REGISTERS, AND LICENCES.
Mr. Sheridan said, the taxes the right honorable gentleman had that day proposed, appeared to him. to be, in general, unexceptionable; but if he were to object to any, it would be to those relative to game, because he could only consider them as proposed with a view to give vigour to the game laws, which. were a system of oppression and tyranny; if they
were not proposed with that view they would not produce a shilling.
Mr. Pitt said, he was as little a friend to the arbitrary spirit of the game laws as Mr. Sheridan.
Mr. Sheridan said, then let the right honorable gentleman move for a repeal of those laws; that done, his taxes on qualifications will be wise, salutary, and efficient. What, Mr. Sheridan asked, did the committee imagine was the reason of gentlemen's being so desirous of this tax, and so willing to pay five pounds instead of two towards it, but with a view to strengthen and secure themselves in the possession of that monopoly, which the abominable and despotic system of the game laws was calculated to create? As soon as the business was over, he said, he would move for leave to bring in a - bill to repeal the game laws; and, he trusted, he should have the support of the right honorable gentleman in carrying it through the house.
Mr. Sheridan rose again, and said, he would not immediately move for leave to bring in a bill, as he had mentioned, but he would certainly bring the matter into consideration in a few days; because he was not only convinced that our game-laws were a disgrace to us as a free people, but that the game laws made the poachers.
POSTAGE OF LETTERS.
Mr. Sheridan mentioned the gross evasion of the post-office acts of parliament, by a great number of letters sent to town by diligences, stagecoaches, and other carriages. All the great trading towns in particular, he said, carried on this practice, each vehicle having a regular letter-box. These carriages, he said, would still continue a favorite species of conveyance, on account of their great expedition.
Mr. Pitt mentioned the imposition practised on the post-office by the concealing letters in newspapers, or by writing short scraps on their edges.
Mr. Sheridan advised the right honorable gentleman by no means to throw any impediment in the way of the circulation of newspapers. Let him think a moment what an essential instrument of revenue a newspaper was. It was not merely the stamp, but every advertisement it contained was a source of benefit to the revenue, nay, many paragraphs paid duty. Perhaps there was not an instance of any one object that paid so much of its entire receipt into the public coffers!
Mr. Sheridan raised a smile in the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he talked of paragraphs paying duty, and Mr. Pitt asked across the table, if Mac Ossian's manufacture paid duty.
AMENDMENTS UPON INDIA BILLS.
Mr. SHERIDAN remarked, that if gentlemen on either side of the house went from the question, and were only mindful of charging persons in India with peculation, and defending their own conduct; or proving that, although they had been delinquents, there were still greater than themselves, there would be no end to the business; and the house would refer the hearing to a new judicature, as well as their trial;—therefore he hoped to hear no more deviations; but that gentlemen would stick to the question, and point out their objections to the bill, and not to the persons that had been the occasion of its being made. He then noticed, that the bill had been so altered, so mangled, and so transformed, that it did not appear like the same bill. Indeed, it ought not to be called an alteration, but a total transformation, different both in object and principle to the former bill; and the silence of the two right honorable gentlemen (Pitt and Dundas) was to him proof that they saw the necessity of a re-commitment. But if that was not, the very appearance in the first page of the new printed bill
was;-for there, by the references, it was plain that twenty-one new clauses were added; which were to be known by the letters A B C D E F G HIK L M N O P Q R S T V W; therefore it was to be hoped some gentleman would add three more clauses for X Y Z, to make the alphabet complete; which would then serve as a horn-book for the present ministry. The old clauses, now left out, were referred to, and known by being in black letter at the bottom of the column; where, to be sure, they stood in mourning for the folly of their parents; and pointed out the slovenly manner in which the bill was originally drawn; notwithstanding the right honorable gentleman (Sir G. Howard) in the red riband, had praised it for its accuracy;— accurate it could not be, when twenty-one new clauses were added, and the rest totally altered in the committee. As a proof that it was necessary to re-commit the bill for the honor of the house, he would convince them by reading a part of one of the clauses; wherein a dead person was to give an account how he came by certain papers. He then read, "That papers, containing the account of their effects, were to be sent to His Majesty, in his Court of King's Bench, and under the seals of two or more judges of the said supreme court; and one or more of the judges of the said supreme court shall deliver the same to the agent or agents of the party or parties requiring the same; which said agent or agents (or, in case of his or their death, the person into whose hands the same shall come) shall deliver the same to one of the clerks in court, of His Majesty's Court of King's Bench, in the public office; and make oath, that he received the same from the hands of one or more of the judges of such court in India; or, if such agent be dead, in what manner the same came into his hands."
The honorable gentleman read a variety of other clauses; and pointed out wherein they were worded so as, in his mind, to be perfect nonsense; and de