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stigmatized the grants made to Ireland, by the noble lord in the blue riband, in the year 1780, as rash and inconsiderate concessions. He should now be extremely cautious, lest the precipitancy of the present moment might justify, in future, an appellation of keener and more deserved severity.
Mr. Pitt's motion was withdrawn, and a proposition made by Lord North, that the Commissioners of Excise and Customs should be ordered to attend the next day;* carried.
Mr. Pitt moved, "That an amount of the net produce of the taxes for the quarters ending 5th of January, 1784 and 1785, and of those ending 5th of April, 1784 and 1785, should be laid before the house." He took an opportunity of observing, that the new taxes which had been laid on in the last session, afforded such a promise of being productive as he would here make the house feel perfectly satisfied in the choice that had been made of them.
Mr. SHERIDAN took notice of the very great fallibility of general and loose calculations in matters of finance; and seemed to think the right honorable gentleman had relied too much on grounds, that would, when examined minutely, be found to fail him. To multiply by four, Mr: Sheridan said, was certainly no very difficult mode of calculation; but he could not conceive that the last quarter's amount of the produce of the taxes could fairly be stated to be a criterion, by which it could be decided,
* On the 15th, the Commissioners were called in, and directed to take into their consideration the following question; and be ready to deliver their opinions when they should be called upon again to appear before the house:
Question." Whether the resolutions of the Irish parliament of the 12th of February, if carried into execution, are likely to affect the execution of the laws of the Boards of Customs, or Excise, for the protection of trade, in the collection of their revenues; and in what manner? And, also, whether these resolutions would make any alteration, with respect to the duties, drawbacks, bounties, and prohibitions, on the trade and manufactures of this kingdom."
with any tolerable degree of certainty, what the produce of the taxes would be upon the Midsummer and the Michaelmas quarters of the present year. He declared, he believed, that upon inquiry it would be found, that the whole year's produce of several of the right honorable gentleman's taxes of the last session had been paid in the course of the last quarter, which would naturally cause the amount of that quarter's produce to swell in its size, and exceed in a pretty considerable degree the produce of the preceding quarters. The taxes he alluded to, were, he said, the hat license tax, the house tax, the game licenses and deputations, and several other of last year's taxes, that were to be paid in a round sum once every year. From the manner in which the right honorable gentleman had stated his computation of the probable amount of the whole produce of the four quarters of the present year's taxes, the house might possibly be deceived into a belief, that there was not any deficiency in the produce of the right honorable gentleman's taxes of the last year; and that they would really bring the sum for which they had been given, viz. 900,000l. This, however, he had good reason to believe, was by no means likely to turn out to be the fact; on the contrary, he was induced to imagine, that the produce would fall short of 900,000l. in the gross sum of 400,000l. The right honorable gentleman, he observed, had stated, that 190,000l. was to be deducted from the three millions and sixty-six thousand pounds, the amount of the produce of the taxes for the quarter, ending April 5, 1785, the produce of the taxes of the last session for that quarter. Admitting, therefore, for the sake of argument, 190,000l. would be the produce of the other quarters on the same account, still the aggregate would fall considerably short of 900,000l. But he must go farther, and contend, that so large a sum as 190,000l. was not likely to be produced by the taxes of 1785, upon each of the two quarters to come; and that,
for the reason he had already stated, viz. because the whole year's amount of several of the taxes of the last year had been paid in the course of the past quarter. As the right honorable gentleman had declared, the house could not have too much information on the subject before them, Mr. Sheridan said, he should move for an account of the produce of all the taxes of the last year, by which alone the house could determine, how far their amount fell short of the sum for which they had been given; and how far the insinuation, that the right honorable gentleman's taxes were more unexceptionable and efficient than those of other financiers was founded. The question was put and agreed to.
TAX ON COTTONS, COTTON-STUFFS, &c.
A motion was made by Mr. Pitt, for leave to bring in a bill, “ to explain and amend an act passed in the twenty-fourth year of the reign of His present Majesty, for imposing a duty, by excise, on certain cotton manufactures, and to repeal so much of the said bill as imposed a duty on plain cottons and fustians." Mr. Fox seconded the motion. The Earl of Surrey moved an amendment, for the repeal of the act altogether. Mr. Pitt having, in his speech, thrown out an imputation on the evidence of the Manchester manufacturers.
Mr. SHERIDAN rose, not, he said, to vilify the right honorable gentleman, but to declare, that the right honorable gentleman had most unjustly cast aspersions on the Manchester manufacturers, who, by no means, merited such treatment; on the contrary, their evidence was unquestionably founded, and the whole of their conduct had been most laudable. Mr. Sheridan stated, that he had spent part of the summer in Lancashire, and had been a witness to the infinite pains the manufacturers had taken to keep their numerous workmen quiet, and to preserve the peace of the country. He rose principally, Mr. Sheridan said, to impress more strongly the idea suggested by his right honorable friend, viz.
the reprobation of the doctrine of giving that to prejudice, which had been refused to reason. Such doctrine was the way to raise clamor, and to throw the whole country into confusion. It was pointing out a mode of obtaining the repeal of a tax, that could not but be attended with the most mischievous consequences; and therefore, to obviate it, and to prove to the world, that whatever might be the rule of conduct adopted and followed by His Majesty's Chancellor of the Exchequer, as an individual, the house of commons did not act by so strange a rule. He should move an amendment, which was, to insert after the word that, a few lines, the purpose of which amounted to a resolution, " that it appeared to the committee, that the manufacturers of Manchester would be so much aggrieved and injured, if the tax on fustians, cottons, and cotton stuffs, &c. &c. imposed by an act of the last year, were suffered to continue; that the manufacture would be materially detrimented, and, perhaps, entirely ruined; therefore it was the opinion of the committee, that leave be given to bring in a bill to explain and amend,' &c. &c. Mr. Sheridan moved this amendment regularly.
Mr. Rolle charged Mr. Sheridan with having made an inflammatory speech, with a view to excite alarm and discontent in the country. He said, he would not say who it was that went down to Lancashire to stir up the manufacturers, to set them against the taxes, and to promote tumult and discontent. Neither would he say who it was that distributed, or caused to be distributed, seditious and inflammatory handbills, and had them circulated all round the country; but the fact was so and if he could bring the proof home to the party he suspected, he would take the proper steps to have his head stuck upon Temple Bar. Mr. Rolle charged Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Fox with having shifted their ground. The first of them had seconded the motion, and declared he approved highly of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's conduct, and now the right honorable gentleman had said, he would vote against the motion he promised to second; this was, in his opinion, abandoning and deserting ground, once taken, in a most shameful manner.
Mr. Fox said, with regard to the empty threat of having heads stuck upon Temple Bar, he knew not of any act which made circulating handbills a capital offence; but he was ignorant of any such
fact, if the honorable gentleman had alluded to him. His honorable friend, so far from having made an inflammatory speech, tending to alarm the country, and create discontents and clamor against the taxes, had done the direct contrary; his whole speech, and the amendment he had moved, had obviously been calculated to guard against alarms, and to prevent_clamor from arising against other taxes, in consequence of the repeal of the tax on fustians. With regard to the charge of having shifted his ground, he had not shifted any ground; he had said, he approved of the motion, and approved of letting the tax remain on the printed cottons. He did so still; but a point of order having since been started, which struck him to be well founded, he must necessarily vote accordingly. If the honorable gentleman called that shifting his ground, to that accusation he begged leave to plead guilty. With regard to what the honorable_gentleman had said, he would not speak; he presumed the honorable gentleman was too much a man of honor to assert what he knew he could not prove.
Mr. SHERIDAN rose to say, that his right honorable friend must certainly have mistaken the honorable gentleman, because the honorable gentleman had said nothing but what was a defence of his argument; for what was his argument, but an argument to prevent the public from being misled, and thence alarmed? With this view, he had moved an amendment, declaring the reasons for which the house agreed to repeal the tax on fustians. The charge of making inflammatory speeches, lay at the door of the right honorable gentleman opposite to him, if it lay any where, because the right honorable gentleman had said, he repealed the tax on account of the prejudices of the manufacturers, and not because it was burdensome and oppressive.
Sheridan declared he did not think it necessary to make any reply to what the honorable gentleman had not said; and with regard to the handbills, he really knew nothing about them; but he could easily conjecture why the honorable gentleman was so sore about publications. The handbills were not the compositions that hurt him, but compositions less prosaic, but more popular, he was afraid, had made him so sore. [Here a general laugh.]* Mr. Sheridan
* Mr. Sheridan alluded to a popular satire, entitled, “Critiques on the Rolliad;"