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said, he was aware that the honorable gentleman had suspected, that he was either the author of those compositions, or some way or other concerned in them; he did assure him, upon his honor, he was not, nor had he ever seen a line of them till they were in print in the newspaper.
Mr. Rolle said, he held the author of the compositions alluded to, be he whom he would, in sovereign contempt, as well as his works; but as the cap fitted the honorable gentleman and his right honorable friend, they were welcome to wear it. He saw he had touched a sore place. With regard to there being no act to prevent the circulating of seditious handbills, for the sake of creating discontent in the country, if there was no such act, there ought to be one; and if he knew the author, as a member of parliament, he declared he would take the proper steps to have him punished. He persisted in charging Mr. Fox with having shifted his ground, and said no man living should make him abandon his ground either in that house or out of it.
Mr. Sheridan again replied, and said, while the honorable gentleman talked at random, he should take no notice of it; but if he charged him with being concerned in circulating any seditious handbills, he would answer him both there and elsewhere, very plainly, and very coarsely. Mr. Sheridan having said this, touched upon his amendment, which several gentlemen pressed him to give up, to which he consented.
The amendments were disposed of, and the original motion passed.
TAX ON FEMALE SERVANTS.
Mr. SHERIDAN rose, not, he said, to make any very ludicrous remarks on the proposed tax on female servants, though he could not but imagine, if it were persisted in, it would occasion more ridicule than all the cheerfulness of the right honorable gentleman would be able to cope with. He rose to state, that he was seriously of opinion, that it was a most unwise tax, and a tax that the public would never
be easy under. Indeed the right honorable gentleman, in opening it, had fallen into an egregious error, and applied a principle to it that by no means could be supported, as a principle equally applicable to the proposed increase and gradation of increase of the tax on male servants, and to the intended tax on female servants. The keeping a number of male servants was indisputably a luxury; and the making those who chose to keep a number pay in proportion to it, was perfectly fair and reasonable; but the case was far otherwise with female servants. It did not follow, because a family kept any number above two or three, that they were more opulent, and more able to pay taxes, than those who kept only one or two. In many cases, where three or four female servants were kept, the sole reason was the great number of children the family had, and which necessarily required that more servants should be kept to look after them. Mr. Sheridan said what he chiefly rose for was to point out, that in arguing upon the money to be raised to pay the interest of the four millions to be funded, the right honorable gentleman had allowed for 240,000l. just as if that fund really existed; whereas, in fact, there was no such fund. This Mr. Sheridan explained, by stating, that last year Mr. Pitt had proposed raising enough to pay the interest of six millions of navy debt, which he had declared it was his intention to fund this year; but that, in fact, no such money was raised. Through inadvertency also, a circumstance had happened, of which, perhaps, the right honorable gentleman was not apprised; and it was this: in all the bills of the last year, the produce of the tax made the subject of each bill, had been uniformly appropriated to the payment of the interest of the six millions navy. To prove this, Mr. Sheridan read a clause from one of the acts of the last year, and observed, that a similar clause had been inaccurately suffered to be inserted in each bill. It should, therefore, he said, have been a part of the duty of the right honorable
gentleman to have provided that day for raising the 240,000l. as well as the other sums that constituted the 413,0007. he wanted. With regard also to the taxes of last year, which he had given for 600,000%. Mr. Sheridan declared, they neither had, nor, he believed, ever would raise 500,000l. After suggesting this, he recurred to the proposed tax on female servants, which he made some farther remarks upon, and said, it ought at least to be balanced with a tax on single men, who certainly were a description of persons less useful to the community than men who were married, and had families. He commented at great length; and concluded with declaring, that the tax on female servants could be considered in no other light than as a bounty to batchelors, and a penalty upon propagation.
Mr. Pitt having replied,
Mr. Sheridan also spoke in explanation, declaring that the right honorable gentleman either did not or would not understand him. He had not said, that it was the duty of a chancellor of the exchequer immediately to come forward and propose a new tax as soon as he discovered a deficiency in any of his former taxes; what he had said was, that there was no fund in existence that could be applied towards the payment of the interest of the six millions of navy debt, that the right honorable gentleman had last year attempted to provide for. With regard to Lord John Cavendish's taxes, which the right honorable gentleman had so unnecessarily lugged into the debate, he had again and again said they were taxes unavoidably brought forward, when there had been but a very short time to consider them previously to their being proposed; and that, all the circumstances of the case considered, it was easy to account for their being deficient.
Afterwards Mr. Pitt moved a string of resolutions, containing all his proposed taxes. After which the house was resumed, and the report ordered to be brought up on the following day.
WAYS AND MEANS.
On the first resolution, ("That towards raising the supply granted to His Majesty, the further sum of one million be raised by loans on exchequer bills, to be charged upon the first aids to be granted in the next session of parliament; and suck erchequer bills, if not discharged with interest thereupon, on or before the 5th of April, 1786, to be exchanged and received in payment in such manner as exchequer bills have usually been exchanged and received in payment") being read a second time,
Mr. SHERIDAN rose just to remark, that, in his opinion, it was going upon a wrong principle to make imaginary funds liable to pay the interest of a debt, as was the case in the taxes of last year being deemed efficient, and taken for the sum for which they were intended, when, in fact, no such fund existed; it was, therefore, appropriating a non-existing fund, to pay the interest to which the house was pledged.
Mr. Pitt having spoken on the female servant tax,
Mr. Sheridan said, the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Pitt) began his speech with a promise of not going into what he thought his right honorable friend (Mr. Fox) had broached; and he believed the house would join him in regretting, that he had not deviated a little in this instance from the usual mode of fulfilling his promises. He could not help remarking, however, that the right honorable gentleman, as his custom was, had fixed upon the time, of all others, most convenient for his purpose to make his charge when the noble lord (Cavendish) was absent. Every body knew it was not the habit or manner of that noble lord to magnify his own importance, and celebrate his personal exertions at the expense of his coadjutors in office. He never arrogated to himself the distinction of being the minister of the crown, or king's minister; this mode of speech he left for the right honorable gentleman, whom it better became; but he suspected the ho
norable gentlemen with whom he acted might not thank him very cordially for his assiduous endeavors to lessen their official consequence. He did not perfectly understand what was meant by supporting a minister in the general line of his politics, and not participating in the merit or demerit of his He doubted, at the same time, whether some of these, at least, did not in part originate with a right honorable gentlemen (Mr. Jenkinson) whom he saw in his place. He had moved for the extraordinaries of the army, and army estimates, which constituted most of the expense incurred by that fatal war; certainly this was bearing a part in accomplishing the system which it was still part of the present politics not to forget. Where, therefore, the right honorable gentleman's mighty distinction between those who befriended one party, and those who befriended the other, lay, he knew not. But the truth was, his right honorable friend had made a coalition which he had avowed and defended; whilst the right honorable gentleman opposite to him took every opportunity of declaring, that he had made a coalition with a set of men whom he was ashamed of. As to the tax, it struck him in every way objectionable. The right honorable gentlemen imagined that it would not be evaded, because, in the case of single servants, it was only half-a-crown, and in no case above ten shillings. But he wished gentlemen to recollect, that in many families one servant was often kept rather out of charity than from any very urgent necessity. Her wages, to be sure, was trifling; but she would, in consequence of this tax, subject the family where she was, to thirty shillings a year more than they would otherwise pay. He thought, therefore, that the tax operated against humanity; and he would certainly give it all the opposition in his power, both in this and every other stage of its progress.
It was stated by Mr. Jenkinson, in reply," that the tax would