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CHA P. ment, after having recurred in so important a mo
ment to the sense of his people. He entertained a 3784 just and confident reliance, that the assembly was
animated with the sentiments of loyalty and attachment to the constitution, which had been so fully manifested in every part of the kingdom, The objects particularly recommended to their attention, were the alarming progress of frauds in the revenue, the framing of such commercial regu. lations as were immediately necessary, and the providing for the good government of our possessions in the East Indies. Upon this subject, parliament would not lose fight of the effect which the mea. sures they adopted might have on our own constitution, and our dearest interests at home. He had no wish, but to consult the prosperity of his people, by a constant attention to every object of national concern, by an uniform adherence to the true principles of our free constitution, and by supporting and maintaining in their just balance the rights and privileges of every branch of the legis. lature. An address conformable to the speech having been moved, a debate arose on the expres, fions of gratitude to the king, for having dissolved the late parliament; and an amendment was proposed, to leave out such parts of the address as referred to that subject, which was negatived by a great ma. jority. As his majesty's speech implied a censure of the former parliament, and particularly of Mr. Fox's East India bill, Mr. Burke undertook the justification of opposition and the cenfure of their adversaries, and on the 14th of June made a mo, tion for an address to the king, representing and
vindicating the proceedings of the last parlia. CHAP. ment, and criminating the present ministers. The remonstrance* dwelt particularly on the rectitude
1784 and expedience of the late East India bill, and on the dreadful consequences likely to ensue from the dissolution. Though both the speech and proposed statement were replete with ingenuity, yet the main arguments being necessarily a repetition of what had been frequently urged before, the motion was negatived without a division. Firmly established as the minister, supported by the people through their recently appointed representatives, as well as chosen by the king, Mr. Pitt was called to exercise his talents for performing the duties of so arduous a situation. Although a year and a half had now elapsed since the conclusion of peace, the contentions of party had hitherto prevented the adoption of any effectual measures to recover the country from the miserable state to which it had been reduced by an expensive and ruinous war. Commerce was still stagnant, the national credit depressed, and the funds, after an interval of peace, at the lowest price of war; the public income, unequal to the expenditure even in its full amount, was at present greatly diminished by fraud; and our
* He said, he intended his motion as an epitaph on his departed friend, the last parliament; that he had, on fome occasions, written long epitaphs to the memory of those that he honoured and respected ; and, on the present occasion, he chose to follow the corpse to the sepulchre, and go through the ceremony of saying, “ ashes to alhes, and duit to dust,” in sure and certain hope, through the merit of the good works of the last parliament, that it would have a glorious and joyful resurrection, and become immortal,
CHAP important concerns in India without any
effectual plan of beneficial arrangement; the country, so State of the situated, required the efforts of the minister to raise empire when drooping credit; to revive the funds; to promote the miniftry be- just and beneficial government of India; to improve
the income, by suppressing fraudulent deduction, and by positive additions ; to stimulate the national industry, enterprise, and skill, to the highest improvement of our mercantile capability; and to pro
mote manufactures and commerce, the sources of Obje&s public and private wealth. Such were the objects proposes to to which, partly the circumstances of the country, pursue.
and partly the prevalent opinion of the times, called the attention of Mr. Pitt, who was just commencing an administration long and important; in which the counsels and conduct of the minister, whether wise or unwise, right or wrong, stamp the history of these realms, their dependencies and connections, for the last fixteen years of the eighteenth century; an æra more awfully momentous, involving greater and more extensive interests of enlightened, energetic, and efficacious Man, than any century in the annals of human nature.
The first ministerial efforts of Mr. Pitt were directed to finance. Before he proceeded to new imposts, or new regulations for the advancement of revenue, he attempted to render the present taxes as productive as possible, by preventing the defalca. tions of fraud. He had bestowed very great pains in collecting information respecting the various fubjects, modes, and details of smuggling. The former ministers having also in view the suppression of this unlawful traffic, had in the last sellion proposed a
His first efforts are directed to finance,
Bill for the
committee for inquiring into those illicit practices; CHAP. three reports were delivered, containing very ample
1784 materials; and Mr. Eden, chairman of the conmittee, having employed his usual industry and acuteness in investigating these minute and complicated topics, had moved the following resolution, declaratory of the result, That the illicit practice had greatly increased; the public revenue was annually defrauded to the extent of not less than two millions; and these enormities and national lofles merited the early and serious attention of the legislature.
Soon after the meeting of the new par- prevention of liament, the subjects of these reports, and of the smuggling. laws in being for the prevention of smuggling, were referred to a committee of the whole house. On the second of June, the chancellor of the exchequer moved for leave to bring in a bill for the more effectual prevention of smuggling. The objects of the proposition were, to extend the bounds of the hovering laws, which had limited the distance from fhore within which seizures could be made; to prevent ships from carrying arms, without a licence from the admiralty; smuggling ships once captured were never to be returned ; ships of a certain description, adapted to smuggling, were never to be built ; and clearances were to be regulated, so as to prevent ships clearing out in ballast, and afterwards going on the smuggling trade. In the progress of the bill, a variety of improvements were suggested ; and, after considerable discussion, it passed into a law.
Among various articles of illicit trade, the principal commodity was tea. It had appeared before the
CHAP. committee on smuggling, that only five millions
five hundred thousand pounds of tea were sold annu. 2784
ally by the East India company, whereas the an. nual consumption of the kingdom was believed to exceed twelve millions; so that the contraband traffic in this article was more than double the legal. The remedy which the minister devised for this evil, was to lower the duties on tea to fo small an amount, as to make the profit inadequate to the risk. In this trade, the rate of freight and insurances to the shore was about 25 per cent., and the insurance on the inland carriage about 10 per cent. more; in all 35 per cent. The duty on tea, as it then stood, was about 50 per cent.; so that the smuggler had an advantage over the fair dealer of 15 per cent. As this regulation would cause a deficiency in the revenue of about 600,000l. per annum, he proposed to make good the same by an additional window tax. This tax (he faid) would not be felt as an additional burden, but ought to be considered as a commutation, and would prove favourable to the subject *. But the principal benefit which he ex. pected from this measure, was the absolute ruin of the smuggling trade, which subsisted almost entirely on the profit of their teas. Another benefit would be, the timely and neceffary relief it would afford to the East India company. By this regulation they
. A house (he faid), for instance, of nine windows, which would be rated at los. 6 d., might be supposed to consume seven pounds of tea; the difference between the old duties on which, and the new duty proposed, might at an average amount to il. 5s. 10d. ; so that such a family would gain by the commutation 158. 4d.