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would find a vent for thirteen, instead of five, millions of pounds of tea, and would be enabled to employ twenty more large fhips in their fervice. This was the bill fince fo well known under the title of the COMMUTATION ACT.

against and

Oppofition in both houfes denied this tax to be Arguments commutative: tea, though a commodity of general for it. use, still was an article of luxury; whereas the admiffion of light into houses was indispensably neceffary; and thus all perfons, whether they drank tea or not, were compelled to pay a tax. The gain to the company might be confiderable, but muft be derived from the people, without any return; the prefent was a new and pofitive tax, and not a fubftitution of one for another. This bill was farther cenfured, as a measure of finance; tea, it was faid, was a most eligible object for taxation, which produced to the revenue near a million fterling annually. If once given up, it could never be recovered, and five times the quantity of tea confumed yearly that had formerly been used, by the new duty would not produce an equal revenue. It was farther contended, that it would not affect the fuppreffion of illicit traffic; the price of tea on the continent was 7 per cent. cheaper than at the company's fales, and 5 per cent. was allowed to the company: thefe added to the 12 per cent. duty, it was afferted, would be a fufficient compenfation for all the risks incurred by the fmuggler. Mr. Pitt combated these objections: he denied that tea was a certain and permanent object of revenue; the present state of finance and public credit did not permit him to barter a certainty for an uncertainty:

CHA P.

XXXIL

1784.

XXXII.

CHAP. he was obliged to felect an object on which he could build the most entire and confident expectation; and with the invaluable benefits that would refult from this measure to the public, notwithstanding the industry with which popular odium was attempted to be stirred up against it, he was ready to risk any unpopularity which it might occafion. The bill was paffed by a majority of one hundred and fortyeight to forty.

1784.

Regulation of duties on British

fpirits.

A third bill was also paffed into a law for the regulation of duties upon British spirits, and to difcontinue during a limited time certain imposts upon rum and spirits imported from the Weft Indies. These three bills comprehended the whole plan of Mr. Pitt upon the subject of smuggling, as far as it was now submitted to parliament. The effect of the fcheme for preventing contraband trade, including feveral improvements which fubfequent experience devised, has been almost the annihilation of that fpecies of fraud, to the great benefit of the revenue * and of morals. The commutation act being misinterpreted and mifreprefented both by ignorance and fophiftical ingenuity, caufed at firft fome diffatisfaction; that, however, was not of long continuance, and the additional duty on windows came to be paid without reluctance.

Meanwhile Eaft India affairs occupied the attention of the minifter and parliament; a committee

* Vifitors of the watering-places, or other parts of the coaft, who have converfed with elderly or middle-aged watermen, or any kind of fea-faring men in thofe places, must have perceived that they confidered fmuggling, heretofore their most lucrative occupation, as having received its deathblow from the hands of Mr. Pitt.

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CHAP.

1784.

of

India com

was appointed to collect information; and its re- XXXII.
port being presented, was taken into confideration
by a committee of the whole house. A bill was Preliminary
proposed, for enabling the company to make a half-motions for
yearly dividend at the rate of eight per cent. for the Eat
the year, and paffed both houses, with confiderable pany.
oppofition in the house of lords, in which it was
faid that the company's affairs could not afford
fuch a dividend *. On the fecond of July, Mr.
Pitt introduced a bill for the relief of the company:
this propofition was to allow the company a further
respite of duties due to the exchequer, to enable
them to accept bills beyond the amount prescribed
by former acts of parliament, and to establish their
future dividends. The propofed indulgence was,
that the duties now due fhould be paid by instal-
ments, at Midfummer and Christmas 1785. The
principle of the projected accommodation, was the
folvency of the company at the specified terms.
Mr. Pitt, in fupporting the measure, informed the
house, that from the late inquiries which he had
made into the state of the company's finances, and
from the very ample and fatisfactory accounts he
had obtained, he had no room to admit the remotest
idea that they would not, at the period he had
mentioned, be able to fulfil every engagement.
India would now enjoy peace, and parliament would
enforce the active economy which the present state
of affairs so strongly recommended; a few years of
tranquillity, and a fyftem of exertion and frugality,
would render our Indian poffeffions affluent and

pro

Parliamentary Journals.

fperous.

XXXII.

1784.

CHAP. fperous. Oppofition doubted the favourable pro fpect of the company's affairs, and objected to the relief proposed. A queftion was started, Whether or not parliament, by authorifing acceptances of bills, guarantee'd their validity? Mr. Pitt contended that they did not; Mr. Fox that they did, at least fo far as to pledge the national honour to their refponfibility, by allowing the acceptance which they had a right to restrain. The fanction of parliament impreffed the public with an opinion of their goodnefs, and established their credit. Mr. Dundas illustrated the subject, by reminding the house of the circumstances in which the reftriction had originated. By the regulating bill of 1773, the public were to come in for a fhare in the profits of the company in order, therefore, to prevent the appropriation of any part of their profits to the payment of bills that might be fraudulently fent over from India, it had been thought neceffary to reftrain the amount of thofe bills; confequently, when a parliament should confent to the acceptance of bills to a greater amount, it refigned, in behalf of the public, fo much of the national claim to the dividends, as was fecured to them by the bill of 1773. The bill paffed without a divifion.

These measures were preparatory and fubordinate to the bill of the minifter for the government of India, which he now introduced, fimilar in object and principle to the fcheme that he had proposed in January, but more detailed in its provifions, and Bill for the more extenfive in its applications. On the 6th of July, Mr. Pitt propofed his bill for the better regulation of India: in his prefatory oration he ftated

regulation of India,

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XXXII.

1784.

ftated the magnitude of the subject; and defcribed CHA P. the vast acceffion of power which the wealth of India had for a series of years added to the empire of Great Britain: our former opulence was owing to the prudent management of our commercial concerns; and our future hopes depended on the judicious regulations that were now to be introduced for the government of that country. The leading object was to correct and restrain abuses, remedy evils, improve the condition of British India, and thereby augment the opulence and profperity of this country, by powers adequate to those important purposes, without being fo great as to endanger the balance of the conttitution. The bill undertook to institute a new fyftem of government at home, and to regulate the different prefidencies abroad; to provide for the happiness of the natives, and to put an end to their misunderstandings and controverfies; to establish a new judicature for trying offences committed in India, and by strictness of government to prevent delinquency. The propofed change at home was nearly the fame that has appeared in the narrative*. It propofed to leave the management of commercial affairs to the company, and to veft the territorial poffeffions in a board of control. Abroad, the fupreme council and governor-general were to have an abfolute power of originating orders to the inferior prefiden cies, in cafes that did not interfere with the direc tions already received from Britain, and of suspending members of the other councils in cafe of difobe

VOL. IV.

* See vol. iii. chap. 31.
с

dience.

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