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favourable to this country. Lord Lanfdown concluded with recuring to the fituation of Ireland. It was inconceivable, that we fhould leave that people more connected in freedom of trade and facility of intercourse with France, than with . Great Britain. It was idle to talk of the Irish propofitions having been made and rejected, and that therefore nothing was to be done. If a minifter for inftance, were to tell the public and the parliament of Great Britain, that they did not know their own intereft, and muft abide by the confequence, he must be looked upon as infatuated. The conduct of the English manufacturers in the cafe of the French treaty muft crush all their former objections to the fyftem of the Irish propofitions. The prefent therefore was the moment for minifters to revive the idea of a beneficial connection. He did not mean the vague, il natured and inadequate fyllem that had been offered; but a plain, fimple, good humoured fcheme of reciprocal intercourie, unmixed with any principle of politics, and particularly with that, to which the fenfe of Ireland was fo totally averfe, the obliging her of neceffity to adopt all the future acts of trade of the British parlia
The marquis laid no ftrefs upon the objections that had been farted respecting the danger of our fluctuating capital in the event of a war, and upon the fubject of the hovering acts. The French were not a nation of Algerines and fa. vages, and he hoped to fee the day, when our prefent anxious precautions against fmuggling would be annihilated by the growing freedom of our trade. It had been farther faid, that we fhould rue the confequences of the prefent mea
fure; that France would flourish, and we fhould fuffer by the treaty. He would venture: to prophefy, that, if this country declined, prejudice might afcribe it to this caufe, but it would in reality originate in fomething very different. If we continued under a perpetual fluctuation of adminiftrations, and France adhered to one fyftem; if we went on in the rottennefs of corruption, and fhe exerted herself, as it was reported fhe was about to do, in rooting it up; if the adopted great meatures, and we purfued little ones, there was no doubt which country muft flourish, and which would decline. But he was not afraid to fay, knowing the natural liberality of English minds, that it was the duty of every man and every citizen to rejoice in the profperity even of a foreign country, when it was produced by fair and honourable means. If a man had the misfortune to find that he could not govern his own family, he muft be bafe indeed, if he repined at feeing a neighbouring family vir tuous, well ordered and happy. Upon the whole the marquis felt himfelf inclined to a warm fupport of the treaty, perfuaded that the principle carried tranfcendent benefit with it, whatever opinion he might have as to fome of its particular clauíes.
The debate upon the commercial treaty was productive of an altercation between the marquis of Lanfdown and the duke of Richmood, of a nature, which, as it tends to illuftrate character, we shall ever confider as one of the most interefting topics of political hiftory. In the courfe of the debate the duke obferved, in reply to one of lord Lanfdown's animadverfions, that we had nothing to do with the French erections at Cherbourg, and
that with the fame propriety they might come and fay to us, you fhall not fortify your dockyards of -Portsmouth and Plymouth. This argument was retorted by the marquis, who obferved, that we cerrainly had not more, perhaps not fo much concern with the erections at Cherbourg, as they had with our fortifications; fince, if ours were carried into execution, the French would, on the event of an invafion, take poffeffion of our for treffes as advantageous pofts. The duke, who probably had been irritated by the part, which had been taken by the friends of lord Lanf down in the house of commons upon the fubject of the fortifications, caught at this infinuation. He obferved, that, if we might infer the marquis's fentiments from the voice of certain perfons in another place, he had changed his opinion in regard to the fortifications, as much as it appeared he had done on the fubject of the Irish propofitions. In the mean time the duke had no hefitation in declaring, that the plan for the fortifying of Portf mouth and Plymouth had been fubmitted to lord Lan/down, when he had been at the head of the adminiftration of this country, and that he had fignified his direct approba
In the fequel of the altercation it appeared, that the marquis was now ready to avow his exprefs difapprobation of the plan of fortifications, and the question, whether or no he ever profeffed to approve them, remained to be decided from two letters, the one witten by the duke of Kichmond confeffedly fubfequent to the period in which the fupposed approbation had been given, and requesting the thoughts of the marquis upon various fubjects relating to the department of
the ordnance, and among others upon the new fyltem of fortifications. The other letter was a declaration by Mr. Pitt, who had been prefent at the difputed converfation, made at the request of the duke of Richmond; the fubject of which was, "that his memory at the distance of four years did not enable him to fay, that lord Lanfdown did pofitively give a full and direct approbation of the plans, but that the impreffion made upon his mind at the time was, and had continued fo on every reflection fince, that he did fignify his approbation."
Upon thefe circumftances lord Lanfdown obferved, that his fituation at the period in queftion, when he was fettling the important meafure of the preliminaries of peace, had been attended with great diffculties. He perhaps had reason to fear under all the circumftances of that time, that the duke of Richmond might change his mind; and he must neceffarily have dreaded the change of one out of the feven members of the cabinet. Thus critically fituated, when the duke opened his plan, there might perlaps be a degree of address on his part in what had paffed on the fubject. It was natural; it might have been neceffary; but he folemnly declared that he never directly approved, and he challenged the duke to produce a ferap of a pen from him on the fubject. He admitted that the fuppreflion of doubts would be unpardonable, if that fuppreflion went fo far as to delude a colleague to hazard his plan before parliament, where he was to be abandoned and expofed. This declaration however the marquis was afterwards obliged to quality, as it appeared, that a fum of money for the fortifications had ac
tually been included in the ordnance estimates of 1783. If it were urged, that there was blame due to him upon that fcore, as a minif. ter, he was free to fay there was great blame.
But that was an
other question; and he protested he, could not tell why he had fuffered the plan to be propofed. With refpect to the charge of infincerity, which the duke had thought proper to advance against him, he be lieved it was totally incapable of fupport. Opennefs was his characteriftic; and it was folely from the confideration of the unguardednefs of his temper, that by the advice of his fri.nds he had fecluded himfelf from the world.
The fpeakers in favour of the treaty were lord Thurlow, lord Hawkesbury, lord Walfingham, lord Townshend, lord Grey de Wilton, lord Hopetoun, and lord Fortescue. Thote who diftinguished themselves in oppofition were the duke of Manchester, lord Carlifle, lord Loughborough, lord Fitzwilliam, lord Sandwich, lord Scarborough, and lord Portchefter. The house divided upon the first refolution, contents 81, not contents 35; and upon the report, contents 94, not contents 35. The addrefs was prefented on the eighth of March.
The question refpecting the violation of the forms of parliament was not given up by oppofition, and on the day, previous to that of presenting the addrefs, Mr. Fox moved in the house of commons the refolution, which had been propofed by lord Stormont in the houfe of lords. Befide recapitulat ing and inforcing the arguments he had already employed, he ob ferved, that by the addrefs which had been carried, they were reduced to a choice of two very unpleafant
predicaments; the one was to let the treaty pafs, however repugnant its principles might at the time appear to their fentiments, or however injurious to the interests of their country; and the other to reject it, and of confequence to fubject themfelves to the imputation of having made a precipitate and a faithlefs promife to the fovereign. The latter conduct would certainly be of the two the least injurious, at the fame time that it was subject to very great inconveniences, and was a fituation by all means to be avoided. It was derogatory to that facred faith, which ought always to be preferved in promifes that were made, or addreffes that were laid at the foot of the throne. Mr. Pitt treated the objections as cavilling and frivolous; and ob ferved, that, fo far from retrenching from the privileges of the house, he had in fact added two new and additional ftages, the address and the report of the addrefs, to thofe which had been provided by the wisdom of our ancestors. The conduct of adminiftration was defended by Mr. Dundas, Mr. Arden and Mr. Bearcroft, and cenfured by, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Baftard and fir Wil liam Molefworth. By the latter of these an allution was made to the cafe of the ordnance estimates, in which the house had been told that they were pledged to a future measure by having confented to a paft tranfaction, and the furveyor. general of the ordnance had infifted, that, when the matter came out from the difquifition of the board of officers, they were not at liberty to refufe the money. The houfe divided upon Mr. Fox's refolution, ayes 113, noes 188.
On the twenty fixth of March the houfe was moved in a committee to come to certain refolu
tions, propofed by Mr. Pitt, and the object of which was to reduce, at least pro tempore, and during the pendency of our negociations with Portugal, the duties upon
Portugal, Spanish and Madeira wines, to a proportion one third lower than the new duties upon French wines. The refolutions were adopted.
Confolidation of Cuftoms. tery Bill.
Farming of the Poft Horse Tax. Lot-
Budget. Mutiny Bill.
NE of the fubjects, which had been fuggefted to the attention of parliament in the fpeech from the throne, and which had excited confiderable expectation, was the intended confolidation of the customs. Mr. Pitt opened this bufinefs to the houfe of commons on the twenty fixth of February; and we cannot better explain the nature of the measure, than by extracting the language he employed upon this occafion.
It was not neceffary for him to infift upon the great importance of the fubject, or to expatiate on the advantages it was intended to produce. When he confidered them, it appeared more difficult to account for the long delay of this proceeding, than to prove the propriety of now adopting it. The increafing commerce of this country on the one hand, and its ac cumulated burthens on the other, had fo widely exceeded the expectation of our ancestors, and all the grounds of calculation on which they founded their fyftem of finance, that the principles they adopted, though fufficiently fuited to the narrow and confined fcale of our former exigencies and refources, were no longer applicable. The
confequences of retaining the old principle under the altered circumftances of the country, had been in feveral points of view highly detrimental to the interests of the nation. Mr. Pitt entered into the hiftory of our revenues, and stated, that the first inftitution of the fubfifting duties of custom was made by a ftatute in the twelfth year of king Charles the Second, under the names of tonnage and poundage; the first an impofition upon wines meafured by the quantity imported, and the fecond a duty ad valorem upon all other articles. The lat was therefore liable to great inaccuracies. It was not calculated according to the real value of the commodities, but by an arbitrary value, perhaps the market price of the article at the time of impofing the duty. The confequence of fuch a mode of taxation frequently was, that in goods of one general defcription the duty was the fame; fo that it either operated as a prohibition upon the coarfer manufactures, or was not at all felt by the more perfect. This principle, when once adopted, was purfued in every fresh fubfidy. In fome inftances it had operated, by impofing additional du
ties, calculated at fo much per cent. upon the duty already paid; in others it laid a farther duty of the fame defcription on a particular denomination of the commodity. Almost all the additional fubfidies had been appropriated to fome fpecific fund for the payment of certain annuities. There mut therefore be a feparate calculation for each made at the custom houfe; and from the complexity of the whole fyftem it was fcarcely pollible, that any merchant fhould be acquainted, by any calculations of his own, with the exact amount of what he was to pay. It was extraordinary, that confequences in a high degree ferious had not refulted from this evil. The fact was however, that fome perfons cmployed in the custom houfe, and whose whole time was dedicated to the business, hal, for the eafe and convenience of the traders and merchants, arranged a general view of the customs in the form of a book of rates, which was found in a certain degree ufeful. But the utility aring from fuch a compilation could not be of very long ftanding, when it was confidered, that in every feffion of parliament there was fome alteration made in feveral of the duties, and that each of thefe alterations totally unhinged and overturned the ufe of every preceding calculation. Belide this, though the calculation contained in the book of rates might be ever fo accurate, the merchant could not go to the custom house and enter his goods immediately, paying the fum there ftated, but muft wait, as if no fuch book had exifted, till all the ufual calculations on each fubfidy had been made; fo that in point of time nothing was faved. Mr. Pitt added, that the fame abufes prevailed, though not
in an equal degree, in the offices of the excife, and of the ftamp duties; and were therefore included in his plan.
The mode, by which he propofed to remedy this great abuse, was by abolifling all the duties that now fubfifted in this confused and complex in inner, and to subftitute in their ftead one fingle duty on each article, amounting as nearly as poffible to the aggregate of the various fubfidies now paid, only, where a fraction was found in any of the fums, to change the fraction for the nearest integral number, ufually taking the higher rather than the lower. This advance would produce an increase in the revenue to the amount of 20,000l. per annum; and would lay upon the public a burthen, moft amply compenfated by the relief, which the merchant would experience from the intended alterstion. In fome few articles it was Mr. Pitt's intention to introduce regulations of a much greater extent, particularly in certain fpecies of timber, and in the duty upon drugs, which laft it would be necefiary to reduce, as by their prefent amount the fair trader was nearly driven out of the market, and the whole bufinefs thrown into the hands of the fmuggler.
Mr. Pitt thought it neceffary to add fome remarks upon the effect of the intended measure upon the fecurity of the public creditor. Many of the fubfidies to be abolished were appropriated to the payment of certain fpecified annuitants, and fome of the annuitants were of confequence entitled to a priority of payment. But this priority it was by no means his intention to affect, fince it might as well be maintained by paying all the public creditors out of one general