Page images

rally, and distinguishing such as were voted, from such as remained to be voted; and dwelt for some time on the miscellaneous services. After going through the whole, he proceeded to notice the ways and means, which, he said, consisted of six articles. The first he mentioned was, the hundred thousand pounds, to be drawn from the cambric, and the consolidated duties. In making out that article, forty thousand pounds were taken by the right honorable gentleman for the duty on cambrics, which left 60,000 for the consolidation of duties; a sum for which he was altogether at a loss to account; since, when the right honorable gentleman stated his plan to the public, he had not taken credit for near so much, but had merely talked of eighteen or twenty thousand pounds.

Mr. Pitt said across the table eighty thousand.

Mr. Sheridan persisted that the sum mentioned by the right honorable gentleman had been no more than 18,000l. or 20,0007.; and that as likely to arise from the alteration of the fractions of sums payable for duties into integrals. But it was evident sixty thousand pounds had thus been levied upon the public in new taxes; and that in so silent and concealed a way, that he was convinced that house generally had been unapprised of the fact till that moment. This being the case, the right honorable gentleman had no right to boast of a surplus, without his being under the necessity of imposing new taxes. The next article of the ways and means was the most singular article to put into the minister's budget that he had ever heard of-it was two hundred and fifty thousand pounds for an expected increase of the customs, on account of a spring of trade. He ridiculed the idea of a spring of trade, and contended, that even if any great increase should take place, it must produce 650,000l. before it could yield the 250,0007. In order to explain this, Mr. Sheridan said, the reduction of the duties

on spirits and wines would make a deficiency of 400,0007.; and he argued, that the right honorable gentleman ought, when he let loose so large a portion of revenue, to have provided a substitute to have made good the deficiency. He objected to the 320,000l. expected to be paid by the East-India Company for the pay of the regiments of British troops serving in India, declaring his firm belief, that the company neither would nor could advance the money this present year. Notwithstanding the right honorable gentleman over the way (Mr. Grenville) had on Friday last declared, with so much confidence, that he had every reason to regard the affairs of the East-India Company as in a most prosperous and flourishing situation, and that he drew that opinion from the last accounts which came home from India, he was of a contrary opinion; and so much so upon the very ground where the right honorable gentleman had rested his opinion, the last accounts received from India, that he would move for those accounts to be laid before the house; and if the right honorable gentleman and his friends shrunk from that motion, the house would judge for itself, which assertion was most deserving of credit, that of the right honorable gentleman, or that which he had just made. Upon the whole of the ways and means there was a real deficiency; and however it might be glossed over, a day would arrive when the right honorable gentleman would wish he had ventured to come boldly forward with some decisive measure applicable to the real situation of the country. With regard to the army savings, and casual sums which might arise from the balances of accountants being paid in, and from the taxes being rendered more productive, those the right honorable gentleman would find he ought not to reckon upon, if he considered that there were provisions sooner or later to be made on account of the Royal Family, the loyalists, and for other services, which must demand sums far larger than the

produce of the sums in question. He ought, therefore, not to persist in an over-sanguine opinion, that his resources were fully adequate to the possible expenses of the year, but manfully look the situation of the country in the face, examine it horoughly, and meet it with an adequately bold and decisive measure, and not resort to little shifting practices of changing the mode of collecting this and that tax, so as to disturb the whole system of revenue collections, to the infinite vexation and perplexity of the subject, who was so teized and harassed by these perpetual alterations, that they scarcely knew what the taxes were that his money was demanded for, nor what the tax laws were under which he lived. Mr. Sheridan persisted in his former declaration, that the report of the committee of the last year had been delusive, and said, he had a proposition to offer, which was for the institution of a new committee; not a committee made up of paymasters of the forces, and the immediate friends and supporters of the minister, nor of men connected with party, but a fair and impartial committee, constituted of persons perfectly independent and unconnected politically. Such men were to be found in that house; and from a committee so constituted, the house might expect a just and authentic account of the real state of the finances of the country, upon which they might safely rely and proceed to ground such measures as were absolutely necessary to convince all the world, that they had really gone to the bottom of their affairs, and were determined to put them upon a proper footing. Mr. Sheridan read from the Journals, the string of resolutions relative to the report of last year's committee, which he had moved on the fourth of May last, all of which had been negatived, one only excepted. He reasoned upon these resolutions, and contended, that they had, every one of them, been verified by what had since happened. After offering to pledge his credit with the house, that the total of the supply for the two

next years, would amount to thirty-two millions, Mr. Sheridan concluded with moving, that the resolutions of the 4th of May last, might be read.

They were read accordingly as follows:

"That the expected annual amount of the national income stated in the report of the select committee appointed to enquire into the public income and expenditure, appears in no respect to have been calculated upon the average receipts of any number of years, but is estimated upon the produce of one year only, and fixed at the amount of the same, with the addition of the probable increase upon the new taxes.

"That it appears, that the amount of the annual expenditure as opposed to the amount of the public income so calculated, is not a statement of the present existing expenditure, or of that which must exist for some years to come, but it is formed upon the probable reductions which it is alleged will have taken place towards the end of the year 1791, in the prospect of a permanent peace.

"That the different branches of revenue, in the period upon which the future is calculated, appear to have been singularly productive, particularly in the customs, and greatly to have exceeded the amount of the present year with which alone it is contrasted.

"That it does not appear that any means were taken, nor information called for, nor any examination entered into by the said committee, in order to ascertain whether such increase of revenue had arisen from causes which were likely to have a permanent operation, or otherwise.

"That such an investigation is indispensably necessary before this house can, with confidence, calculate by the produce of one year, the supposed future amount of the public income.

“That the uncertainty of estimating, by such a criterion, the expected future produce of the revenue is still more evident, upon a comparison of the quarter ending the 5th of April last, with the same

quarter in the preceding year, upon which the future income is calculated, by which comparison it appears, that the amount of the latter quarter is inferior by the sum of 188,2157. 13s. 4d. in the branch of the customs to the former.

"That in the said report there are certain articles of receipt erroneously stated, as proper to be added to the future annual income, and other articles of expense, erroneously omitted, to be added to the expenditure.

"That the total expected amount of the future annual receipt is stated in the said report to be 15,397,47 17.

"That the sums voted, and to be voted, for the service of the year 1786, including the interest and charges of the public debt, considerably exceeds that sum.

"That the means by which the deficiency is to be made good, arise from aids and debts, which belong to the present year only.

"That there is no surplus income applicable to the reduction of the public debt now existing.

"That a surplus income in the ensuing quarters can arise only by the renewal of a loan for an extraordinary million, borrowed upon exchequer bills in the last, and charged upon the supply of the present year; and which loan it would be unnecessary to make, but for the purpose of procuring the said surplus.

"That any extraordinary increase of exchequer bills, contrary to a former practice in the time of peace, is an expedient anticipation of that assistance which the government might receive in the case of any circumstance rendering it necessary to strengthen the state of our national preparation.

"That the saving to the public upon the interest of money borrowed in this way, is rendered improbable or precarious, by the necessity which will arise for the more speedy issuing such bills, in order that the object for which the loan is made, may be punc

« PreviousContinue »