« PreviousContinue »
the substance of what-Mr. Francis submitted to the Commons on the 28th May, when Lord Henry Petty moved that the bill for granting further rates and duties on profits arising from property, &c. be read a third time.
The honourable member commences his address with these interesting and generous observations:
“ It is painful to me at all times to differ from my right honourable friend,* and still more to find myself compelled to maintain an opinion, which I know he will oppose. In fact, however, I have not provoked this question, nor was it possible for me to foresee that I should have to maintain it against my right honourable friend. Some time, I think, before the property bill was in print, and when I knew little or nothing of its contents, an honourable gentleman (Mr. Rose), whose assiduous attendance in general on the business of the house, and particularly on subjects of this nature, is much to be commended, took some occasion, I forget what, to declare his opinion that, if the foreign property in our funds were not exempted from the income tax, the owners would sell out, and transfer their capital to some other country. This was the proposition, which I resisted without reflection in the first instance, and that was the quarter it came from. Until the debate in the committee of the 12th of this month, I did never know what opinion my right honourable friend entertained on the subject. Then indeed I found myself between the hammer and the anvil; but that malleation has seryed only to harden me in my opinion. I state the facts; but I make no apology. The part I take, and my resolution to adhere to it, I hope will entitle me to this conclusion at least, that if I am in
it is the serious error of judgment, and that I think the object of considerable importance. I am not so thoughtless as to look for a dispute with such an opponent on doubtful ground, or for a trivial object. All I desire of him, and I am sure he is too liberal to do otherwise, is to answer me as he understands me, and not to avail himself of any lapse of expression, in any hasty way of speaking, as long as he know's what I mean. He wants no advantage of that kind over me or any man." P. 1-2.
He then goes on to review the question under the three following heads. First, the policy of the exemption ; secondly, the inconveniencies and abuses which are likely to attend it; and finally, the justice due to the parties concerned, and the good faith which ought to be preserved to them. Mr. Francis adds, “ I reserve that question for the last, because I think it most material.” P. 3.
In discussing the policy of the eremption of foreign property in our funds, the honourable member states, that the return from the tax office, dated the 8th of May, exhibits a capital of about twelve willions, in different stocks, held under foreign names, and the duty on this, says le, cannot be less than 50,000l. per annum : and he
* Mr. Fox
continues, we are told by the public officers, who make the return,
hat these accounts are coming in daily to a great amount. Then, I ask, do we know what we are doing? Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer sure that, when the bill shall be once passed, the return of foreign stock, real or pretended, may not reach to double or treble its present amount? The temptations to fraud are obvious and powerful; and, as to the penalty, I shall only observe that government will have to enforce it, not upon awkward, clumsy delinquents, but on many of the most dextrous and experienced practi. tioners in concealments of this kind. How the real and bona fide foreign property, supposing it right that such property should be exempted, can with any certainty be distinguished from the rest, will form, as I believe, a serious difficulty in the execution of the act, and ought to be seriously considered.” P. 4.
“ It is argued, or rather it is threatened, that if we tax this income, foreigners will sell out and carry their capital into some other country, and that this will be attended with a material depreciation in the market price of our funds. I, for one, do not believe it. Nor is any man entitled to threaten is with that consequence, until he has shewn, to what other fund these foreigners can transmit their property, and where else they can nok place it, I will not say with security, but without manifest risk and the greatest danger. Is there a lace left on the continent, subject to the power of France, or within reach of its influence, where the income of funded property will not be taxed ? or indeed where the capital itself is safe from confiscation.” P. 5.
Where is the answer to this reasoning? None can be devised by truth, and sophistry vainly strives to make head against it. Oh, but the foreigner does not spend his money here! No, says Mr. Francis, most ingeniously, but abroad, to assist Buonaparte, to increase a hostile power already too formidable to this country.
" While he does so, you favour him. But if he were to change his residence and spend his fortune in England, you would make him pay for doing that, for which in common sense you ought rather to reward him," P.7.
The abuses to which this measure is liable next come to be considered, and these are most ably and forcibly exposed. Our confined space, however, obliges us reluctantly to go on immediately to the third article of discussion--the strict right of the claim, and the principles of justice by which it is supported. This proposition is very judiciously and learnedly handled. Mr. Francis shews that no one of all the statutes, by which annuities have been granted, furnishes the smallest pretence for the exemption of foreigners; and “as to
sound reason, or solid argument," says he, “ I have heard none." P. 13.
We are also in possession of what passed in the house on these debates; and, notwithstanding the event, are, we confess, precisely in the same condition. With respect to the appeal-made to a fundamental principle in the constitution, which was supposed to furnish a final and triumphant answer to all his objections, Mr. Francis meets it manfully, and skilfully corubats and destroys it. In the course of this profound argument, he takes an opportunity of making some remarks, with eloquent simplicity, on a society called The Friends of the People, instituted for the purpose of procuring, by the strength and weight of combination, a reform in the representation of the commonalty of this kingdom.
“ Many persons," says he, “now highly stationed in his majesty's councils and service, were the leaders of this association: my noble friend the lord high chancellor, my noble friend the first lord of ihe admiralty, my right honourable friends the present and preceding treasurer of the navy,* all of them privycounsellors; my learned friend his majesty's attorney general, t and among many others
my noble friend the Earl of Lauderdale, at whose house the original engagement was drawn, at whose table it was signed. It was my lot too, şir, to be one of the friends of the people ;-at all times the least considerable, and
now, I believe, the last of them. My right hon. friend was not a member of that society; but, I think, his subsequent conduct has proved that he concurred in our principles. The institution itself has gone into oblivion. A feeble memory is one of those human infirmities tehich sometimes accompany the most ecalled faculties. But I have no doubt that the principles still live in the hearts of my noble friends, though they are not aware of it, and that, some time or other, they will be resorted to again.” P. 17.
From this apparently extraneous matter, he deduces support to the doctrine which he would inforce. The lines, with which he concludes this clear, honest, and unaffected oration, we are bound to quote.
“ The only article," says he, “ that remains to be considered, and with that I shall conclude, is the prudence of making this exception in favour of foreigners in the present times and circumstances of the country. The chancellor of the exchequer has been obliged to abandon the first tax he has proposed on iron; and I suspect that the home brewery is very likely to share the same fate. The fact, I fear, is, that we are arrived at the final limit of taxation on consumption, or very near it. The multitude can pay no more, without crushing and confounding the gradations of society, when no distinction of rank or fortune will be left, but between the many and the few. I wish I could remember and repeat the eloquent language, with which this opinion, or the conclusion I would draw from it, was urged and enforced a few days ago, by my honourable friend,* who ciosed the impeachment of Lord Melville. Speaking of the treasure of the pavy, he said, what I say of all the public revenue, • țhat it has its fibrous root in the meal of every peasant; in the cloth of the coat he wears; in the imple. ments, with which he earns his daily bread; in every article he consumes.' The actual burthen of the taxes is enough to drive the mass of the people to despair. If you do not wish and intend to drive them to madness, you will not aggravate their sufferings by this unjust exemption of strangers from contributing even to the protection of their own property.” P. 18.
* Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Tierney. + Sir Arthur Piggot.
This prophecy, the effect of judgmext and reflection, we have seen fulfilled.
It would seem impossible not to feel the full conviction, which the wisdom and good sense of these remarks are calculated to im press upon the mind. But, on Mr. Francis's motion to omit the clause providing an exemption in favour of foreigners, they failed to obtain their object, but only failed where nothing could succeed, The bill having been read a third time, the speaker submitted to the house that that was an improper stage for such a proceeding, and that the motion could not be entertained. Could the forms of parliament have admitted of a division, and Mr. Francis had, considering the puny arguments held against him, been overcome, it would have been numero, non pondere.
If, on any subject, we critics may be supposed to be out of the pale of suspicion with regard to prejudice, it undoubtedly is in giving an opinion on any thing that relates to property. Being then, as it were, hors de combat, and perfectly unbiassed, we own ourselves completely convinced by the logical reasoning and deduction, sound sense and eloquence of Mr. Francis; and hold his judgment conclusive on all the truth and merits of the case. The pamphlet will be read universally with pleasure and profit,
An Appendix, containing four extracts from letters received by Mr. Francis, pending the debates on the subject of this publication, afford many cogent reasons on the same side of the question. But these additional proofs are, on the present occasion, streams that merely serve to overflow the banks already filled from the rich source which preceded them. It was this consideration that induced us to suppress, as superfluous, any comments of our own,
* Mr. Whitbread.
A Review of the Conduct of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales,
in his various Transactions with Mr. Jefferys, during a Period of more than twenty Years, containing a Detail of many Circumstances relative to their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, Mrs. Fitzherbert, 8c. By Nathaniel Jefferys, late M.P. for the City of Coventry, pp. 68. 3. Sold 20, Pallo Mfall. 1806.
Prince, Thou sayest true, hostess ; and he slanders thee most grossly.
Host. So HE DOTH YOU, MY LORD; and said this other day, you ought him a thousand pound.
Prince. Sirrah, do I owe you a thousand pound?
Fals. A thousand pound, Hal? a million: thy love is worth a million; thou owest me thy love,
H. IV. act iii, sc, 3. Such is at best the debt which this “lean-witted ” ex-member for Coventry would seem to claim of his royal highness the Prince of Wales;
but reducing the whole to love, valuable indeed if deserved, it will be found that Mr. Jefferys has forfeited all title to it. That a man always actuated by selfish, and sometimes by baser motives, as we shall shew in his parliamentary schemes, should pursue his meanly ambitious tricks and contrivances for a long series of time, and at last discover that he is (to use a gentle term) a fool, cannot be a matter of much surprise. Nor is it wonderful that the defeated hopes of such a man should produce this contemptible tirade of abuse, falsehood, and malignity, in which nothing is proved but these words of Shylock, “ This is the fool that tent out money gratis ;" and together with this proof is clearly exhibited the ample justice that was done him.
Mr. Jefferys, without a spark of either, has, in limine, the impudence to throw himself on the candour and liberality of the public, and to look to them for the approbation of a conduct marked at every step with the grossest disingenuousness and illiberality. With a vast deal of gratuitous cant about feclings, painful duty, &c. he commences his ungrateful and groundless libel on the character, honour, and humanity of his royal highness! Three and twenty years since, it is stated, that he began the business of a jeweller ; the Prince was graciously pleased to employ him, and in consequence of that truly noble affability which so distinguishes his royal highness, as scarcely to suffer an inferior to feel his inferiority, Mr. Jefferys presumed, and took for friendship what was not, nor could not