Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

classes, did vot affect the humbler classes of the community; and he added, that an income tax, in his judgment, was the very worst--ay, the rery worst, which could be proposed. Such were the men by whom the continuance of the income tax was opposed. By whom was it supported: By Mr. Vansittart and Lord Castlereagh. But Lord Castlereagh had a far more powerful case than the right honourable baronet. England had borrowed one hundred millions in the two preceding years; the repeal of the income tax would necessitate a loan of twelve millions for the then current year, and eight millions after. The country had not recovered from the fearful struggle from which it had come exhausted and breathless—the effects of the war had not passed away, and under these circumstances Lord Castlereagh appealed to the country, to make a sacrifice for two years longer, and to make one last effort for the sus tainment of the public credit. To his invocation the House of Commons were insensible, and it will be strange indeed, if in a reformed parliament—in a parliament whose reform he to the last opposed-the member for Tamworth should achieve that which in an unreformed parliament, with all his influence, and all his plausibility, Lord Castlereagi was not able to accomplish. The motion for a coutinnance of tng income tax was lost by a majority of thirty-seven. It was repealed, and in the succeeding years, up to the present period—independently of the income tax—twenty-three millions of taxes were remitted. In that enormous mass cannot the right honourable baronet find some means of recruiting the finances of his country, without resorting to so fatal an expedient? He does not choose, it is said, to renew those taxes which would press upon the comforts of the poor, whose“ ignorant impatience of taxation” it is no longer judicious to provoke. It is almost unnecesa sary to suggest that, as the late Sir Robert Peel observed, the tax which presses upon the middle classes must affect all those below them; but how does the right honourable baronet reconcile with his sympathy for the poor the maintenance of the great colonial interests, while so many thousand of poor operatives, cutters of corks, niakers of shoes, gloves, bonnets, are sacrificed to the genius of free trade with so relentless a rigour? Let the interests of the pocr be consulted, but by some means less inequitable than an income tax. What can be more unjust than to lay the same tax upon the inteiiect of one man, and upon the acres of another? Look at the proprietor of great territorial possessions, encompassed with every advantage by which existence can be cheered, and life can be prolonged, in the daily enjoyment of the most calthful exercise, free from all mental pain, and exempt from every discomfort, excepting that which arises (to use a phrase of Edmund Burke) “ from the laborinus lassitude of having nothing to do," secure of the permanent retention of his estates, and of transmitting to his progeny the splendid mansion and extensive domains, which through a long succession have come down to him. Turn from him to the professional man, who is engaged from morning till night, and from night almost till the break of day, in the exhausting occupations from which his precarious subsistence is derived : mark, not only the toil, the inces.

kant toil which it is his destiny to suffer, but the wear and tear of the feel ings, and of the faculties which he must needs undergo, the despondency, the faintness of heart which at the approach of the slightest ailment must come upon him, the sense of insecurity by which he must perpetually be haunted, the apprehension, the consuming solicitude that must beset him, lest by the gradual decay of his faculties, or the sudden loss of health, he may be deprived of the means of earning his livelihood, and those who are inestimably dearer to him than himself, may be reduced to destitution. Look, I say, at these two men, of whom I have presented to you no exaggerated delineation, and then do you—you, who are yourselves the inheritors of large possessions—you, who are born to affluence—you, who have never known a care of to-morrow_do you i who live at home at ease," and know so little of dangers and the storms of adversity—do you, I say, declare whether it be just, whether it be fair, whether it be humane, that upon both these men, and in the same proportion, the same impost should be inflicted. Shall we levy the same contribution on a man with £10,000 a-year, and upon officers in the army and navy, poor clergymen who endeavour to educate their children as the children of gentlemen should be brought up, widows with miserable jointures, tradesmen, artisans, small retailers who eke out a subsistence from the petty business to which, for sixteen or seventeen hours out of the four-and-twenty, they are devoted ? Is it right to tax them as you do the great patricians of the land, and to force them to discover upon oath what perhaps it most deeply concerns their just and legitimate pride that they should conceal? What can be more fearful, more humiliating, than to make a confession of adversity—to let a set of heartless functionaries into the secrets of calamity, and to lay misfortune bare? The commissioners are empowered to examine upon oath, and to repudiate the testimony which a man gives in his own favour. To what immoral results must this practice lead? It has been suggested, that under our existing system, oaths must frequently be administered, and that there is a good deal of swearing in the Excise. True ; but is it judicious to extend through every ramification of society the spirit of the Excise, and to get up a struggle between the interests and the conscience of every man who is to be charged with this baneful impost ? The people of England are moral, but they have cause to pray, that into temptation they may not be led. This tax is an immoral one; and, as I have heard in this house, when the rights and franchises of my countrymen were in question, a vebement denunciation against “ villanous perjury," I trust that to the Irish hustings your abhorrence of perjury will not be confined ; that to its perpetration you will not supply incentives ; that as you are not, I hope, Pharisees in religion, you will not prove remorseless Publicans in finance; and that you will not send forth a band of tax-gatherers through the kingdom, and arm them with the Gospel, that they may put the conscience of every honest man to the question ; while to every prevaricator, every shuffler, every equivocator, every perjurer, an impunity, proportioned to his utter des tilution of all principle, is scaudalously secured. I am not in speaking

this, guilty of any the least exaggeration of the evils of the incoine tax, in I find a warrant for every word that I have uttered in the reiterated statements contained in hundreds of petitions which in 1816 were pileu upon the table of the House of Commons, and of these statements no contradiction was ever yet attempted. The evils of the income tax are so monstrous, that it is almost impossible to heighten them—they set hyperbole at defiance. But, at all events, of no exaggeration could any man in inveighing against the evils of the income tax be possibly guilty comparable to the exaggeration into which the right honourable baronet allowed himself to be betrayed, when he indulged in a description so eloquent, but so highly coloured, of the disasters of his country.Remarkable as his speech was for a surplus of ability, it was not more conspicuous for talent than for the very exaggerated terms in which he permitted himself to describe the difficulties and dangers of England. İf, Sir, at the close of that speech, some one who had lived in sequestration from the world, and for the last five or six years had not heard of the events which have passed within that period, had chanced to have entered this house, he would, I think, have been tempted to exclaim – appalled by the right honourable baronet's magnificent peroration“Good God, what has happened! Is England brought to the verge or ruin ? Has one greater than Napoleon—of whom Napoleon was but the precursor-appeared ? Is the world in arms against England ?llave her fleets been sunk in the ocean, and, with Wellington at their nead, have those legions that were once deemed invincible, at last giver way?” What would be his surprise at hearing that the repose of Europe was undisturbed, that her Majesty had declared that she continued to receive assurances of the most friendly dispositions from all princes and states, that all the great powers had signed a common treaty for the preservation of the dominions of the Porte, and for the maintenance of peace; and that not very long ago another right honourable barouet, the Secretary for the Home Department, had taken upon himself to state, as evidence of the influence of a Conservative government in promoting peace, that the French minister had agreed to reduce the navy of France, and that wherever our eyes were turned prospects of cloudless felicity were disclosed. What! when a purpose is to be gained, shall one minister announce that, under Tory auspices, the peace of Europe is secure; and when money is to be got, is another minister, or rather the master of the ministers, to talk of the cannon, whose sound has not yet reached our ears, and to strike terror into the heart of the country with vague and appalling intimations! Contrast the speech of the right honourable baronet on the income tax with that which he delivered on the corn laws. The distresses of the country were then, forsooth, transitory and evanescent—they arose from bad garvests, and the temporary difficulties of America; and in the resources of England, in her energy and elastic power, his contidence was unabated. I concur with him, and thank God that we are not come to such a pass, that the right honourable baronet ja justified in insisting upon the loption of an impost, which hitherto (except in the midst of tne most Jisastrous warfare) no minister of England, except himself, has had the boldness to propose—which is fraught with such multuarious mischiefs. that the instant her great adversary had been subdued, England declared that she would no longer bear it—which, in its working, is admitted by its advocates to be most cruelly unjust—which establishes an inquisition almost as abominable as a religious one- -which multiplies oaths--makes as familiar as mere household words that awful attestation by which, as We speak the truth, we call on God to help us—converts the Gospel into a mere implement of finance-prostitutes to purposes the most vilifying That sacred book, which it is your boast that beyond all Christian nations you hold in reverence—which awards a premium to falsehood, and inflicts a penalty on truth—from which honesty cannot escape, and by which fraud cannot be caught, and which, of all the imposts which it is possible for a perverse ingenuity to devise, is the most prejudicial to the interests, offensive to the feelings, abhorrent to the religious sentiments, and revolting to the moral sense of the English people.

FACTORY BILL.

SPEECH IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ON THE EDUCATION CLAUSE

MAY 18, 1843.

The Roman Catholic population of this country is already so considerable, the Irish immigration into the factory districts is so great, that being a member of that Church, to which there exists in this country a tendency to revert, I think myself not unauthorised to take part in a discussion, with which the merits of the Factory Bill are so intimately conneeted. I frankly acknowledge, that considering the difficulties with which the government have to contend in reference to all questions relating to the Roman Catholic religion, a concession by no means unim. portant has been made to us. It is not rendered imperative on Catholic children to read and to learn the authorised version of the Scriptures, as we entertain the opinion that the sacred writings ought not to be used as a school book, ihat the rudiments of literature ought not to be taught through its intervention, that an irreverent familiarity with holy writ may lead to its degradation ; that the perusal of the Bible, unaccompanied with that interpretation which our Church has from the earliest foundation of Christianity, as we conceive, put upon passages which are either obscure or doubtful, is not judicious, and that the unqualified exercise of the right of private judgment must conduce to error ; as we hold besides, that facts are recorded in the history of an exceedingly carnal people, which it can answer no useful purpose to bring within the cognizance of childhood, and from which modesty should instinctively turn away—these, I say, being our sentiments upon a question of much controversy, though differing from our view, you have been sufficiently just to make allowance for what you consider to be our mistake in this regard ; and notwithstanding that in this country there prevails a very opposite opinion, although it has been made a point of Protestant honour, that without distinction of age, of sex, or circumstance, the sacred writings shall every where, and by every body, be indiscriminately perused, you have taken our conscientious difficulties into account, and have not insisted that against the will of Roman Catholic parents, their children shall be subjected to the compulsory acquisition of elementary knowledge through the medium of holy writ. That concession having been made, I own, that bearing in mind the incalculable importance of applying a remedy to the evils which result from the ignorance which is submitted to prevail in the factory districts, I felt that the measure proposed by her Majesty's government ought not to be resisted on any light and trivial ground, that it ought not to be made the subject of a mere political or sectarian struggle, and that a perverse ingenuity in devising arguments against it ought not to be indulged. I asked myself whether there was any real practical evil to be apprehended by those who are not in communion with the establishment, and I was anxious, if possible, taat my own judgment should yield an acquiescence to the reasons which were urged in favour of the scheme propounded in its ameliorated form,

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »