Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. II.

REPRESSION OF INDUSTRY.

123

a

source of revenue, as it is of wealth. I put forth

pamphlet, in the spring of 1828, entitled " Reasons for a Revision of our Fiscal Code;' in which, remarking that, in the year 1815, taxes to the gross amount of 85,311,7061. 16s. 11d. were raised in Great Britain, with much less pressure upon the people than 58,417,7291. 78. 2}d. were raised in the year 1827, in the United Kingdom, I suggested the enquiry, how it happened that, with an increase of our foreign trade, and with an amount in taxes, in 1827, less by 25,000,000l. and upwards than in 1815, the raising a lesser sum in 1827 should have borne more heavily upon the people? The details in that pamphlet had relation chiefly to taxes of excise; and its object was, to show how infinitely more good might be done, even in the way of revenue, by relieving industry from fiscal restraints, than by any thing that could be done by diminishing expenditure, though there was no reason why every practical saving that could be attained should not be made also. *

* A copy of this pamphlet was sent to the Chairman and two other Members of the Committee. The branch of the enquiry therein suggested, however, was altogether overlooked, though it forms the main subject of the publication of the Chairman in the following year. With the views taken in that publication, it is very singular that the improvement of the revenue, by relieving industry from taxation which pressed upon it, should have entirely escaped him while the Committee was sitting.

The Finance Committee of that year confined their labours to what appeared to me to form the least important branch of the enquiry; namely, the diminution of expenditure. In the following year, however, its chairman made up for the omission by the publication of his book on Financial Reform.

But, without going into details, it remains to point out how almost all taxes of excise may be much diminished, if not removed, by deriving a larger portion of our revenue from duties of Customs.

These did not amount, at the commencement of the reign of George III., to 2,000,0001. They have risen regularly ever since, and now yield a net revenue approaching to 17,000,0001. The amount was much larger in 1830; but the duty on coals brought into the port of London has been since repealed, and the duties on corn imported last year have diminished.*

Duties of customs having been imposed at a time when the principles of taxation were little understood, and being levied by per-centage increased from time to time upon articles imported,

* Duties of customs on coals carried coastwise, however, and on slates, continue to be levied. All duties of customs on any article whatever, carried coastwise, should be repealed, and also on all articles of home produce and manufacture exported, some of which still remain.

CHAP. II.

REVISION REQUIRED.

125

according to fixed official rates, established upwards of a century and a half ago, it is obvious that the amount of duties now levied cannot be

upon a proper scale. A commencement has been made by what has been done in the present session, in adopting abetter scaleforcertain articles of import, The whole list of articles imported should be gone through, and as the revenue of the customs improves, from the adaptation of a scale of duties corresponding with the present state of things. duties of excise should be repealed or diminished. Among such a variety of articles, it is impossible to lay down any rule; but thus much is evident, that the duty levied should not be disproportioned to the exchangeable value of the article ; and the great rise which has taken place in the exchangeable value of money, moreover, renders a revision of our duties of customs peculiarly necessary. There may be exceptions; and so heavy a duty has been so long levied upon tobacco, that upon this plant, perhaps, an excessive duty may and ought to continue to be levied upon its importation.

The very large amount of duties of customs now, compared with their amount at the termination of the war, shows that this source of revenue, from increasing consumption, may be safely relied upon. Of the duties of customs at present levied, a very small proportion is paid by the people of Ireland ;* but as that country increases in wealth, (and, with all its disturbances, it is increasing in wealth,) the improvement of Ireland, as well as the further improvement of Great Britain, presents an additional source of increase. Here, as in every other case of taxation, consumption affords a sure rule; and

* With reference to Ireland, I have observed in another place that “the exports from Ireland compared to her popu“ lation, and the sum of taxes which she pays, contrasted “ with the amount of the exports from Great Britain, her “ population, and the taxes raised in the latter country, sug

gest ground for doubting that the amount of the exports of

a country furnishes a sure proof of her prosperity. From an “ account laid upon the table of the House of Commons in “ April, 1824 (to be found among the finance accounts of “ that year), showing the amount of the gross revenue of “ each country from the year 1792 to that period, the net revenue,

the
expense

of management, the funded debt un“ redeemed, the charge, the supplies voted, the payments for “ national objects, and the amount of the population, it

appears that the net revenue of Great Britain, with a “population of 14,379,677, in 1823, was 53,788,4961.; “ whereas the net revenue of Ireland, with a population of “ 6,846,949, was only 3,718,098), Yet Ireland, it appeared “ from an account taken from the finance accounts of 1826, “ exported in each of the years, 1823, 1824, and 1825, pro« duce and manufactures to an amount in official value nearly “ double the sum paid by her in taxes; while the produce " and manufactures exported from Great Britain in the same

years, according to official value, were about ten millions « less than the net sum raised by her in taxes, upon the average

of these three years.” Revision of our Fiscal Code, 28.

CHAP. III.

NATIONAL DEBT.

127

as the consumption of articles imported increases, the amount of the duties of customs upon them should be diminished; for, as increase of industry arises from small profits with quick returns, so the increase of the revenue of customs arises from small duties on the small but increasing consumption of large numbers.

CHAP. III.

NATIONAL DEBT.

LARGE as the amount of our public debt is, it need not give us much concern.

The sum of the gross ordinary revenue of Great Britain last year, was 49,836,3541. This is a sum which the people of Great Britain are enabled to spare from the annual returns of their industry, which cannot therefore well be less than 5 or 600,000,0001. But our debt, unfunded as well as funded, does not amount to 800,000,000l. Now, a landed proprietor would not be deemed very heavily burdened, if the debt which he owed was less than two years' returns from his estates. It is not, therefore, the want of means, but the malconformation of them, that occasions distress; and this mal-conformation arises from legislative re

« PreviousContinue »