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1784. Observations of Mr. Adam.
The motion was negatived by a majority of ninetyseven*.
Mr. Adam, reverting to the election, took occasion to observe, that the career of ministers had there received a check, a glorious one.
If Mr. Fox's election was not unanimous, it might be said to be almost so, considering that he had to contend against all the weight of public office, all the interest of the East India Company, all the opposition of government, and the popular frenzy of the times.
Mr. Pitt treated this observation with severity mixed with pleasantry. The right honourable gentlemen had to contend with the powers of public office, because he endeavoured to subvert government; he had to contend with the India Company, because he endeavoured to seize upon their property and most sacred rights; and he had to contend with what was termed the popular frenzy, because the people at large had seen and condemned his conduct. But what allies the right honourable gentleman had to fight for him was not noticed. The degree of influence used in his favour had not been observed upon, nor any respect paid to those charms which alone could supersede every other consideration, and command unanimity when all other motives must fail. The glories of the right honourable gentleman were not confined to Westminster: they extended to that extreme corner of the island to which his partialities had not formerly been directed.
Via prima salutis,
His success at Ross and Kirkwall ought not to be denied its share of praise; it was well entitled to “pur“sue the triumph and partake the galet.”
Mr. Fox next presented a petition against the High Bailiff, praying that the House would immedi
* 233 to 136, on the previous question.
+ The Latin quotation is not in the Parliamentary History; it is taken from Tomline's Life of Pitt, vol. i. p. 356. The rest is verbatim, the same in both works.
ately order him to make a perfect and proper return to a committee under Mr. Grenville's act; but, after a considerable debate, it was conceded that the statute was not applicable. The petition was withdrawn, and a new one presented, reinforced by two others from electors, and it was met by one from Mr. Corbett, and petitions. one from other electors, praying that the scrutiny might proceed. All were ordered to be taken into consideration at the same time, and all parties, by themselves 2nd June. or their counsel, were to be heard at the bar.
Mr. Douglas opened the case for Mr. Fox and his co-petitioners; and, when the evidence, merely formal, of Sir Bernard Turner, one of the Sheriffs, had been given, a summing up, of extraordinary eloquence, ability, and boldness, was made by Mr. Garrow, who, although recently called to the bar, and suddenly instructed for the discussion, gave certain proof of the extent of his talent, and a sure presage of the eminence to which he rapidly attained* Mr. Mingay was then heard on the part of the High Bailiff, and a witness called to prove that, from the parishes of Saint Margaret and Saint John alone, four hundred names appeared on the poll as voters of Mr. Fox, not one of whom existed in either parish. This course of examination caused discussion and division; new objections were started, and new debates arose on questions relating to evidence, in which great heat was shewn and much personal reflection used. Several witnesses having at length been examined, Mr. Erskine, no longer a member, finally summed up the case on Mr. Fox's part. At 6th.
This learned advocate had, at the time, only been six months called to the bar, and was very young. An early display in a criminal cause drew on him the attention of an alderman of London, a warm friend of Mr. Fox, by whose intervention he was retained for this scrutiny and petition ; and his exertions proved eminently beneficial to his client. His speech, although he was suddenly called upon, was reckoned a masterpiece, and acquired the warm applause of Sir Lloyd Kenyon, who, whatever might be his political attachments, felt a generous sympathy for great talent in his own profession. It is hardly necessary to inform the present age that the most brilliant success attended Mr. Garrow at the Bar, where he attained the highest honours of that station. In 1817, he became one of the Barons of the Exchequer; and, on the bench of that court, completed a public life of nearly half a century. To the latest moment, he retained the same perspicacious sagacity, the same easy felicity of expression, and even with the same sweetness of voice and delicacy of enunciation which distinguished him in his earliest days. He died in honourable retirement, in September 1840.
State of finances.
30th June. The budget.
the next sitting, a long debate ensued, in which Mr. Fox vindicated his own cause, and exposed the conduct of the returning officer; but a motion of censure was lost by a majority of seventy-eight*.
It was then moved and carried, after a warm debate, that the High Bailiff should proceed in the scrutiny with all possible dispatcht.
Finance imperiously required the ministers particular and early attention. Long delay, and the increasing demands arising from unadjusted claims created by the late war, occasioned unprecedented difficulties. The large amount of outstanding bills, issued during and in consequence of the war, seriously affected the public credit. They were at a discount from fifteen to twenty per cent. which had the effect of seriously distressing the fundsf. The minister, in presenting a budget, observed that this irksome portion of his duty was not created by himself, but the work of his predecessors. The arrears already ascertained and unfunded were fourteen millions in the navy and ordnance departments; and, as he found it impracticable, without affecting the price of the public securities, to fund the whole at once, he had restricted his borrowing to six millions six hundred thousand pounds; and, to meet the interest, he proposed taxes, which, as he calculated, would raise nine hundred thousand pounds a-year. The imposts, some new, and some increased, were on hats, ribbons and gauzes; coals; saddle and pleasure horses ; printed linens and calicoes; candles ; licences to deal in exciseable commodities; bricks and tiles ; licences for shooting game; paper; and, lastly, hackney-coaches.
Mr. Fox, reserving the right of objecting if necessary to the details, warmly approved of the principles and outline of the plan. The bills went through Parliament without any material opposition. To the duty on bricks and tiles, several members made objections, as an extension of the excise, a hardship on
195 to 117.
+ 178 to 90. Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, vol. iv. p. 52.
those who had to build and repair, as an advantage to the brick-makers rather than to the public, and as unjust and unequal, while stone and slates were not included. In a debate on this tax, Sir Richard Hill The duty on proposed ten others as substitutes. The list comprised, objected to. with many other objects, Sunday tolls, and a tax on Proposal of Sunday newspapers; on admissions to places of public Hill. amusement, cards, dice, printed music, visiting cards, wafers, black pins, and fans. These propositions were not favoured by the House, and the original bill passed; but several of the matters mentioned in the speech of the honourable Baronet were afterwards adopted as objects of taxation.
The intended duty on coals, and that portion of the Supplemenlicences to dealers in exciseable commodities which tary budget. would have affected hop-planters, being much objected to, were withdrawn; from which, and other causes, the Chancellor of the Exchequer found himself obliged to submit to the House a supplementary budget. This 23rd July. proposition included an additional tax on licences to sell ale and to kill game; on gold and silver plate; a duty of twenty shillings per hundred-weight on lead exported, and an addition to the postage of letters, with a limitation and regulation of the privilege of franking
An increased rate of postage was easily acceded to; Privilege of but, had the privilege remained as it had been, the frankimg letrevenue would have acquired comparatively but little benefit. All that was necessary, up to this time, to send a letter free to any part of the kingdom, was the signature of a member of either House; and these franks were most profusely and inconsiderately distributed. Many persons were in possession of whole quires of them; besides which, letters were addressed to members, at places where they were not residing, so that, by an arrangement easily understood, the persons they were really meant for received them post free. The loss to government, by these means, has been stated at one hundred and seventy thousand pounds a-year. By the new regulation, no member of either House could frank a letter, unless, together with his name, he
ters restrained, 18th. Passes the Lords.
wrote that of the post-town from which it was to be sent, the day of the month, and year, and the whole direction; and no member was to permit letters to be directed to him at any place except that of his actual abode. These restrictions formed the beginning of a system which was carried to a great extent, and rendered that, which had produced a very small revenue, one of the most copious sources of fiscal emo
lument. Extent of
A measure calculated at once to improve the Smuggling.
revenue, to obstruct the operation of the coutraband trader, and to favour the prosperity of the East India Company, was brought before Parliament, under the name of the Commutation Act. The practice of smuggling had grown to an alarming height; not carried on in small boats stealing along shore, or fearfully venturing to cross the channel, but in vessels of great size and strength, capable of conveying ample freights, and armed for resistance in case of attack. Tea, being highly taxed, easily conveyed in bulk, separable into small parcels, and of certain sale, was a favourite object of illicit speculation. Ships, it was said, belonging to opulent individuals were freighted in China, came to Europe under foreign colours; and, whenever opportunities could be found, the cargoes were smuggled into England. In this manner it was calculated that two-thirds of the whole quantity consumed were obtained. The infallible and easy remedy for such an evil was the reduction, almost to extinction, of the duty ; but, as the revenue was not in a state to bear such a defalcation, an increased tax on houses and windows was contemplated as an indemnity.
Mr. Pitt proposed this plan to the House in a Commutation clear and able speech; and, after a few observations
from Mr. Eden, the resolutions were voted. No important debate took place; and only one division is
recorded, in which the minister had a very great ma10th August. jority*.
In the upper House, the bill was attacked in its
• 143 to 40.