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arise, whether the Income Tax should be retained, reduced, or removed. Till, however, our present commercial policy was fully carried out, he trusted the House would not refuse to continue this tax, under the cover of which so many objects beneficial to the country had been accomplished. He did not think it advisable to go into the details of the tax until the Bill was before the House. He did, however, come to the conclusion that, upon the whole, an equal and uniform rate on all descriptions of income, from whatever source, was the fairest and most practicable mode of assessment. He proposed to continue the exemption of Ireland. Sir Charles then, having replied to certain suggestions made to him respecting a revision of taxation, and having claimed for the Government the merit of having contributed to the augmentation of the revenue by economy, proceeded to consider the mode in which the anticipated surplus should be disposed of. The first claim, he observed, was for some reduction of the debt. Since 1830 we had borrowed 35,000,000/., of which we had paid off 8,000,000/.; so that in twenty years of peace we had added 27,000,0001. to our debt. He did not think it necessary to make a great effort to reduce this debt, but a portion of this surplus ought to be applied to its reduction, and he proposed to retain about 1,000,000/. What was to be done with the remainder? Of all the claims made upon him, he thought he was bound to attend to that for mitigating a tax which bore upon the health and morals of the lower classes, namely, the window duty. The amount of that tax was 1,856,000/., which
would absorb the whole of the surplus, and this would be unjust to other classes. Sanitary relief might be obtained without sacrificing the whole tax, by changing the mode of levying it, which was most objectionable. He proposed, therefore, to repeal the existing mode of assessment, and to substitute a tax upon houses, according to the principle of the value of the house, and to apply it to new houses, with considerable modifications, however, in respect to existing houses. Sir Charles Wood explained the manner in which he proposed to effect the substitution, the result of which, he said, would be to exempt from the tax 120,000 houses, to lay two-thirds of the present tax upon 30,000 houses, to exempt the great majority of farmhouses, and to levy upon the remaining houses about one-half of the present window duty. The loss to the revenue would be 700,000/. The next proposal was intended to check the adulteration of coffee by the admixture of chicory, by reducing the duty upon foreign as well as colonial coffee, levying an uniform rate of 3rf. per pound on both. The loss would be 176,000/. The duty upon foreign timber he should propose to reduce one-half of its present amount, which would be 286,000/. Another item was agricultural seeds, the duty upon which he proposed to reduce to Is. per cwt. upon all seeds, foreign and colonial. Lastly, he should propose to transfer to the State a portion of the local charge for the maintenance of pauper lunatics, to such an amount as would leave little more than the expense of an ordinary pauper. This charge would amount to 150,000/. Under the Sugar Act there would be a reduction of the duty on sugar in July of about 330,000/.; but this would be made up, and the total loss of revenue through reductions he did not calculate at more than 1,280,000/. Deducting this from the surplus, there would remain 612,000/.; but half of the present window duty would be receivable next year, which would make the surplus for that year 962,000/. Sir Charles concluded by moving that the Income Tax and the Stamp Duties in Ireland be further continued for a time to be limited. The statement of the right hon. Baronet was received with manifestations of dissatisfaction from various quarters of the House. Mr. Herries began by claiming ample time for consideration before giving consent to a proposition so important as the renewal of the Income Tax. Mr. Hume complained that the Window Tax was not to be unconditionally repealed, nor the military establishments reduced, as they might be, by transfering the burthen of defending the colonies to the colonial communities themselves. Viscount Duncan and Mr. Wakley enforced the objections against the Window Tax in toto. Alderman Sidney, Sir Benj. Hall, and Lord D. Stuart remonstrated against the Income Tax. Mr. Hodges, Mr. Frewen, and Mr. Hope complained that the grievances of the hopgrowers were left without redress. Mr. Newdegate, Sir Wm. Jolliffe, and Mr. Bankes protested against the mockery of relief offered to the distressed agriculturists. Mr. Wakley declared his firm conviction that the proposal of Sir C. Wood on the subject of the Window Tax would be received with so much hostility, that the Government would find it impossible to carry it into execution.
Three days after this discussion the public were informed, through the medium of the Times newspaper, that Lord John Russell's Administration had retired from office. The news, though not quite expected, occasioned no great surprise. The resignation of the Whig Government was not attributed to any single or definite cause, though the recent defeat of the Government on the motion of Mr. Locke King, and still more, the very unfavourable reception of the Budget, were surmised to have had much to do with it. But the chief cause was declared to be, in general terms, the loss of parliamentary confidence, the exhibition in many quarters of a resolute hostility to the Government, and on the part of its usual auxiliaries, an irresolute and distrustful support. With many delicate questions pressing on the attention of Parliament, and with a Cabinet which had been gradually growing more feeble, and resting more and more on a narrow basis, it was felt on all hands that the strength of the Executive was inadequate to the exigencies of the times. Under these circumstances the Premier doubtless judged wisely, that it was neither for the honour of the Administration nor for the wellbeing of the nation that the existence of the Whig Cabinet should be prolonged.
On the opening of the House of Commons on Friday, the 21st, the benches were crowded with Members anxious to learn the ministerial determinations. Upon the order for going into Committee of Ways and Means being read, Lord John Russell rose, and said:—" Sir, I have to request that the Order of the Day shall be postponed till Monday the 24th; I will then state to the House my reasons for making this request." The House seemed taken by surprise; but, after a short pause, Mr. Herries said,—" I wish to ask the Noble Lord if it is intended positively to proceed with the Committee of Ways and Means on Monday next?"
Lord John Russell declined to give a positive assurance to this effect, but repeated that he would explain fully on that day the reasons for taking his present course. The House then broke up. On the 24th both Houses were very fully attended. In the House of Lords, after the transaction of some formal business, the Marquis of Lansdowne rose and said:—
"My Lords, as there is no business before the House, I may as well at once take this opportunity of moving that the House, at its rising, be adjourned till Friday next. In making this motion, I feel that, however imperfectly and inefficiently I may be able to lay before your Lordships any communication relating to the present posture of affairs, it is due to your Lordships that any information or communication made on that subject to the other House of Parliament should, in substance at least, he made also to this House. But, my Lords, in doing so I shall confine myself simply to a statement of the facts as I understand them to have occurred. On Friday last, in consequence of divisions which had recently taken place in the other House of Parliament, Her Majesty's servants communicated with each other. From domestic circumstances, I was not one of the number on
that occasion; but they communicated with each other, and on that day Her Majesty was led to believe that it was probable Her Majesty's servants would resign on the day following. Early on Saturday morning I came to town, and that resignation was most respectfully and unanimously tendered by Her Majesty's servants to Her Majesty. In the course of the same day, the noble Lord I now see opposite was, as I am informed, invited to attend at the Palace, and a proposal was made to him to construct a Government. I am informed that the noble Lord stated that he was not then prepared to form one. Upon that communication being made, recourse was had to other persons, more particularly to my noble Friend lately at the head of the Government; and he was requested to reconstruct an Administration. My Lords, this is the present state of matters. All that it is in my power now to state to your Lordships is, that my noble Friend lately at the head of the Government has, upon reflection, thought it to be his duty towards Her Majesty and towards the public, to attempt the reconstruction of another Cabinet. Beyond that I have nothing to say: I speak as the organ of a Government which, in fact, exists no more—which holds office nominally only; and I am its representative only for the purpose of making this communication to your Lordships."
Lord Stanley made a very brief statement:—
"I am sure none of your Lordships will be disposed to make any opposition to the proposal which the noble Marquis has now made to the House; or, at all events,
that it will be unanimously agreed that no public business of importance shall be transacted. I am exceedingly unwilling to make, and indeed I will not make, any comment on the statement made by the noble Marquis. Circumstanced as the country now is, it is impossible that any revelation can be made of what has occurred. In the present state of things, I do not hold it consistent with my duty to offer any explanations that must necessarily be of an imperfect character. I can only say, that on Saturday I had the honour of a lengthened audience of Her Majesty; in the course of which I laid before Her Majesty, fully and unreservedly, what were my views of the present state of the country and of parties. Nothing could have exceeded the graciousness, the condescension, indeed, I may say, the kindness, of Her Majesty, throughout the whole of that audience; but of what passed at that interview, either as to the advice which I tendered to Her Majesty, or of what was stated by Her Majesty, I should ill requite the kindness and favour with which I was visited if I should at the present moment say a single word. (" Hear, hear.') When the time shall come—when this political crisis shall have passed—I shall be prepared to state fully and unreservedly to your Lordships and the country, the whole substance of the advice I tendered to Her Majesty, and the course which, as a public man honoured with the confidence of Her Majesty, and as a Privy Councillor, I recommended should be taken." In the House of Commons, on the same evening, on the motion for a Committee of Ways and Means, Lord J. Russell made his promised
statement of the reasons which had induced him on the former night to propose its postponement. His explanation was brief. Adverting to the results of Mr. Disraeli's and Mr. Locke King's motions, he said he had come to the conclusion that the existing Cabinet were not in a position to conduct satisfactorily the business of the country in that House during the session, thinking it, likewise, very disadvantageous to the country that the Government should be liable from time to time to defeats. He, therefore, with the concurrence of his colleagues, tendered their resignation to Her Majesty, who was graciously pleased to accept the same, and informed him of her intention to send for Lord Stanley, to take the charge of forming a Government. He (Lord John) had since been informed by Her Majesty that Lord Stanley had stated that he was not then prepared to form a Government, and Her Majesty had asked him (Lord John) to undertake the charge of reconstructing one. He had thought it his duty to attempt the task, and had assured Her Majesty that he would undertake it. In the meanwhile he asked the House to adjourn until the 28th.
Mr. Disraeli expressed his conviction that it would be found, when Lord Stanley gave his explanation in his place in Parliament, that in saying that Lord Stanley had informed Her Majesty that he was not then prepared to form an Administration, Lord J. Russell had made a statement to the House, which, on further consideration, he would acknowledge was not founded upon what had really occurred.
Lord J. Russell felt assured that Lord Stanley's explanation would bear out what he had said.
Mr. Roebuck hoped that Lord J. Russell, as leader not only of a great party in that House, but as representing a great principle, would not forget that that principle was now in his hands.
The motion, that the House at its rising do adjourn until Friday the 28th, was then agreed to.
On the 28th the Houses again met, when the subject of the Ministerial negotiations was renewed in the Upper House.
The Marquis of Lansdowne detailed the progress of the Ministerial crisis since the last meeting of the House. The failure of Lord John Russell to reconstruct his Cabinet, and the refusal of Lord Aberdeen and Sir James Graham to concur in forming an Administration, had been followed by an attempt of Lord Stanley to organize a Ministry, first by a coalition between the Protectionists and the supporters of the late Sir Robert Peel, and then by the unassisted forces of the Protectionist party. All these attempts had led to no result, and the state of things at that moment was, that Her Majesty had sent for the Duke of Wellington, in order to have the benefit of his advice before taking any further step. Under these circumstances it was consolatory to him to be able to state that the difficulties and obstacles which had occurred in these negotiations had turned entirely on honest differences of opinion, and not at all on any personal considerations. The noble Lord then sat down, after reminding the House that there was one sacrifice which he could never be called upon to make, and that was the sacrifice of dignity, which would attend the prolonged attempt to carry on the business of the country without
that amount of support which was indispensable to the efficient discharge of the public service. Such an attempt, while it would be highly detrimental to the honour of the Crown, could only be profitable to a not very respectable class of politicians, who would in that case be invested with an importance which did not otherwise belong to them.
The Earl of Aberdeen next rose to state the course which he had taken during the recent negotiations. On the preceding Saturday he had been honoured with a communication from, followed by an interview with, Her Majesty. In obedience to Her Majesty's expressed wish, he had endeavoured, in conjunction with Sir James Graham, to assist in the reconstruction of Lord John Russell's Government. He was sorry to say that his endeavours had failed, in consequence of his invincible repugnance to the penal measure against the Roman Catholics introduced by Lord John Russell into the Lower House. That repugnance had been shared, without any previous concert or understanding, by all his late colleagues with whom he had communicated on the subject. When Her Majesty found that no fusion could be effected between the supporters of the late Sir R. Peel and Lord John Russell, she had asked him (Lord Aberdeen) to undertake the task of forming an Administration, but when he looked at the majority by which the Bill against the Roman Catholics had been carried in the House of Commons, and when he was convinced that a large number of their Lordships would concur in supporting that Bill, he felt that it was useless to attempt to carry out Her Majesty's command, and there'