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The petitioners, whose case is before you, I had the honour personally to receive. I would be understood to mean the deputies from the different parishes of Dublin; I found them an intelligent and respectable body of men; they spoke their real feelings, and, I believe, the feelings of those who deputed them.
The city of Dublin is certainly in extreme distress, and de serves, from her temper and her conduct, the consideration of Parliament. I agree with my honourable colleague, and some of the gentlemen, who spoke on this side of the House, that
you cannot abandon the capital resources of the empire.
Subject to that principle, I cannot but think, that you may, in the present instance, administer relief to the city of Dublin; I should hope that you may diminish the tax, and keep up the revenue; the tax upon windows was proposed as a war tax, to cease when the war was er. I do not mean to say, that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer did, in any degree, mean to impose upon the public; his conduct was perfectly fair on that occasion; besides, there are certain provisions in the act which require alteration. The powers of entry are oppressive, and should be modified; the extending the tax to the outhouses, is another cause of complaint which requires the interference of Parliament.
With respect to the carriage tax, I should think that might be dimished, without loss to the revenue; on the contrary, I should think the revenue might rise by the diminution of that tax.
When I propose the revision of these taxes, I do not mean to cast any reflection on the right honourable gentleman (Mr. V. Fitzgerald); on the contrary, I think he was a most excellent officer, and that, in a most arduous situation he was a most excellent officer, and endeavoured to serve both the Crown and the people; faithful to his King and faithful to his country.
His consolidation measure was most important, I acknowledge it was a measure of necessity ; but I cannot withhold approbation from that servant of government who had the sense to see the necessity, and the justice to provide for it. If there be errors in the system of taxation, they are such as are inseparable from a great operation, and from difficulties unexampled. On the whole, I think the city of Dublin has made out a case which merits the consideration of government.
The motion was supported by Mr. Plunket, Mr. V. Fitzgerald, Sir H. Parnell, Şir H. Coltherst, Mr. Brougham, the Knight of Kerry (Mr. M. Fitzgerald), and Sir John Newport. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Vansittart) resisted the motion, and moved as an amendment, “ That the petition be referred to the committee of general accounts and expenditure;" he stated his intention of submitting an extended plan with regard to the revenue of Ireland; and that he would, by personal experience in Ireland, examine the merits of the measure. Upon this assurance, Mr. Shaw agreed to defer his motion for the present; and the motion and amendment were accordingly withdrawn.
WINDOW TAX IN IRELAND.
MR. SHAW MOVES FOR A COMMITTEE TO ENQUIRE RESPECTING
THE WINDOW TAX IN IRELAND
April 21. 1818.
MR. ROBERT SHAW. brought forward his promised motion
on the subject of the tax upon windows in Ireland. He read an extract from a speech of Mr. Corry (Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland) at the time of the Union, in which he stated, that the tax was not intended to be permanent, but merely a war provision; and Mr.Corry moved, “ That the window tax should continue three years, and no longer, provided the war should continue so long.” Such was the motion. Mr. Shaw complained of the incapability of Ireland to pay taxes ; he said, that, in the year 1816, the produce of the hearth tax was 75,000l. ; and that of the window tax 370,0001.; in 1818, the former fell to 43,0001.; and the latter to 302,0001.; it was admitted by those who took a most active part at the time of the Union, that the ratio of two seventeenths was an unfair quota. From the finance returns it appeared that, in 1816, the last year of the war, the net produce applicable to national objects and payments into the Exchequer for England, exclusive of loans, amounted to 79,948,6701., while that of Ireland for the same period amounted to 7,405,324l.: these statements were a proof of the inability of Ireland to pay heavy taxes; he accordingly concluded. by moving,
“ for the appointment of a select committee, to consider the expediency of repealing the act of the .56th of the King, as far as respects the tax upon windows and hearths in Ireland.” This was opposed by Mr. Vansittart and Mr. Peel; the former said, the taxes of Ireland were not equal to the interest of the consolidated fund. Ireland had brought to England no addition of revenue, but a large addition to the national debt ; he proposed however a scale of reduction, by which 25l. per cent. would be reduced on the whole produce of the tax.
The motion was supported by Sir John Newport, Mr. Plunket, Sir Nicholas Colthurst, Sir Frederick Flood, Mr. Parnell, Mr. May, Mr. Carew, Mr. W. Smith, Mr. P. Moore, and Mr. Calcraft. It was urged, in favour of the reduction, that Ireland could not contribute to such heavy charges, because, since the Union, her burdens were beyond her resources and strength; in the year 1808, her revenue was 4,417,0001., since which time additional taxes were imposed to the amount of 3,500,0001., the actual produce of which did not exceed 50,000l. ; since the conclusion of the war, seventeen millions of taxes had been reduced in England, and but 400,000l. in Ireland; it was stated, that the decided opinion of medical men, and especially in Dublin and Cork, was, that the contagious fever prevalent of late, had been in a great measure occasioned by stopping up the windows to avoid the tax. Doctor Barry, in his report of Cork, stated that the distemper was raging in those houses, which had no windows, while those that had them were perfectly healthy.
Mr. GRATTAN said: The honourable member who moved and spoke with so much temper and information, has made out a case for a committee; it rests principally upon four grounds; first, the number of the petitions and petitioners, which are a proof of a general pressure; secondly, the strong presumption that the duty on windows was originally a war tax; thirdly, the state of the public health; fourthly, the evidence of public inability. It appears, that since 1808, additional taxes have been imposed in Ireland, calculated at three millions, five hundred thousand pounds per annum, and the additional produce has been, in the last year, fifty thousand pounds only. It appears that the window tax has fallen from three hundred and eighty thousand, to three hundred thousand pounds, and that the return for the city of Dublin alone, for this year, has been three thousand seven hundred insolvencies; from whence I collect three things; that you have over-rated the abilities of Ireland; that
you have come to your acme of taxation; and further, that you have now gone beyond it. In answer to this, is objected the prayer of the petitioners, and extent of their demand. But this is not a question of exoneration merely, but a question of health and arrangement also ; not whether the whole or every part of the petitions be just and reasonable, but whether any part deserves your consideration. Gentlemen say, the window tax was not to be understood as a war tax; but will they meet that question in a committee ? If they are anxious to meet that charge, they should be the first to propose a committee, for it is certainly a matter which ought to be put (even according to their own statement, and for their own credit) into a course of discussion; they say it is not a case of health, for there have been on that subject only seven applications to government. Are we then to understand that the physicians are mistaken, and that in a case of the recovery.
fever, ventilation is not necessary to health, and the exclusion of it not dangerous ? Are we to understand that shutting out the air is safe, and shutting in and propagating fever is inoffensive? I should rather incline to think, that such a proceeding would be a bounty on the disorder, and a bar to
Gentlemen object to this the exigencies of the empire, and the excess of the public expence; but are the exigencies of government a reason why you should not stop the progress of disease ? or the state of public expence a reason why you should not enquire into the state of public health? These subjects are ingredients for the consideration of a committee, but no reasons against its establishment. There are certain maxims which, should you agree to a committee, must influence its deliberations.
It will not abandon the great resources of the empire; it will not circulate such an idea, least of all at the eve of a general election. Gentlemen will not canvass at the expence of the principles of empire! Ireland will not encourage such an idea, nor degenerate from her past conduct; the part she took in the last war; the money she afforded; and, still more, the good will with which she gave it; the forces she contributed; the distinguished individuals; and above all, that great Irishman who recovered Europe; all these have placed Ireland too high to make her repent of her late exertion. She will not efface the great impression by an idle hope to extricate herself from the public difficulty, or by an effort which could only tend to cancel the gratitude, and to retain the burden. The two nations will not consider merely what they pay, but the security and pre-eminence which they have gotten. Saying this, I have no hesitation to add, that Ireland is overtaxed; that she is unequal to her present burdens. You must relieve, you must nurse, you must foster Ireland; you have the application of her resources; you should therefore have no jealousy of her strength; you must look to her growth, and therefore be tender of her childhood; you must give her a preference in your markets over all other nations, and observe a moderation in imposing taxation. Such policy is present harmony and future strength. Never look to exonerate England by overcharging Ireland ; in so doing, you would overlay and dwarf the future resources of the empire. Gentlemen have said, you have diminished the taxes of England seventeen millions; and those of Ireland, but three hundred thousand pounds. It is replied, that you have diminished the taxes of England, and transferred the debt of Ireland ; but the question is not, whether you have relieved Ireland as much by the transfer of debt, as England, by diminution of tax; but the question is, whether Ireland can bear her present taxation ? And she cannot. Certain additional taxes, estimated at three millions five hundred thousand pounds, have produced in the last year, an increase of no more than fifty thousand pounds. The truth is, the necessary and inevitable expences of the war were beyond all possibility of calculation or foresight; and Ireland was not able to follow you. I am for the committee; the more so, because there are certain local taxes affecting the city of Dublin, whose existing distresses are very great; which taxes may be made a subject of enquiry in this committee. Voting for this committee, I understand, that, should the question be lost, the right honourable gentleman still thinks himself bound to make a reduction of twenty-five per cent. for which I make him my acknowledgements. The House divided. Ayes 51, Noes 67; majority 16. Tellers for the Ayes, Mr. W. Smith, and Mr. R. Shaw.
Noes, Lord Binning, Mr. Charles Grant, jun.
MR. GRATTAN MOVES FOR A COMMITTEE TO ENQUIRE INTO THE
LAWS THAT AFFECT THE ROMAN CATHOLICS.
May 3. 1819. MR. GRATTAN presented eight Roman Catholic, and five
Protestant petitions, in favour of the Roman Catholic claims; he then rose and said,
I beg leave, Sir, in presenting these petitions, to express my most ardent hope, that they may ultimately succeed, and that in their success they may give strength to the Protestant church, to the act of settlement, and to the Protestant succession to the crown; and that they may form an identifica tion of the people, so as to preserve tranquillity at home, and security and respectability abroad, while the two religions under the roof of one and the same empire, may exercise their respective privileges with the same God, the same Gospel, and the same Redeemer, with different sacraments, but the same results; and in their different notes, with all the variety of nature, but with its concord and harmony also, offer up their prayers to their common Creator.