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sideration of the customs, which will undoubtedly add greatly to the produce of the revenue: we shall not, however, enter upon this at present; I have stated enough to the House. Those who compare our annual sums to our annual expenditure, may here see sums equal to apply to the deficiencies without any new demands, or any new burthens upon the people. I have stated what these deficiencies may be, as matters of uncertainty ; but if it be about 3,000,0001. the whole may be provided for without any new burthens of any sort. Why, it may be said, do I not fund this ? For this good reason; that I shall not, in all probability, have occasion to raise it : even if it were funded now there could be little hazard of its being made good.
I may now proceed to lay apart the million : but before I enter upon that part of the discussion which relates to the particular mode of applying this annual sum, it will be proper to consider the effect it will have. If this million, to be so applied, is laid out, with its growing interest, it will amount to a very great sum in a period that is not very long in the life of an individual, and but an hour in the existence of a great nation : and this will diminish the debt of this country so much as to prevent the exigencies of war from raising it to the enormous height it has hitherto done. In the period of twenty-eight years the sum of a million, annually improved, would amount to four millions , per annum.
But care must be taken that this fund be not broken in upon : this has hitherto been the bane of this country: for if the original sinking fund had been properly preserved, it is easy to be proved that our debts at this moment would not have been very burthensome: this has hitherto been, in vain, endeavoured to be prevented by acts of parliament: the minister has uniformly, when it suited his convenience, gotten hold of this sum, which ought to have been regarded as most sacred. What then is the way of preventing this ? The plan I mean to propose is this: that this sum be vested in certain commissioners, to be by them applied quarterly to buy up stock; by this means, no sum so great will ever lie ready to be seized upon any occasion, and
the fund will go on without interruption. Long, and very long has this country struggled under its heavy load, without any prospect of being relieved: but it may now look forward to an object upon which the existence of this country depends ; it is, therefore, proper it should be fortified as much as possible against alienation. By this manner of paying 250,0001. quarterly into the hands of commissioners, it would make it impossible to take it by stealth ; and the advantage would be too well felt ever to suffer a public act for that purpose. A minister could not have the confidence to come to this House and desire the repeal of so beneficial a law, which tended so directly to relieve the people from their burthens.
The persons who should be appointed to this commission should be of rank and distinction, to secure them from suspicion, and to give, as far as character could go, a belief of their discharging it with faithfulness. In the first place, I think it right that the respectable commoner, whoever he shall be, who fills the chair of this House, should be placed at the head of it. Par. liament, in instituting a commission of so much importance towards the support of national credit and prosperity, could not more solemnly, nor more pointedly promulgate its high sense of the duty by which that commission is bound, than by appointing the first member of this House to be at the head of it. I think also, without ascribing any thing to myself, that the person who holds an office so intimately connected with finance as the chancellor of the exchequer, ought to have a place in this commission. There is another person who, from his high rank, as well as from his virtues and reputation, I think ought to have a share in this business, and he is also, at present, a member of this House : this is the master of the rolls. The governor and the deputy-governor of the Bank of England I think ought also to be of the number. Also the accountant-general of the high court of chancery, who, by virtue of his office, was already employed in the money of all suitors and wards in the funds, and increasing, by that means, the capital, by theaccumulation of compound interests.
Such as these persons I shall propose to be appointed to this
trust, when the bill comes before the committee. There might be some difficulty in determining how to regulate the conduct of the commissioners in the purchase of stock ; but that might, perhaps, be left to their own discretion. But although it might be
proper to leave the manner of doing this to their own prudence, • it would not be so proper, by any means, to leave to them the
regulation of the time when they were to purchase : this, I think, ought to be on every transfer day in the quarter, at regular periods, and in equal sums.
I am very far from ascribing any merit to myself in suggesting this scheme; but, I cannot but think myself peculiarly happy in having a task, to perform so very different from any of my predecessors, and that, instead of expending the money of the public, I should have the great good fortune to be led to set about to diminish our burthens. This plan, which I have now the honour to bring forward, has long been the wish and the hope of all men ; and I am proud to flatter myself that my name may be inscribed on that firm column now about to be raised to national faith and national prosperity.
I shall not detain the House longer, because I am persuaded that they must be already tired of the tedious detail upon which I have been under the necessity of entering. The time when the operation of this fund is to begin, I think should be upon the 5th of July. At that time let 250,0001. be paid into the hands of the commissioners for this purpose; and after that, continued quarterly; this will make 750,0001. to be expended during the three quarters. I shall just mention upon what I found the expectations of having a surplus this year, of 750,0001. after paying the current expenses of the year ; by which there will appear a surplus over and above the stipulated annual one of some hundred thousand pounds. The House had voted for seamen......
........ 936,000 Ordinary of navy..................................
Army plantations, extraordinaries, &C................... 1,966,261 Ordnance.....
Civil list, &c. making the sum voted..................... 8,956,261 Exchequer bills.......
................ 2,500,000 Sum not yet voted.........
810,824 The total of the supplies would be......... ........12,477,085
The ways and means are as follow :
Land and malt-tax......
.................... 2,750,000 Exchequer bills..........
..... 5,500,000 Surplus of the sinking fund, in hand...................... 582,000 Estimated produce of 1786............................... 3,444,000 Arrears from East-India company life annuities, &c. 1,086,000
Amount of ways and means for the current year, 1786........
......................... 13,362,480 From which deduct the surplus, as above.......... 12,477,085
Remainder, £. 885,395 From this sum deduct the three quarterly pay
ments beginning on the 5th of July, of
of our debts, amounting to.......................... 750,000 And there would be a neat surplus of.............. £. 135,395 But if, 'as the committee stated, the revenue
rise according to the latest experience,
Making, in this case, a clear excess, accruing at
Christmas next, (above the regular surplus)
.......... £. 449,093 I shall now move, Sir, “ That a sum of one million be annually granted to certain commissioners, to be by them applied to the purchase of stocks, towards discharging the public debt of this country, which money shall arise out of the surplusses, excesses, and overplus monies, composing the fund commonly called the sinking fund.”
The motion was agreed to without oppositiorf.
February 12. 1787..
The House, pursuant to the order of the day, resolved itself into a Committee of the whole House, to consider of so much of His Majesty's speech as related to the Treaty of Commerce concluded with France.
MR. Pitt then rose :
He trusted that when the House considered the magnitude of the subject, they would not only forgive him for trespassing upon their patience with an extended investigation, but would encourage him in his attempts to throw all necessary lights upon its nature, and its possible effects. Convinced that he could not enter into details without employing much time, he should, on this account, avoid needlessly prolonging the hours of debate, by the introduction of any extraneous matter whatsoever. If the treaty should be found to comprehend principles hostile to . the received notions and doctrines of British commerce, and that thereby à general spirit of objection and discontent had spread abroad over the country, he was assured that it would little avail him to stand up in that committee, and argue for the acceptance of a negotiation, which was generally offensive. The committee would not be seduced, by any thing which he might be able to advance, from the exercise of their clear and independent judgments; and certainly they would not be bound in any degree to the confirmation of this treaty, unless, after the most deliberate and solemn discussion, they should perceive it supported by the most rational principles, and by the most incon.