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The whole of the signatories to the majority report must be a parcel of fools, if we are to believe Sir John Lubbock. I do not. The inquiry depended upon the principles of comparison, the application of specific standards, and the relative capacity of Great Britain and Ireland to bear taxation. Nineteen witnesses, fourteen of whom were Government officials, gave evidence to the effect that the union with Great Britain placed on Ireland a burden of taxation she was unable to bear; it was from the evidence of these witnesses the majority of the Commission found that Ireland was overtaxed.
Not one witness disputed this, and I challenge Sir John Lubbock to produce the reference to the contrary. Sir John Lubbock now asks the question : “What was the financial position of Ireland at the “time of the Union ? " Sir John Lubbock then quotes part of a speech by Lord Clare, at that time Lord Chancellor of Ireland, delivered February 10, 1800, the gist of this speech being that Ireland would be bankrupt in three years, or there would be a ruinous burden of taxation; that union with Great Britain would increase Ireland's resources if she abjured faction, and that Ireland would participate in British capital and British industry.
As an Irishman, speaking from my heart, I sincerely wish she had so participated. Two years before, in the same House, Lord Clare had described Ireland as advancing in prosperity more rapidly than any other country in Europe, but he now painted its situation as desperate.
Sir John Lubbock is not happy in the choice of individual he quotes from. After quoting Lord Clare, Sir John Lubbock says: “In "no sense therefore was the position of Ireland satisfactory: then she "was a dependency, now she is part of a great Empire." All Ireland knew the latter part of this statement ninety-seven years ago, if not before. I really must demur to the first part of the statement, and refer Sir John Lubbock to the preamble of the Act of Union, which runs thus : . Whereas in pursuance of His Majesty's most gracious recommendation of the two Houses of Parliament in Great Britain and Ireland respectively, to consider such measures as might best tend to strengthen and consolidate the connection between the two kingdoms, the two Houses of Parliament of Great Britain, and the two Houses of the Parliament of Ireland have severally agreed and resolved,' &c. This to the plain man does not read as if Ireland was considered on July 2, 1800, as a dependency.' I trust Sir John Lubbock will read, mark, and learn, and inwardly digest, more of this most important Act. Another statement of Sir John Lubbock's: "If Ireland had "been conquered and annexed by France, what would have been the “result? The present taxation of Ireland per head is estimated in “the report at 11. 188. 3d. per head, while that of France is 31. 138. 4d.” I trust I shall not be accused of high treason for stating that from
Vide Lecky's History, vol. viii. page 461.
an Irish agriculturist's point of view the Irish would have been better off under a French system of State-aided agriculture than no system at all. High taxation or low taxation, whichever way Sir John Lubbock likes to have it. Sir John must remember that Ireland is a purely agricultural country. Thank Heaven the French did not annex Ireland! If they had landed sufficient forces at Killala Bay, August 22, 1798, they certainly could have done so. Another statement by Sir John Lubbock : “ Between the Union in 1800 and the fusion of "the Exchequer in 1817, the financial policy of the two countries was “ very different. The taxation of Ireland was not raised nearly so “much as that of Great Britain, and the consequence was that the “debt of Ireland was increasing with portentous rapidity. In fact, “the fusion of the Exchequer was effected, not in the interest of Great “Britain, but in that of Ireland."
I answer Sir John Lubbock from page 340 of the Report of the Commission : they are the conclusions arrived at by Sir E. Hamilton, of Her Majesty's Treasury. "The condition, then, to which Ireland was reduced in 1816 was probably not due to the manner in which effect had been given to the wording or intentions of the Treaty of Union, it was due to the arrangement itself-by having had imposed upon her a quota of two-seventeenths of the joint expenditure, an amount which may be held to have been beyond her capacity to meet.'
The quota of taxation was that set down in the Act of Union, a burden Ireland was unable to bear. She had not the power to borrow for herself under the Act; therefore, to save the United Kingdom from becoming in part bankrupt, the two Exchequers were amalgamated. Sir John Lubbock then says: “As a matter of fact, no tax “ in Ireland touches a single necessary of life, and no income is taxed “under 1601. a year.” Thank Heaven the necessaries of life are not taxed! What! does Sir John Lubbock want to tax potatoes or, perhaps, milk? We surely claim to be considered part of the United Kingdom with regard to the taxation of the necessaries of life. I wonder if a dish of tea is an absolute necessity to the poor of Ireland ? The
poor, I think, can answer Sir John Lubbock on this point. He goes on to say: "Having then, I trust, shown that Great Britain “has no cause to reproach herself with any want of generosity to "Ireland in the past, I come to the present, and before I proceed to “examine the facts I should like to point out that the effect, both of “the evidence and the Report, seems to have been a good deal mis"understood.” I beg leave to state that the effect both of the Report and the evidence has not in the least degree been misunderstood in Ireland, the country that all the 'pother' is about.
In Ireland all creeds and all parties agree upon this, that Ireland staggers under a weight which is a feather on the shoulders of the wealthier people’ (Mr. Sullivan, M.P., in the House of Commons,
March 1875); since that date the death duties have been imposed. But why—-oh, why does Sir John Lubbock quote small bits of evidence from the Report to suit the convenience of his arguments? He says: " In the case of Sir R. Giffen a meaning has been attributed to “ him which he never intended to convey.” “Sir T. Sutherland asked him (question 7895, page 25): Then your evidence is simply to point out that Ireland is overtaxed ?-I have given no evidence about the taxation of Ireland.' Sir John Lubbock quotes another bit of evidence by Sir R. Giffen in answer to the same questioner (question 7798, page 19): “England has not benefited by having " Ireland to draw on, because you had to spend more in Ireland " than you received."
Sir John Lubbock then sums up with regard to this point, and says: “Surely this is an admission that Ireland is not suffering from "any injustice, due to the system of taxation of the United Kingdom, " for if that were the case the injustice could of course be altered by a "change in that system.” I say, 'Of course it could, Sir John. Let me now refer to this particular part of Sir R. Giffen's examination, which is based on an article in this Review (1886), entitled “The Economic Value of Ireland to Great Britain.' The article, after giving tables from the Finance and Revenue accounts, says : •The English Government is thus a loser by Ireland to the extent of about 2,750,000l. per annum, although it receives from Ireland over 3,000,0001. more revenue than Ireland on any fair computation ought to pay. If Ireland only paid a fair contribution for imperial purposes, we should be out of pocket by 3,200,0001. more, or nearly 6,000,0001. Actually, it is beyond the question, we lose as a Government nearly 3,000,0001., while taxing over 3,000,0001, more than it ought to be taxed. Sir R. Giffen, then under examination, says: “That seems quite clear from the point of view of our pocket, but has nothing to do with the equity of taxation.' Lord Farrer (question 7907): It has a good deal to do, has it not, with the question of remedying the over-taxation ?I am not quite sure how far you can go into it.' Mr. Sexton (question 7908): In fact, you declare here in one breath the excessiveness of the taxation, and at the same time the excessiveness of the expenditure.' Answer: It seems to me the two things are quite consistent. I say, in Sir John Lubbock's own words, that, according to Sir R. Giffen, surely this is an admission that Ireland is suffering from excessive taxation and excessiveness of expenditure on the part of the Imperial Government. These two points of expenditure and taxation are the very points upon which we base our claims for redress. I now take issue on this statement of Sir John Lubbock's :
“Take the income tax, on which some of the Commissioners seem “ to have relied. In the first place, it is impossible to arrive at the "amount, which must be very large, held by Irishmen in English “ securities left for safe custody in London, excepting so far as this “can be done through the death duties. Again, as small incomes “are exempted, and as there are more small incomes in proportion “in Ireland than in Great Britain, the amount of income tax must
necessarily bear a smaller proportion to the total income in “ Ireland than in Great Britain."
I quite agree, but the same argument applies to Englishmen holding foreign securities and Irish securities. Why ram it home so particularly for Ireland ? Death and its 'duties' reach us all, and the death duty presses particularly hard on Irishmen, especially those who are euphoniously styled landlords. To the latter part of the statement, I say there are smaller incomes in proportion in Ireland than in Great Britain, and the tax presses harder on a small income than on a large one, therefore the severity of the income tax in Ireland is more felt, and it brings in less than in England. Sir Robert Peel in 1842 refused to put the income tax on Ireland. It remained for Mr. Gladstone to impose it in 1856, after the years of famine 1846, 47, '48. Ireland has never recovered from those years. The tax is with us, plus the death duty. I now come to a statement of Sir John Lubbock’s which is astonishingly inaccurate. He says:
“ None of the land which has been sold to tenants is now " valued for income tax. It is worth less than before, but it escapes altogether.” A friend and a neighbour writes to me as follows:
November 13th, 1897. Dear Mayo, You take a great interest and a prominent part in the financial relations discussion.
I have read an article by Sir John Lubbock in the Nineteenth Century Review of November against the statement that Ireland is overtaxed; he states that no Income Tax is demanded from persons who have bought under the Land Acts.
For nine years I, who have bought under the Ashbourne Act, have to pay under Schedule A at 8d., and for the last four years they have assessed me under Schedule B as well. If Sir John Lubbock is not better informed as to the other matters in his article, he had far better have left his pen dry.
Yours sincerely, No answer.
My friend required no answer to his letter. I submit that it is unanswerable from Sir John Lubbock's point of view. Sir John Lubbock says, “Let us pass to the taxation of lands,” quoting Sir A. Milner, then Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue, who says that the valuation of houses in Ireland is extremely low compared with England.
In answer I say, first, the houses, as a rule, are not so good, and secondly, they let for a low rent. Sir John Lubbock continues again, “ Tenant right is not valued. Now we know it sells for large sums." I quite agree this 'right' certainly does sell well. It would be a most interesting experiment, and I suggest Sir John Lubbock should carry it out by bringing forward in the House of Commons that tenant right be valued for taxation at time of sale. The Irish Nationalist members' speeches on the subject would be lively and instructive. May I be there to hear them! Sir John Lubbock then in his article devotes more than four pages to arguments concerning indirect taxation as affecting Ireland. He commences and says: “The main com“plaint, however, has been made with reference to the revenue derived " from certain dutiable articles, spirits, tobacco, beer, tea, and coffee." Sir John Lubbock is alluding to the debate in the House of Commons on the 29th, 30th, and 31st of March 1897. The debate commenced on a motion of Mr. Edward Blake, member for South Longford, who in the course of his speech said :
The expenditure on spirits in Great Britain was 48,571,0001., or 18. 9d. por head. In Ireland it was 6,144,0001., or ll. 18. 6d. per head. While the Briton spent 41. 28. on beer and spirits, the Irishman only spent 21. 138. 8d. More than this, the tax on sixty gallons of beer was equal to the tax on one gallon of whisky. Out of the Briton's drink bill of 41. 28., 168. 1d. went in taxation, while out of the Irishman's bill of 21. 138. 8d., 138. 104d. represented taxation, so that if the Irishman paid at the same rate as the Briton his tax would be 108. 6d. Thus his excess was 38. 4fd., which for Ireland meant 780,0001.
The figures Mr. Edward Blake quotes are taken from Appendix I., Memorandum presented to the Commission by Sir E. Hamilton, of Her Majesty's Treasury. Those who read this article can judge if there is a cause of complaint or not.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech on the same day never questioned these figures. His argument with regard to indirect taxation was mainly directed to show that as the articles indirectly taxed were stated to be necessaries of life in Ireland), he * Why are they necessaries of life more to the Irishman than to the Englishman or Scotchman ?' Sir John Lubbock throws doubts in his article on the figures arrived at by all the authorities that are quoted by Sir E. Hamilton. The Chancellor of the Exchequer threw no doubt on the figures quoted by Mr. Blake, nor indeed mentioned them. For my own part I prefer the Treasury's official statement, and the non-contradiction of its statistics by Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, to Sir John Lubbock's opinion.
He qualifies his opinion' by a saving clause which runs thus : “No doubt the Treasury and Board of Customs have done their best, " and it is no fault of theirs that the results were uncertain.” Sir John Lubbock now goes on to say: “ Are then the taxes on tobacco and “spirits unfair ? They are not necessaries. When Nansen went on his “adventurous journey he took hardly any spirits, because he believed
they would be injurious. They are not necessaries, they are not “even simple luxuries, they are dangerous temptations. If Irish“men would abandon tobacco, spirits, and party bitterness, how “happy and prosperous Ireland would be !”
This is rubbish, and nothing more.