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COMING EVENTS-GLADSTONE ADVANCES.
time were immediately suggestive, if not of the present state of the law, and is in the nathose “leaps and bounds” by which in some ture of a grievance." respects progress was afterward achieved, at least of extensions in what many cautious poli- If a season of prosperity and comparative ticians regarded as doubtful and dangerous tranquillity is favourable to the promotion of directions.
those measures which are mostly associated As we have already hinted, there were pro- with social and political progress, the years bably no more significant manifestations of 1864 and 1865 were remarkable as offering the “new departure,” as it would now be peculiar opportunities for the introduction of called, than the attitude of Mr. Gladstone in reforms, which, however, were not realized for relation to three measures which had been some time afterwards when the conditions proposed, but had not been adopted by parlia- were less assuring. It would seem that poliment.
tical advances, at anyrate, are not to be decided One of these was the introduction by Sir without the impetus which is derived from Morton Peto of what was known as public agitation, and popular agitation is Dissenters' Burial Bill,” which was intended scarcely to be incited except by the goad that to enable Nonconformists to observe their own is furnished by suffering or by indignation. ceremonies and religious services at the fu- In 1864 and the following year attempts to nerals of members of their own communion in introduce measures of reform in the representhe “consecrated” graveyards of the Church tation of the country in parliament were not of England. Mr. Disraeli was against it. Lord successful. It was known that there must Robert Cecil was in the front to oppose it, and soon be a dissolution of parliament, and neither so was Mr. Gathorne Hardy, who was after- inside nor outside the house was it thought wards to be the chosen representative of Ox- probable that the Palmerston government ford when Mr. Gladstone had gone beyond would be defeated before that event. The the political ring-fence of the venerable uni- Palmerston ministry would in all likelihood versity. Did Mr. Gladstone, when he rose to carry on the work till 1865 was provided for, support that bill, foresee the probability of his and then-well, perhaps some people said being deserted by the constituency to repre- “then the deluge," of course without foresent whom had been his high ambition and seeing that in some sort the following year, his just pride? There can be little doubt that 1866, was to be marked by turmoil, loss, outhe did. He could not, however, oppose the rage, and such general disturbance of the consecond reading of the proposed measure. Some mercial and social fabric, as may stand for parts of it were open to objection,“ but,” said deluge when the language of metaphor is emhe, “I do not see that there is sufficient reason, ployed. But in the opening of the sessions of or indeed any reason at all, why, after having 1864 and 1865 the most interesting subjects granted, and most properly granted, to the for consideration were still the financial entire community the power of professing and
schemes and statements of the chancellor of practising what form of religion they please the exchequer. Palmerston himself had reduring life, you should say to themselves or ferred to them at the critical moment when their relatives when dead, 'We will at the last he sought to shelter the ministry from hostile lay our hands upon you, and not permit you attacks on its foreign policy, and the country to enjoy the privilege of being buried in the looked forward to them with genuine interest churchyard, where, perhaps, the ashes of your as expositions of its commercial stability and ancestors repose, or at anyrate in the place of indications of future prosperity. And there which you are parishioners, unless you appear was reason for taking this view of the statethere as members of the Church of England, ments made by a financier who, even under and as members of that church have her ser- adverse circumstances, bad on former occasions vice read over your remains. That appears brought assurance to the public mind, and to me an inconsistency and an anomaly in had now to point to increasing benefits derived
from a policy of which he had been one of the exports had been £195,000,000—the exports strongest supporters. The budget of 1864 and imports together represented a gross sum showed that “the effect of twenty years of of £444,905,000, and it was shown that free-trade legislation, inaugurated by Sir the increase in various years corresponded Robert Peel in 1842, and carried on by his with the adoption of measures for the promosuccessors in office, had been such that, con- tion of free-trade. Our total imports froin currently with the repeal of a long catalogue France had more than doubled since 1859, of duties and imposts which had previously while our exports thither had risen from about fettered manufacturers, and excluded most £9,000,000 to about £22,000,000. It was well valuable foreign products, the finances of the to hear that this was the financial condition country presented an aspect of abundance and of the country during the time that one of our stability almost without precedent in our his- great industries was feeling the pinch of the tory, and to which no foreign country could American war, and the estimates were all reoffer a comparison. In point of wealth and assuring; the total calculated revenue national credit, indeed, England stood almost £69,460,000, and the total expenditure alone at this time amongst the nations of the £66,890,000-yielding a surplus of £2,570,000. world.”
A sum of £10,000, however, would be required In the two previous years we had been for various minor changes and modifications; suffering from a deficient harvest, and much and the surplus left to dispose of would be distress prevailed both in Ireland and in Lan- £2,560,000. With this Mr. Gladstone procashire. There had been considerable im- posed to take off a penny a pound from the provement, but not enough to make the out- income-tax, the existence of which as a perlook entirely favourable. Still the figures manent duty he believed was inconsistent which had to be submitted were encouraging. with the achievement of a judicious public The revenue of the year was £70,003,561, economy. With the remaining surplus the showing a surplus of nearly £3,000,000; but duty on fire insurance would be reduced from from this was to be taken the expenditure on three shillings to one and sixpence so far as fortifications, viz. £800,000. Deducting this stock in trade was concerned. It was afterfrom the surplus, it still stood at a large wards agreed to remit so much of the duty figure. The real diminution of taxes in the on nalt as had hitherto been levied
malt three last years had been £6,638,000. The used as food for cattle. revenue had decreased by only £1,760,000, so In the same year Mr. Gladstone succeeded that, taking reduction of taxation into con- in introducing a measure which was well sideration, it had actually increased, in round worthy of his financial ability, and has since numbers, by £5,000,000. The revenue had been of immense benefit to that thrifty and grown since the year 1859 at the rate of prudent class among the population, which £1,200,000, and since 1853 still over the rate quickly learns how to profit by any real of a million per annum. With regard to the facilities afforded them for making some proliquidation of debt, a million of exchequer | vision for the future. The scheme for enabling bonds had been paid off, and other liquidations persons to purchase small annuities through of the capital of the debt had been effected, the post-office savings-banks, and also to take which amounted to upwards of three millions. out policies of life assurance with the governFor terminable annuities in liquidation of ment, aroused remarkable opposition, especially debt £1,400,000 had been paid. The decrease among the friendly societies and those who in the national debt since 1855 had been supported their claims. As a matter of fact £69,000,000. Imports and exports had so it offered to the poor the advantage of a safe enormously increased that they were about investment, though the rates for life insurance three times the amount which they had reached were not such as to compete with those of in 1842, when the great financial reform of many of the insurance companies. The bill Sir Robert Peel had commenced. The total passed amidst the approval of a large number
of those for whom its benefits were intended, not only for some minor changes, but for the and the continued success of the scheme was two important reductions of the tea duty and afterwards shown by the steadily increasing the income-tax. The former was reduced to sixapplications for life-policies and the purchase pence in the pound, which would reduce the of small deferred annuities by people who, but price to the consumer by 20 per cent, a loss to for the assurance of government security, the revenue of about £2,375,000, so much of might never have made an effort to obtain which would be recouped by the probable inthese advantages.
crease of consumption that the falling off of The commercial prosperity of the country revenue from that source would be computed continued to be so satisfactory that the chan- at £1,808,000. cellor of the exchequer was able to make a The income-tax was already at the lowest still more satisfactory statement when intro- point it had ever reached, but it was producing the budget in 1865, the last year of that posed to reduce it from sixpence to fourpence parliament, and therefore a time of general in the pound. This would reduce the tax to excitement in view of the coming elections. £5,200,000, and its final adjustment, Mr. GladWhen that parliament first met (as Mr. Glad- stone observed, might be dealt with by the stone said in his introductory remarks upon the new parliament, but if it was thought desirfinancial condition of the country) we had been able to retain the income-tax, fourpence in engaged in a costly and difficult war with the pound was the rate at which it might well China—the harvest of the succeeding year was be kept in time of peace. The reductions on the worst that had been known for half a tea and income-tax represented £3,518,000, century--the recent experience of war had led which left a margin for the reduction of the to costly, extensive, and somewhat uncertain duty on fire insurance to one and sixpence, reconstructions; and the condition of the Con- while the shilling duty on policies would be tinent and the manner in which the Italian replaced by a penny stamp, and a penny stamp war had terminated had occasioned vague for the receipt. The total reduction of taxabut serious alarms in the public mind, which tion would be £5,420,000. was now tranquil and reassured. The finan- These statements were regarded with general cial history of the parliament had been a re- satisfaction throughout the country, especially markable one. It had raised a larger revenue as the expenditure on the army
navy had than at any period, whether of peace or war, been sensibly diminished; nor was any serious was ever raised by taxation. After taking opposition offered by the house, so that the into account the changes in the value of money bill passed with very little delay. It was a within an equal time, the expenditure of the fitting conclusion to a series of brilliant finanparliament had been upon a scale that had cial measures by a minister who was soon to never before been reached in time of peace. occupy a more prominent position in regard The amount and variety of the changes intro- to the views with which "advanced Liberals" duced into our financial legislation had been had become identified. greater than within a like number of years at The County Franchise Bill proposed by Mr. any formertime. The assembly also enjoyed the Locke King in April, 1864, was thrown out on distinction that, although no parliament ever the second reading, having been opposed by completed the full term of its legal existence, Lord Palmerston, who resisted what he called yet this was the seventh time on which that
organic changes, for which he declared there house had been called upon to make provision did not exist the same anxiety that had been for the financial exigencies of the country. observable some time before. Organic changes,
The expenditure for the financial year was he said, were introduced more as a means estimated at £66,139,000, which was consider- than as an end, the end being great improveably less than that of the previous year; while ments in the whole of our commercial legislathe estimated revenue was £70,170,000, thus tion. All such changes as were desirable had leaving a surplus of £4,031,000. This provided been effected as the result of our organic re