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MR. PITT'S SPEECH
ON REVENUE AND EXPENDITURE, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE
OF COMMONS, FEBRUARY 17, 1792.
THE house having resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to consider so much of his majesty's speech, on the opening of the session, as related to the publick revenue and expenditure, and these parts being read, Mr. Pitt, then chancellor of the exchequer arose, and delivered the following speech, which, with singular precision and luminous order reviews the finances of the country, and unfolds the hidden sources of its wealth and prosperity.
It belonged to his genius to mould the roughest materials into symmetry and proportion, and to smooth the deformities of every subject it touched. Into the dead carcase of a budget, which was always before his time loathsome and repulsive to the house, his eloquence infused so much animation and grace as to render it attractive. The present speech of this exalted statesman is one of the happiest ex, amples of publick speaking; where the minute details of business are blended with the ornaments of imagination, and the fascinations of style.
THE paragraph in his majesty's speech which has been referred to this committee, * has already announced to us, and to the publick, the most wel. come intelligence which it was possible for us to receive. It has raised the pleasing expectation, that, after all the difficulties with which we have struggled, the period is at length arrived, when, by the flourish. ing state of our finances, we may be enabled to enter on a system which will afford immediate and substantial relief to a large proportion of our constituents, and at the same time give additional security and effect to that important, and, I trust, inviolable system which has been adopted for the reduction of the national debt.
In proceeding to detail the measures which I shall propose with a view to these important objects, I shall consider it as my first and most indispensable duty to state, as distinctly as possible, every circumstance
* “It will, I am persuaded, give you great satisfaction to learn, that the extraordinary expenses incurred in the course of the last year have, in a great measure, been already defrayed by the grants of the session. The state of our resources will. I trust, be found more than sufficient to provide for the remaining part of these expenses, as well as for the current service of the year, the estimates for which I have directed to be laid before you.
“ I entertain the pleasing hope, that the reductions which may be found practicable in the establishments, and the continued increase in the revenue, will enable you, after making due provision for the several branches of the publick service, to enter upon a system of gradually relieving my subjects from some part of the existing taxes; at the same time giving additional efficacy to the plan for the reduction of the national debt, on the success of which our future ease and security essentially depend.
“ With a view to this important object, let me also recommend it to you to turn your attention to the consideration of such measures as the state of the funds and of publick credit may render practicable and expedient, towards a reduction in the rate of interest of ady of the annuities which are now redeemable."
which can be necessary for enabling all who hear me, not only to form a satisfactory judgment on the general result of our situation, but to examine the va. rious calculations and reasonings on which that result is founded; and in attempting to execute so extensive a task, it is no small relief to my mind to reflect, that the repeated discussions which have taken place on questions of finance, have rendered them, in a great degree, familiar to the house and to the publick; and that, by the measures which have been adopted for simplifying the nature and form of the publick accounts, they are at length freed from that obscurity and intricacy in which they were formerly involved; and are rendered so clear and intelligible, that there is no man who may not, with a small degree of attention, become as fully master of the subject, as those whose official duty has led them to make it their liar study.
The first point, to which I wish to call the attention of the committee, is the amount of what may be considered as the probable future income of the country; and I will begin by recapitulating the result of the accounts for different years, which have been already stated. The produce of the permanent taxes in the last year, from the 5th of January, 1791, to the 5th of January, 1792, appears to have been 14,132,0001. ; which, with the addition of 2,558,000. (being the average amount of the annual duties on land and malt, as stated by the select committee last year) would make the total revenue of the year 16,690,0001. To this.there must be added a sum, which, in the accounts on the table, has been included in the produce of the separate and temporary taxes imposed last year, for the purpose of defraying the expense of the Spanish armament, but which, in fact makes part of the general and permanent revenue. It will be recollected that an addition was made last year to the duties on bills and receipts, and the addition was consolidated with the old duty. The whole of this consolidated duty has been carried to the account of the separate fund ; but only the excess beyond the
former produce can be considered as arising from the additional duty; and a sum equal to the former produce, being about 40,0001. is to be added to the other sums which I have stated, making the total revenue for the last year 16,730,0001.
The produce of the year preceding was 16,437,0001. after deducting the produce of a fifty-third week, which was included in the account of that year.
The principal branches of the revenue being paid from the respective offices into the exchequer, by weekly payments, on a stated day, a fifty-third weekly payment in the course of a year, recurs nearly in the proportion of once in every period of six years. In judging therefore of the probable future amount of the revenue, the produce of the fifty-third week ought not to be included in any one particular year, and it is therefore here deducted : but, on the other hand,
one-sixth part of its amount, being about 32,0001. è ought to be added to the average formed on any num
ber of years. The average formed on the two last years, without this addition, would be 16,583,0001. and with it 16,615,0001.
The produce of the year ending on the 5th of January, 1790, was 15,991,000l. and the average of the last three years (making the same allowance for the fifty-third week) amounts to 16,418,0001.
If we look back still one year further, the produce of the year ending the 5th of January, 1789, was 15,565,0001. and the average formed on the last four years, amounts to 16,212,0001.
It appears therefore that the actual produce of the year 1791, being 16,730,0001. exceeds by above 500,0001. the average formed on the last four years ; that it exceeds the average formed on the last two years by above 100,0001.-—the average on the last three years by nearly 300,0001. and the actual produce of the last year but one, by nearly the same
If then I form my calculation of our future revenue, not on the separate amount of any one of these particular years, but upon the average amount of four
years, during which there has been a constant increase, I am certainly not attempting to lead you into too favourable an opinion; but I am rather wishing to recommend that degree of caution, which the importance of the subject always deserves, and particularly at the present moment, when we are holding out hopes of relief, in which, above all things, we should be careful to avoid the chance of disappointment. I propose therefore to rest my computation upon this average produce of four years, being 16,212,0001. and this sum, on a general view of the subject, we may safely assume, as not being likely to exceed the permanent annual revenue of the country.
I shall next desire the committee to compare the statement of the annual revenue, with that of the permanent annual expenditure; and I shall take as the basis of this comparison, the estimates contained in the report of the committee appointed in the last session to examine the publick income and expenditure, only making such corrections as arise from certain additions on the one hand, and reductions on the other, which at that time were not foreseen. The whole permanent expenditure as stated by the committee, (including therein the interest of the national debt, the million annually issued for the reduction of debt, the civil list, and all the permanent charges on the consolidated fund, as well as all the estab/ishments which are annually voted) is 15,969,0001. to which there was added in the course of the last session (but subsequent to the report of the committee) the sum of 12,0001. charged on the consolidated fund, for the establishment of his royal highness the duke of Clarence; and a further sum of about 12,0001. for defraying the expense of the separate government of the province of Upper Canada. Besides this, some fur. ther provision will be necessary for the establishment of his royal highness the duke of York, on the happy event of his marriage; and this may probably occasion an addition of 18,0001.
The amount of these additional charges is 42,0001.