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At the fame time, I assert the authority of this kingdom over the Colonies, to be sovereign and supreme, in every circumstance of government and legislation whatsoever.-— They are the subjects of this kingdom, equally entitled with yourselves to all the natural rights of mankind and th« peculiar privileges of Englijhmen. Equally bound by its laws,* and equally participating of the Constitution-of this free country. The Americans are the sons, not the bastards, <of England. Taxation is no part of the governing or le. gislative power.—The taxes are a voluntary gift and grant .of the Commons alone. In legislation the three estates of the tealm are alike concerned, but the concurrence of the Peers and the Crown to a tax, is only necessary to close with the form of a law. The gift and grant is of the Commons alone. In antient days, the Crown, the Barons, and the Clergy possessed the lands. In those days, the Barons and the Clergy gave and granted to the Crown. They gave and granted what*was their own. -At present, since the discovery of America, and other circumstances permitting, the Commons are become the proprietors of the lands-. The Crown has divested itself of its great estates. The fhurch (God bless it) has but a pittance. The property of the Lords, compared with that of the Commons, is as a drop of water in the ocean: and this House represents these commons, the, proprietors of the lands; and those proprietors virtually represent the rest of the inhabitants. When, therefore, in this House we give and grant, we give and grant what is our own. But in an American tax, what do we do? We, Your Majesty's Commons of Great-Britain, give and grant to Your Majesty what? Our own property? No. We give and grant to Your Majesty, the property of , Your Majesty's Cpmmonsof America-r-lt is an absurdity in, terms.
The distinction between legislation and taxation is essen* tially necessary to liberty. The Crown, the Peers, are
X 3 equally •
equally legislative powers with the Commons. If taxation be a part of simple legislation, the Crown, the Peers, have rights in taxation as well as yourselves -: rights which they will claim, which they will exercise, whenever the principle can be supported by power.
There is an idea in some, that the Colonies are virtually represented in this House. I would fain know by whbm aii American is represented here? Is be represented by any Knight of the Shire, in any county of this kingdom? (Would to God that respetlable representation was augmented t» a greater number!) or will you tell him that he is represent, ed by any representative of a borough—--a borough, which perhaps no man ever saw. This is what is called the rotten part of the Constitution. It cannot continue the century. If it does not drop, it must; be amputated. The idea of a virtual representation of America in this House, is the most contemptible idea that ever entered into the head of a man m— It does not deserve a serious refutation.
The Commons of America, represented in their several assemblies, have ever been in possession of the exercise of this, their continual right, of giving and granting their own money. They would have been slaves if they had not enjoyed it. At the fame time, this kingdom, as the supreme governing and legislative power, has always bound the Colonies by her Laws, by her regulations, and restrictions in trade, in navigation, in manufactures.—In every thing except that of taking their money out of their pockets without their consent,
Mr. "Pitt, 'Jan. 14, 1766.
Iam very glad to hear it generally admitted, that when gentlemen think fit to move the repeal of an existing tax, * they ought to propose some tax in lieu of it, that in their opinion at least, is likely to prove equally productive. This is certainly right, because when the House is called
upon, as it is by the motion under consideration, it is called upon to do as strong an act as the House can possibly perform, viz. to change the security given to the public creditor, and to take away the mortgage held in payment of the interest of his money. The Receipt tax, is a tax that has passed almost unanimously; at least it has been approved of by the majority of this House, and declared to be a light, impartial, and wise tax. Such, I am in my own mind persuaded, it would have proved, had the tax had fair play. It has not, however, been yet truly tried. No sooner was this tax, so much liked within doors, heard of, but the utmost pains were taken to raise a clamour against it without. Committees and associations were formed for that purpose expressly. All the art and ingenuity of man were employed in finding out means of evading it. Remonstrances against it have been fabricated, and carried from house to house to procure signatures. Those who, never had heard of the tax, were called upon t6 lend their ,names to the list; nay, one man, who could not write himself, had been invited to make his mark, in order to overthrow a tax, which he was told materially concerned him, as it was a check to the currency of written evidence. As soon as any probable means of evading it were hit on, they were industriously circulated throughout the kingdom, and Government having, out of lenity, forborne to prosecute for the penalties incurred by those who flew in the face of the act? a case was made out of the whole against the tax itself, and, when Parliament met, it was applied to, in order to repeal the tax, I trust that the good fense of the House will interpose, and prevent the repeal of a tax so treated. With regard to the taxes suggested by the honourable gentleman who spoke last, truy appear to me to be full as liable to objection as the Receipt tax; indeed, infinitely more so, because there are not any fixed criterion to judge of them by. For instance, suppose a tax was laid on dogs: in that cafe the keeper of a pack might immedi
X 4 atcly ately sell his pack, and buy a hunter with the money, and follow the pack of some other neighbour. In like manner, if a person kept dogs to guard his house, on a tax being laid, he might dispose of his dogs, and resort to some other means of security. So likewise with regard to pews, in order to evade the payment of a tax upon them, person* might no longer chuse to hold them. The tax on gravestones indeed is not easily evaded, and cannot be deemed oppressive, as it would only once be paid; but such is the spirit of clamour against any tax on receipts, that I mould not wonder if it extended to them, and that it should be asserted,, that persons having paid the last debt, the debt of nature, Government had resolved they should pay a Receipt tax, and have it stamped over their grave. Nay, with so extraordinary a degree of inveteracy have some Committees in the city and elsewhere been actuated, that if a Receipt tax of the nature in question was enacted, I should not be greatly surprised is it were soon after published, that such Comr mittees had unanimously resolved that they would never be buried, in order to avoid paying the tax, but had determined to lie above ground, or to have their ashes consigned tq family urns, in the manner of the ancients.
Mr. Sheridan, Dec. 4, 1783.
TUMULTS And RIOTS.
Hi S Majesty in his speech delivered to us, by his Commissioners, most-justly took notice of the many tumults . and riots, that have lately happened in this kingdom; and as His Majesty most wisely thought it an affair of such consequence as to deserve being mentioned by him to his Parlia^
■sent, I expected that this House would have immediately resolved upon taking that part of His Majesty's speech into Consideration; but as a motion for that purpose would have come more properly from some other Lord, I delayed for some days taking notice of it, or paking any motion for our taking that affair into our consideration. This, my Lords, was my reason for allowing some of the first days of the session to pass oyer, without taking the least notice of what His Majesty had so wisely and so necessarily mentioned in his speech ; but finding no step made towards it by any other noble Lord, as I thought it an affair which ought not to be delayed, I took the liberty to move your Lordships for the committee you are now in ; and as I moved for your goiiwj into thjs committee, I think it jncumbqit upon me now to explain what I meant, or intended.
Though none of the riots or tumults that have lately happened in this kingdom, seem to have been directly aimed at the government, yet, my Lords, it must be granted, that no such thing can happen in any country in which the government is not some way concerned j for as the peace and quiet of the people are disturbed by such tumultuous meetings, and as it is the business of every government to preserve the peace and quiet of the people, therefore wherever any thing like it happens, the government ought to look upon itself aj deeply concerned; and if we consider what mighty consequences have arisen from very small beginnings, if we Consider how often governments have been overturned by tumults which at first seemed quite insignificant, which appeared no way intended for any such end, we must conclude, that not only our government, but our present establishpent, and even our happy Constitution, are concerned in, the riots which have lately happened in several parts of the kingdom; for this reason, it is the duty of this House, as being the King's chief council, not to let such riots and tumults pass over unobserved, but to inquire narrowly into