Puslapio vaizdai

behalf of the Anti-Corn Law League. A day or two after, Mr. Adam Scott* called on me at my chambers in Stone Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, and informed me that the matter on which the Council of the Anti-Corn Law League were desirous of consulting me was the Land-Tax. After some correspondence and several conferences I received from Mr. Scott a letter, dated March 17, 1842, stating that Mr. Cobden had requested him to make an appointment for the following day. On the 18th of March, 1842, Mr. Cobden and Mr. Scott called together, between eleven and twelve o'clock, at my chambers.

In 1842 and the following three years the prospects of those who laboured for the repeal of the Corn Laws were not very good. When members of the League went into the agricultural districts the farmers did not give them a friendly reception. I have heard witnesses of the fact speak of the farmers on one occasion bringing the

* Mr. Adam Scott was the author of two able pamphlets, entitled "Anti-Corn Law Tract, No. 1. A Plea for the total and immediate repeal of the Corn Laws, with remarks on the Land-Tax fraud," London, 1842; and "Anti-Corn Law Tract, No. 2. Sir Robert Peel's Burdens on Land," London, 1842.

hose of a fire-engine to bear upon the Free Tradespeaker. Those who were travelling through the country to endeavour to diffuse some knowledge of political economy had to encounter not only hostile opinions, but the argumentum baculinum. One of those lecturers told me that (at Dorchester, I think it was) he observed a stalwart man in the front row of the audience with a large cudgel of which he appeared to make rather an ostentatious, not to say menacing, display.

Of the argument which I drew up in the case submitted to me professionally on behalf of the Council of the Anti-Corn Law League, the Council printed at the time two thousand copies for distribution to Members of Parliament. Mr. Cobden was repeatedly applied to for copies, and he referred applicants to me. Among those who noticed my argument on the Land-Tax was a critic in a weekly publication, who described my argument as that of "a writer of Mr. Bright's school," and said, “it was with universal assent that all the tenures were at the Restoration simplified into the form of free and common socage.'

So far was it from "universal assent" that the resolution by which the excise was substituted for the feudal dues was only carried by a majority of

two in a House of three hundred Members-one hundred and fifty-one to one hundred and fortynine-many Members urging in the strongest terms the injustice of the measure.


This critic goes on to say: "If Mr. Bright had been then alive he might fairly have urged the justice of commuting an obsolete burden for a moderate land-tax; but the latter impost, which still exists under that name, furnishes an ample equivalent for one of the least productive revenues which belonged to the Crown."

The answer to this is that a question which all through the reign of James I. occupied very much of the time and attention of the Parliament was the mode of getting rid of the feudal tenures. The same hand which drew the Petition of Right drew up an account of a motion made at the Parliament in the eighteenth year of the reign of James I. for commuting the feudal tenures and payments into a competent yearly rent, to be assured to his Majesty, his heirs, and successors (4 Inst., 202, 203). This motion Coke stamps with his approbation, "hoping that so good a


[ocr errors]

* Parliamentary History, vol. iv., pp. 148, 149.—Comm. Journ., Nov. 21, 1660.

motion will some time or other, by authority of Parliament, one way or other, take effect and be established." The amount of the rent-charge which was to be substituted for the feudal payments was equal to nearly one-half of the whole revenue at that time (Sinclair, "Hist. Revenue,” vol. i., pp. 233, 244); and as the value of the land would increase with the wealth and revenue of the kingdom, the proportion would remain the


The confidence with which this anonymous writer expressed himself on the subject of the Land-Tax, induces me to mention one of the numerous applications for a copy of my argument on the Land-Tax, because it shows, notwithstanding the judgment of this anonymous critic, that the soundness of the reasoning as well as of the legal learning of my argument has been stamped with the approbation of some of the highest legal authorities.

In Michaelmas Term, 1852, an eminent counsel -a Member of Parliament-who was engaged in a heavy land-tax case with the then AttorneyGeneral, Sir Alexander Cockburn, afterwards Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, having applied to all the law booksellers, without effect, for a copy of the

pamphlet which was out of print—indeed, I don't know that it was ever actually published for saleI sent him a copy and received soon after the following note from him:-" Allow me to thank you most sincerely for your very able and valuable pamphlet on the Land-Tax, which has been of great use and value to me."

On the 6th November, 1844, I received a letter from Mr. Cobden, dated Manchester, 5th November, 1884, in which he said :

"There is an idea talked of here of sending a Commission of Inquiry into two or three of the southern counties, say Dorset, Somerset, Wilts, to ascertain the condition of the labouring population, and particularly how much of the average earnings of a peasant's family goes in purchasing clothing and articles paying excise or duty to Government. As the only way of making such an inquiry useful would be by having men of character and respectability to put their names to the report, it is thought that one person from Manchester and another from London would be best suited to the labour. The object would be simply an inquiry into facts, without meddling with theories, whether of Corn Law or Poor Law. Do you think you would be able to give six weeks to such an investigation, between this and Christmas, if the plan were carried out ?"

In consequence of unavoidable delays it was not till towards the middle of December that the

« AnkstesnisTęsti »