TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE REVENUE RETURNS.*
Tama) merely by the Returns, the income of the country is look- ing up. The steady increase of the Excise, (872,0001. on the year, and 244,0001. on the quarter,) indicates that the means of purchas- ing on the part of the people are greater than might have been ex- pected. On the other hand, the Customs, the readiest test of our commerce, (though by no means a sure or complete one in such lumping figures,) exhibits an annual decline of 667,0001., but a quarterly increase of 74,0001.—probably from sugar, possibly from various articles. The other items are rather curious than impor- tant as regards the revenue. The year's decrease in the Post- office, stated at 268,0001., does not furnish a true comparison ; be- cause the old rates and the fourpenny rate enter into the first quarter, ending 5th January 1840, making a difference of 253,000/.4- or within 15,0001. of the whole apparent decrease : on the other hand, this ticklish state indicates that the postage-rate will not bear tampering with. The fluctuations in the Stamps are too trivial to require a comment. In the Taxes, there is an increase on the year of 615,3001.—being considerably more than Mr. BARING'S estimate ; a decrease on the quarter of 12,6471. The year's increase the Whigs truly though invidiously attribute to "the screw" ; but it is their own screw. And as "fair play's a jewel," it may be as well to trace it out.
PRODUCE OF THE FISCAL SCREW.
Increased produce of the Assessed Taxes in the quarter ending 5th January 1841, over the corresponding £ quarter of the previous year 202,000 Ditto in the quarter ending 5th April 1841 43,000 Ditto in the quarter ending 5th July 1841. 383,000
Increase under MELBOURNE, by the Fiscal Screw £628,000 Decrease under PEEL 12,000
Some Tories seem inclined to attribute this decrease to Conser- vative lenity : the truth probably is that people are blocking up their windows, &c.; or that the Whig screw in the July quarter left fewer arrears to be collected in the October.
It is not, however, by comparing year by year or quarter by quarter, predicting with the Tories that a fiscal millennium is dawn- ing because a quarterly increase has taken place in two branches of the revenue, or pronouncing with the Whigs that " Chaos is come again " because the Postage has fallen 7,0001., or the Taxes 12,0001., or the Stamps 18,000/., that the whole truth is to be got at. To arrive at a just conclusion as to the state of the revenue or the capabilities of the people, a somewhat larger view must be taken. And this, we think, will support our assertion in 1838, " that the interests of the country imperatively require the whole of our financial system to be subjected to a thorough examina- tion" 4 as well as our late remark, that Sir ROBERT Perm has no choice but a revision of the Import-duties, or a Property-tax, or both.
The truer mode of getting at our real financial condition—the country's means of paying—seems to be, to consider what the reve- nue ought to be, instead of what it is. If the "salient principle of the British nation" is inexhaustible, the country ought by this time to have jumped up to the amount of the last Whig taxes : but it has not. In the year ending the 10th July 1840, the ordinary revenue was 43,087,000/. after deducting the Post-office receipts. In May 1841, Mr. BARING estimated the produce of the percent- ages and additional taxes he was about to impose at 2,337,0001.; making a total of 45,424,0001. Putting out of view the increase of population, something like this sum ought to have been re- ceived in the quarter just ended : but the ordinary revenue of the year, deducting the Post-office, is only 43,638,000/. ; leaving a defi- ciencyof 1,786,0001. compared with the produce of Midsummer 1840.
This view, however, is too favourable. Through the difficulty of evading direct taxation, and by dint of the Whig " screw," the receipts from the Assessed Taxes have exceeded Mr. Baarsu's cal- culations by 189,0001. The truer comparison, therefore, is with the Customs and Excise only, which are at the same time the test of the commerce and comfort of the people. And this raises the deficiency, compared with Midsummer 1840, to above two millions.
Produce of Customs and Excise in the year
ending 5th July 1840 £32,449,000 Add Mr. BARING'S additions,
Customs and Excise, percentage £1,426,000
Spirits, additional duty 485,000
Produce of the Customs and Excise in the year 34,360,000
ending 10th October 1841 32,343,000
Real decrease in the Customs and Excise £2,017,000
it is worthy of note that the produce of the Customs and
-6 .As4there are some half-dozen modes of quoting the produce of taxation, (each of which may be right if the same documents are referred to throughout,) let us premise that the reference throughout this paper is made to the Quar- terly Returns, which contain the sums paid into the Exchequer of Great
$ Post-office, produce of the quarter 5th January 1840 £351,000 Ditto Ditto 1841..... 98,000
Spectator, No. 517, May 26, 1838; article " Whig Administration of the Finances."
Excise was somewhat higher Wore the addition than it is now : the increase of the duties has reduced the reettsts. A hint for Sir
If the income equalled the expenditure, it is probable that. the Conservatives would disregard these indications, and rub on like the Whigs. But the thing we formerly pointed out as Sir ROBERT PEEL'S chief difficulty—the "excess of expenditure over income"-- is still untouched. We warned Sir ROBERT, that the Whig esti- mate of the deficiency, 2,500,000/., was a false one ; that it would be at least three millions, and under very unfavourable circumstances might even rise to four. The elements of a bad harvest and an actual decline in the revenue are got over. It is, however, still likely that the Whig deficiency may exceed three millions; for, says the Duke of Wer.rancron, " Bills are coming in from all quarters"; and our dear "little war" in China is still going on, without a likelihood of stopping. But whether the deficiency be two millions and a half or three millions, or a larger sum, it is quite clear that an increase of 248,1481. per annum, or even of 241,7211. a quarter, will not balance it. Sir ROBERT PEEL has promised a " prescription" to put this wrong right, and it rests with him to redeem his pledge. The country has given him all that he could ask for—a strong majority, time to mature his mea- sures, and a fair trial. If after trial he be found wanting, he and his party will be stricken men, though it may be difficult just now to number their days.