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have been paid to it in the other house, through which it was hurried with the utmost precipitation, and where it passed almost without the formality of a debate. Nor can I think that earnestness, with which some lords seem inclined to press it forward here, consistent with the importance of the consequences which may with great reason be expected from it.
It has been urged, that where so great a number have formed expectations of a national benefit from any bill, so much deference, at least, is due to their judgment, as that the bill should be considered in a committee. This, my lords, I admit to be in other cases a just and reasonable demand; and will readily allow that the proposal, not only of a considerable number, but even of any single lord, ought to be fully examined, and regularly debated, according to the usual forms of this house. But in the present case, my lords, and in all cases like the present, this demand is improper, because it is useless; and it is useless, because we can do now all that we can do hereafter in a committee. For the bill before us is a money bill, which, according to the present opinion of the commons, we have no right to amend, and which, therefore, we have no need of considering in a committee, since the event of all our deliberations must be, that we are either to reject or pass it in its present state. For I suppose no lord will think this a proper time to enter into a controversy with the commons, for the revival of those privileges to which I believe we have a right; and such a controversy, the least attempt to amend a money bill will certainly produce,
To desire, therefore, my lords, that this bill may be considered in a committee, is only to desire that it may gain one step without opposition; that it may proceed through the forms of the house by stealth, and that the consideration of it may be delayed, till the exigencies of the government shall be so great, as not to allow time for raising the supplies by any other method,
By this artifice, gross as it is, the patrons of this wonderful bill hope to obstruct a plain and open de tection of its tendency. They hope, my lords, that the bill shall operate in the same manner with the liquor which it is intended to bring into more general use; and that, as those who drink spirits are drunk before they are well aware that they are drinking, the effects of this law shall be perceived before we know that we have made it. Their intent is, to give us a dram of policy, which is to be swallowed before it is tasted, and which, when once it is swallowed, will turn our heads.
But, my lords, I hope we shall be so cautious as to examine the draught which these state empiricks have thought proper to offer us; and I am confident that a very little examination will convince us of the perni cious qualities of their new preparation, and show that it can have no other effect than that of poisoning the publick.
The law before us, my lords, seems to be the effect of that practice of which it is intended likewise to be the cause, and to be dictated by the liquor of which it so effectually promotes the use; for surely it never before was conceived, by any man intrusted with the administration of publick affairs, to raise taxes by the destruction of the people.
Nothing, my lords, but the destruction of all the most laborious and useful part of the nation, can be expected from the license which is now proposed to be given, not caly to drunkenness, but to drunken. ness of the most detestable and dangerous kind; to the abuse not only of intoxicating, but of poisonous liquors.
Nothing, my lords, is more absurd than to assert, that the use of spirits will be hindered by the bill now before us, or indeed that it will not be in a very great degree promoted by it. For what produces all kind of wickedness, but the prospect of impunity on one part, or the solicitation of opportunity on the other? Either of these have too frequently been sufficient to overpower the sense of morality, and even of P P
religion; and what is not to be feared from them, when they shall unite their force, and operate together, when temptations shall be increased, and terrour taken away.
It is allowed, by those who have hitherto disputed on either side of this question, that the people appear obstinately enamoured of this new liquor; it is allow. ed on both parts, that this liquor corrupts the mind, and enervates the body, and destroys vigour and virtue, at the same time that it makes those who drink it too idle and too feeble for work; and, while it im poverishes them by the present expense, disables them from retrieving its ill consequences by subsequent industry.
It might be imagined, my lords, that those who had thus far agreed would not easily find any occasions of dispute; nor would any man, unacquainted with the motives by which parliamentary debates are too often influenced, suspect that after the pernicious qualities of this liquor, and the general inclination among the people to the immoderate use of it, had been generally admitted, it could be afterwards inquired, whether it ought to be made more common; whether this universal thirst for poison ought to be encouraged by the legislature, and whether a new statute ought to be inade, to secure drunkards in the gratification of their appetites.
To pretend, my lords, that the design of this bill is to prevent or diminish the use of spirits, is to trample upon common sense, and to violate the rules of decency as well as of reason. For when did any man heat, that a commodity was prohibited by licensing its sale; or that to offer and refuse is the same action?
It is indeed pleaded, that it will be made dearer by the tax which is proposed, and that the increase of the price will diminish the number of the purchasers; but it is at the same time expected that this tax shall supply the expense of a war on the continent. It is asserted, therefore, that the consumption of spirits will be hindered; and yet that it will be such as may be expected to furnish, from a very small tax, a revenue
sufficient for the support of armies, for the reestablishment of the Austrian family, and the repressing of the attempts of France.
Surely, my lords, these expectations are not very consistent; nor can it be imagined that they are both formed in the same head, though they may be expressed by the same mouth. It is, however, some recommendation of a statesman, when, of his assertions, one can be found reasonable or true; and in this, praise cannot be denied to our present ministers. For though it is undoubtedly false, that this tax will lessen the consumption of spirits, it is certainly true that it will produce a very large revenue, a revenue that will not fail but with the people from whose debaucheries it arises.
Our ministers will therefore have the same honour with their predecessors, of having given rise to a new fund; not indeed for the payment of our debts, but for much more valuable purposes; for the cheering of our hearts under oppression, and for the ready support of those debts which we have lost hopes of paying. They are resolved, my lords, that the nation, which no endeavours can make wise, shall, while they are at its head, at least be merry; and, since publick happiness is the end of government, they seem to imagine that they shall deserve applause by an expedient, which will enable every man to lay his cares asleep, to drown sorrow, and lose in the delights of drunkenness both the publick miseries and his own.
Luxury, my lords, is to be taxed, but vice prohibited, let the difficulties in executing the law be what they will. Would you lay a tax upon the breach of the ten commandments? Would not such a tax be wicked and scandalous; because it would imply an indulgence to all those who could pay the tax? Is not this a reproach most justly thrown by protestants upon the church of Rome? Was it not the chief cause of the Reformation? And will you follow a precedent which brought reproach and ruin upon those that introduced it? This is the very case now before us,
You are going to lay a tax, and consequently to indulge a sort of drunkenness, which almost necessarily produces a breach of every one of the ten commandments. Can you expect the reverend bench will approve of this? I am convinced they will not; and therefore I wish I had seen it full upon this occasion. I am sure I have seen it much fuller upon some other occasions, in which religion had no such deep
We have already, my lords, several sorts of funds in this nation, so many that a man must have a good deal of learning to be master of them. Thanks to his majesty, we have now amongst us the most learned man of the nation in this way. I wish he would rise up and tell us, what name we are to give to this new fund. We have already the civil list fund, the sinking fund, the aggregate fund, the South sea fund, and God knows how many others. What name we are to give this new fund I know not, unless we are to call it the drinking fund. It may perhaps enable the people of a certain foreign territory to drink claret; but it will disable the people of this kingdom from drinking any thing else but gin; for, when a man has, by gin drinking, rendered himself unfit for labour or business, he can purchase nothing else; and then the best thing he can do is to drink on till he dies.
Surely, my lords, men of such unbounded benevolence, as our present ministers, deserve such honours as were never paid before: they deserve to bestride a butt upon every sign post in the city, or to have their figures exhibited as tokens where this liquor is to be sold by the license which they have procured. They must be at least remembered to future ages, as the happy politicians, who, after all expedients for raising taxes had been employed, discovered a new method of draining the last relicks of the publick wealth, and added a new revenue to the government. Nor will those who shall hereafter enumerate the several funds now established among us, forget among the benefac