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Excise crisis

Excise crisis, 1733. In 1733 Sir Robert Walpole, George II's first minister, was anxious to conciliate the country gentlemen before the forthcoming general election (1734) by reducing the land tax to 1 shilling in the pound. He had already reimposed a duty on salt (1732), but additional revenue was needed to make up the considerable shortfall. He therefore proposed the substitution of excise duties for customs duties on tobacco and wine, in order to maximize revenue and discourage smuggling. However, commercial anxieties about the scheme were exploited by opposition leaders in Parliament, who saw it as an attempt to expand government bureaucracy, and a full-scale outcry was raised in London and many provincial towns. In the Commons Walpole's majority almost collapsed, and when it seemed that he might lose the king's confidence, he withdrew the measure, immediately re-establishing his sway.

Andrew Hanham

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