This message reopened the whole question. The two factions which divided the City were instantly on the alert. The debates in the House were long and warm. Petitions against the old Company were laid on the table. Satirical handbills against the new Company were distributed in the lobby. At length, after much discussion, it was resolved to present an address requesting the King to give the notice which the judges had pronounced necessary. He promised to bear the subject in mind, and to do his best to promote the welfare of the kingdom. With this answer the House was satisfied, and the subject was not again mentioned till the next session.
The debates of the Commons on the conduct of the war, on the law of treason and on the trade with India, occupied much time, and produced no important result. But meanwhile real business was doing in the Committee of Supply and the Committee of Ways and Means. In the Committee of Supply the estimates passed rapidly. A few members declared it to be their opinion that England ought to withdraw her troops from the Continent, to carry on the war with vigour by sea, and to keep up only such an army as might be sufficient to repel any invader who might elude the vigilance of her fleets. But this doctrine, which speedily became and long continued to be the badge of one of the great parties in the state, was as yet professed only by a small minority which did not venture to call for a division.
In the Committee of Ways and Means, it was determined that a great part of the charge of the year should be defrayed by means of an impost, which, though old in substance, was new in form. From a very early period to the middle of the seventeenth century, our Parliaments had provided for the extraordinary necessities of the government chiefly by granting subsidies. A subsidy was raised by an impost on the people of the realm in respect of their reputed estates. Landed property was the chief subject of taxation, and was assessed nominally at four shillings