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A PRINCIPAL reason why many are disatisfied with
the present government, is drawn from the heavy, taxes imposed for its support. No man will deny that our burdens are heavy: and there is no man in the nation who would not wish, if possible, to have them reduced. But before we attack the present system, or wish to overturn it on that account, we would do well to consider the few things following.
It is utterly imposible, that any government can be supported without funds. And, for the support of such a government as ours, the funds must be conGderable. We must not only maintain a standing army, proportionable to what is kept on foot by neighbouring states. We must have a fleet sufficient to protect our trade. Our colonies, in different parts of the world must be protected. And the interest of our national debt must be paid. Little more than a century ago, the government of both kingdoms was supported, with few taxations. But then we had no national debt: we had no colonies : we had no ftanding armies: we had no fhips Merchant fhips were hired by government,
for war, as they now are for transports. Our troops in the time of war, were only raised for a few weeks; and, for the most part, they subấsted themselves. A great proportion of the land, in both countries, belonged to , the crown : and its revenues were considerably augmented by wardships, escheats, and other feudal perquisites. And these, though not levied as our taxes now are, were no less burdensome to the people. The nation thought themselves happy, when they could exchange the one sort of burdens for the other.
It must be acknowledged, that the power of taxation is one branch of the power of legislation : and wherever the legislative authority is lodged, by the constitution of any country, there must the power of imposing taxes, be lodged. Accordingly, the scriptures exprefly require us to pay tribute, or taxations of whatever kind, to every government, to whose lawful commands, in other things, we are called to be subject. It is perfe&ly reasonable that it should be so, How can we, who live at a distance from the seat of government, and know but little of its affairs, be as capable to judge of what is necessary for the support of government, as they whom the nation has chofen, to attend to this very thing? And it is our peculiar happiness, that no taxes can be imposed upon us, unless with the consent, and even at the motion, of our representatives.
Heavy as our taxes are, we are far from being as much burdened as our neighbours: even such of them as live under a republican government. To be .convinced of this, one needs only look into any approved geographical gramniar. In Holland, for instance, their taxes are incomparably lieavier than ours: and they fall in a much greater proportion upon the poor. Their taxes upon merchandize are indeed eafy'; so that their
Tichest merchants pay little more to the state, than the *poorest
mechanic hence their fourishing trade. But all the necessaries of life are taxed. A man cannot buy à pound of meat in the frambles, nor a bushel of corn in the market that is not su! jeêt to a duty. Even their putrid and ftagnant water is not free, Every hearth, yea, 'every human head is taxed. "And a certain writer obfcrves with justice, that they have nothing free, but the air they breathể- In France, besides a heavy land tax, the gabelle, or tax upon salt, was intolerable. Salt being a mono"poly in the hands of g werninent, every family was not only obliged to take all the salt they u.ed at an exorbitant price ; they were even forced to take a fixed quanti
whether they used it or not. They likewise paid a poll-tax, and a tenth part of all personal estates, and of the income of all einployments. This last article alone, would be heavier than all'our taxes together. And exčept the falt-duty, I hear not that iary of the rellt have. been reduced, since the revolution. On the contrary, it was one of the first decrees of the prefent convention, that all taxes should continue as they were, till the na-, tion" was t ttled. Thus, their repablican government, after confiscating, at least, one third of the property of the nation, as belonging to the king, tò emigranis; and persons guillotined, and nearly another third, as having belonged to the church, leave the people as much burdened as ever." They who wish tô know the state of taxation in Spain, may peruse the book referred to in the margin*. T Thall only mention the following par ticulars. In Madrid, the King receives one third of the rent of every house. Corn, cattle, and all the produce of the earth pays a heavy duty, every time that it is sold,
• Townsend's journey, particularly, vol. ii. p. 155,-189.
according to its value. And in some places, (for all pla: ces in Spain are not taxed alike,) a duty of four per cent. is levied upon all cattle brought into their cities for Haughter; and at certain seasons of the year much more. These are only a few examples of the taxes that our neighbours pay. Have we the fame reason to complain as they have?
Taxes are not, in reality, so burdensome, as many people are apt to imagine: the longer they are continued, they become the lighter, till they cease to be any burden at all. This may be thought a bold assertion; but it is capable of demonstration. Let the land tax be an instance. Suppose it fixed, at a real two shillings in the pound, and rendered permanent. In that case, when a man buys an estate, he knows what it must pay to government, he buys it with that burden upon it, and the price is diminished accordingly. It is plain, that if it is worth 27 years purchase with that burden, it would be worth 30 without it. One tenth of every estate really belongs to government: this he does not purchase, but only the nine parts, that belonged to the former proprietor. The fame is the case with him that succeeds to it, as his father's heir. He is heir only to the nine parts that were his father's; government is not dead, and therefore continues to inherit its own tenth part. The only burden, therefore, that lies upon the proprietor of the estate, is that of gathering in the two shillings of yearly rent that belongs to government, along with his own eighteen, and paying it in to the collector of the land tax. The same may be said of the house tax, the window tax, and all others, that affect heritable
With regard to duties on merchandise, the case is still more favourable to the trader. Suppose, for instance,
the duty on tobacco to be is and 3d per pound, and that it can be imported from America at 9d. The man who enters upon that branch of business knows it: and it is the same thing to hiin, as if he paid 2s as the importation price; with only the two following differences. First, there is a difference to the nation at large: in regard that five eights of the money continues in the country, whereas, in the other case, the whole would go to America. Secondly, there is a considerable advantage to the trader himself. Suppose a man imports a cargo of a hundred thousand pound weight; he pays for the whole, duty included, ten thousand pounds. He regulates his selling price, so as to make 5. per cent profit, upon the money laid out, and his clear gain is L.500. But if the duty was taken off, and he was only to pay the importation price, he would have his whole cargo for L. 3750. And his profit, at the above rate of 5 per cent, would be no more than L. 177:10. Thus all the burden lying upon the merchant is only that of being a factor for government, to gather in the duty from his customers, and pay it to the proper officer. And for this factorage, he is paid L. 322:10. besides the ads vantage of having much more money passing through his hands. Every person acquainted with figures, will find the above calculation juft; and therefore, the argument.conclufive. The same argument will hold, with relation to erery tax upon articles of trade or manufacture; unless the tax raises the price so as to leffen the demand.
“ But does not all this fall upon the consumer? 6. Though the landed gentleman and the merchant do 36 not feel the burden, the poor labourer does, and the 16 community at large." —No doubt, taxations laid upon commodities, muft fall upon the consumer: but we