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or an increase of those already existing. But, as has been hinted above, what new taxes can be imposed? There is scarcely an article of use or luxury which does not already contribute something to the necessities of the State. The effect of taxing what is of absolute necessity, would be the increase of public distress; and the taxation of what are called luxuries, would lead many to discontinue the use of them, would throw multitudes out of labor, and be of very little use in increasing the revenue. Who forgets the effects produced by the tax on watches? Such paltry schemes merely display financial distress without relieving it; and to some such measures must a country be reduced, which at this day would attempt the increase of revenue by the imposition of new taxes. But what shall we say to the increasing of those taxes which are already in existence? There seems to be no more hope of success from this plan than from the above named. There would be little benefit, and there probably would be an actual loss. Let any man who is in the habit of taking an exact account of his expenses, sit down and make an estimate of what he already pays directly or indirectly to the public treasury, and let him ask himself how much more he can afford to pay. Now the increase of existing taxes, would very probably set many upon making this calculation; and what would be the effect of it? The most natural result would be, to discontinue or abridge the use of those articles so largely taxed. It has frequently happened already, that increased taxation has been a saving to many individuals, who had contentedly paid a small tax upon some article of luxury, but who have given up its use altogether, upon an additional imposition. Nor is the evil altogether confined to the effect which it produces on the public revenue. It has also a serious effect on public wealth, inasmuch as it paralyses the industry of the laboring classes, and makes a considerable addition to the number of poor, dependent on parochial relief. There is no small part of the community who must spend the whole of their annual income in what may fairly be called, in their circumstances, the necessaries of life; they cannot afford more than they already contribute to public exigencies, and what more the government srequires of them, that they must of course take from the laborer, and so far bring the industrious man nearer to a state s of pauperism. Taxation beyond a certain point, whatever be its nominal direction, must eventually fall on the poor. If luxuries be taxed, their use is diminished, and the poor zman loses work; if necessaries be taxed, and these only can be extensively productive, then the poor man's income is in
proportion more seriously affected than the rich man's in
It is the duty of a wise and good government to pay parti cular attention to that class called the poor, to see that it does not altogether lose its independent and moral character that it is not reduced to a state of complete and hopeless degradation. But when labor is almost fruitless, when there is no reasonable prospect of avoiding dependence on a parish; then the moral feeling is lowered, and the mind is degraded, and instead of moral pleasures there remains merely a brutal desire of animal enjoyment.
In a great measure these effects have been produced already. in some parts of the kingdom; and they have obviously sprung from the enormous weight of taxation. There is a small parish in the county of Suffolk, where twenty years ago was but one pauper, and now the poor's rates amount to nearly 500l. per annum. There is not one laborer in that parish; who can earn enough to maintain himself; the rates supply · the deficiency. Facts of this kind arc familiar to every man who has paid any attention to the subject: and it would be superfluous to attempt to prove that these evils arise from excessive taxation. The farmer cannot adequately remunerate his laborers, because the markets will not afford him a living price for his produce; the markets are low, for there is a threatened inundation of foreign grain, whenever the home produce exceeds a certain price; and this foreign grain is cheaper than ours, because there is less taxation imposed upon the foreign cultivation.
This then is our condition :~ -our expenses as a nation are beyond what we can raise in the way of taxes-the taxes already impede commerce and agriculture-their increase would produce greater evils still; the system of borrowing must work its own destruction, and the destruction of every thing else-ruinous at once to the lender and the borrower; the very continuance of the taxes in their present extent, is likely to produce still more those effects under which the nation at present labors. Our enquiry then is, what remedy can be had for the evil?
It is obvious that an alteration must be made somewhere, and an effectual alteration is of course the best. Some poli-, ticians seem to reason upon this subject, as Sir Abel Handy, in the play, speaks of a house on fire-" I have hit upon a plan; perhaps it may go out of itself." This is quite as logical, and as much to the purpose, as the speculations of those bonest gentlemen who think that the remedy for our present evils
may be found in a gradual increase of national prosperity, This was plausible enough five or six years ago: but the experiment has now had a fair trial, and what is the result? The matter is worse than ever; and the same principle is now operating which made it so, and that principle,, without some speedy and decisive remedy, is increasing and will in
Retrenchment is not sufficient; increase of taxes is out of the question; borrowing is worse still-that increases, and not diminishes, the evil.
All classes of political speculators have been long looks, ing forward to the effect which the national debt would produce on the kingdom: none have recently been sanguine:: enough to consider its extinction by payment in full of all demands even within the compass of probability. The ene, mies of our national welfare, and those who have wished for the subversion of the government, have pleased themselves & with anticipating the period, when it would no longer be in the power of the public purse to pay the interest of the debt.. And even those who have and do wish well to the present constitution, have had their fears for the effect of the present system. Those who seem best able, from the acuteness of their judgement and extent of their observation, to propose some remedy adequate to the evil, and thus soften the descent and break the fall, have most carefully avoided touching upon the tender point. They have thought only of expedients, of temporising systems they have put off the evil day. They have seemed to hope for better times-for more, favorable conjunctures; but they must have felt, they must have known and seen, that these things must have an end-they must_ have been sensible, that expedients are daily growing more difficult-that the longer decisive measures are postponed, the more difficult and painful they must become. It is not merely the political sciolist, the ignorant croaker, that now! regards with serious apprehension the effect of this enormous mill-stone; but men of judgment and sobriety have their fears, and know that something must be done, but they know not what.
Now of the taxes that are raised on the public, more than two thirds are devoted to the payment of the interest of the national debt. Consequently this debt is the principal source: of our present evils, commercial and agricultural. The whole property of the nation is mortgaged for this debt: and let it be considered, that the creditor is also in part the debtor. This was clear enough when the income-tax was in being::
that was, among other purposes, for the payment of the interest of the debt; the fundholder paid his share, some persons think more than his share; but I have reason to know that it was rather less and if it be not too great a digression, I will state my reasons for the assertion. Merchants, Bankers, and Tradesmen were required to make returns of their incomes arising from the profits of their business. Some few made inadequate returns, which were considered satisfactory this number was not great; others made returns which rather exceeded the truth, that they might preserve their credit; and others made returns which were quite equal to the truth, but not adequate to their estimated profits: a charge was made by the commissioners, against which there did indeed exist the possibility of an appeal, but which from motives of delicacy few cared to make, and so, rather than expose their affairs to strangers, they submitted to pay an unreasonable tax. Many persons paid this tax, who had scarcely any income at all arising from business, but who by their daily expenses were sinking their capital.
To return then from this brief, though not unimportant, digression. The fundholder is debtor as well as creditor: and, were every individual in the kingdom a holder of stock in proportion to his property or income, the abolition of the debt altogether would be no injury to any one except the tax-gatherer; for every one must pay in taxes, what he received in interest.
But as the matter now stands, the fundholder pays in taxes a considerable part of what he receives in interest. We might make a rough sort of calculation, what that proportion is. Say that two thirds of the taxes are devoted to the payment of the interest of the debt-that one half at least of our ordinary expenditure goes directly or indirectly in taxes-that the taxes amount to nearly sixty millions. Then the income of the nation is about one hundred and twenty millions; forty millions, one third of the whole, is from the funds; and these forty millions pay twenty in taxes, two thirds of which, or upwards of thirteen millions, go to the payment of the national debt. Therefore the fundholder himself pays one third of the interest he receives; and consequently if the national debt were destroyed in toto, and the taxes of course which pay its interest were taken off, the fundholder's real loss would be only two thirds of his nominal loss.
Now as the necessities of the nation require some abatement of taxes, as at once an immediate relief and the means of future prosperity, and as no other means can provide for.
an adequate reduction of the taxes, it seems neither unjust nor impolitic to make an alteration, and to reduce the national debt-even to one half.
The proposition seems rather startling; and were such an attempt to be made, it would excite no small degree of clamor. But if the subject were to be calmly considered, much of this alarm would vanish, and it would appear not altogether an unreasonable measure.
I. People do not consider the funds as likely to last for ever. There are fears for them in all quarters, and upon the present system these fears are rational and well grounded. It is known and felt, that as long as the funds continue, they must increase; that as they increase, they will become more and more precarious; and that their effect upon public prosperity and national strength will be more palpable and injurious. If the funds were considered perfectly secure, their price would be considerably higher; but as it is, capitalists, think that they can do better by the purchase of estates, that will produce but four per cent., or even less, than by purchasing into the funds, which might yield them five. II. It may be asked, why should the fundholder give up part of his property, and the rest of the nation make no sacrifice? Why should there not, if occasion requires, be a general tax upon property, and the fundholder bear his just and equal proportion? Now this question, which has very much the semblance of fairness, is not so candid as at first sight it >seems to be. If the oppression produced by the national debt were merely from the sums actually paid in the form of taxes, it would be no proper ground of complaint; for the money was borrowed, and the interest should be paid: but the fact is, that the payment of the interest has been one circumstance that has weakened the power of industry, and rendered the nation less able to sustain the weight; for while the law gives the fundholder his five per cent., it has no means of rendering commerce or agriculture equally productive, and for the last six years the landholder, the merchant, and the mechanic, have been bearing more than their due proportion of the public burden. It is now, therefore, high time that the fundholder should submit to his share of the burden. No one needs to be informed that the farmer has been, for the >last six years, not only falling short of his adequate and fair profits, but actually sacrificing, and that without hope of remedy, a considerable portion of his capital. If it were necessary for the sake of producing conviction, instances might be given in one district, rather favorable for farming, of persons occupying from two to nine hundred acres, whose