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of taxation, to adopt measures which might leave room for the elasticity of industry and commercial spirit to act, not only would farther emigrations be prevented, but numbers now in foreign countries would gladly return to their own soil, and cheerfully partake of the burden, if moderately and wisely alleviated.
IX. Under the present system there is no probability-nay, no possibility that the burden of debt should ever be removed, or even alleviated. The sinking fund is a mere name and a shadow-to borrow with one hand and pay with the other, may be mightily amusing to the clerks and accountants employed, but is to the nation a mere mockery. But if the debt were thus reduced, and not very injuriously to the creditor, an impression might in the course of a few years be made upon the principal which would most essentially lighten the public burdens; and though the government might, by this proposed reduction of debt and diminution of taxes, lose somewhat of the influence it acquires now by patronage and place given in collectorships, clerkships, excise, &c., it would certainly gain a greater share of influence by silencing the clamors of a needy multitude, and giving employment to those who have now nothing to do but to make a noise. In short, the government and the nation would be equally benefited by this arrangement.
There are however many objections, some of which have been already met and answered; not indeed by calculation and demonstration of figures, but by those general and palpable arguments which will bear the test of experiment, and may be verified by any who will take the pains to make the necessary estimate and calculations: for these pages have not been drawn up to amuse the speculative, but to appeal to the understandings and feelings of all. There are many who would be deterred even from the perusal of a dry elaborate treatise, filled with arithmetical reasonings, who can yet readily and easily enter into a plain and homely train of argument, such as is here presented to them; and it is for such readers that this short statement is made. If there be any objections to the plan hitherto unnoticed, they are these:
I. The existence of pensions and salaries.
II. The distress of small proprietors of funded property who have no other means of support.
III. The effect this measure would produce upon public societies, as insurance offices.
IV. The difficulty of raising future loans for public emergencies.
To these it may be generally said, as applicable to all, that it is indeed impossible to make any arrangement for the remedy of public evils which shall not be injurious to some person or other. There has perhaps never been a single law enacted, however wholesome and imperiously necessary,' which has not been productive of some. The very laws of nature, so highly beneficial to the whole system, are sometimes productive of inconvenience to individuals. When therefore a law of remedy must be applied, we must anticipate inconveniences. Medical quacks promise to cure many disorders. without pain, or confinement, or alteration of diet; and they are mere political quacks, who fancy or pretend to prove, that remedies for political evils can be effectually applied without some political pain or inconvenience. That the national debt is a disorder in the state, is what few are now disposed to controvert:-but not to quarrel with those who fancy this debt a blessing to the country, and a proof of its wealth, we may even concede it to them that so it may be, when the interest can be easily paid, and when there is opportunity and means, in time of peace, of diminishing those burdens which were imposed by war. If indeed the national debt had been diminished since the close of the war, or commerce had so improved as to meet the demands of taxation, then this pamphlet had not been written, and there might be a ground of hope that we could go on as we are. But when the reverse of this is actually the case,—when the burden grows heavier, when there is no rational prospect of its diminution, when taxes increase in oppressiveness and decrease in productiveness,-then we must think the national debt to be a serious evil; and we must know, that unless some remedy is applied, and that speedily and effectually, the nation will be completely ruined, and that past redemption. It is not now too late. The present state of commerce and agriculture seems especially to demand it; and the return of the Bank to cash payments thus diminishing the quantity of the circulating medium and enhancing the value of money, makes the alteration now more essential than ever. Whatever inconveniences may arise from this measure now proposed, it may be said that a much greater inconvenience will arise from letting things go on in their pre
But to speak more particularly to the objections above named.
I. Those who possess pensions and salaries arising from the taxes, would by this alteration in the funds be placed in a state of undue advantage. In most instances, this would indeed be the case. It would therefore be necessary that pro
portionate reduction should take place in their incomes; and this might be effected without any injustice or injury whatever. This reduction should in the first instance be applied to all the larger salaries-to all sinecurists and pensioners; without this reduction the measure could never be carried:-but to the smaller salaries, where the labor is now more than equivalent to the pay, the public would of course hardly grudge the advantage of the alteration; and thus the government would have it in its power to be at once liberal and economical. These are not days to expect Utopian perfection, or miraculous changes in politics-and in this proposal nothing of the kind is anticipated: but considerable alterations may be made for the bet ter; and one of those alterations is a retrenchment of public expenditure; this is better done while there is something left to save, Economy is of very little use when there is scarcely any thing left to economise. The more sober part of the nation would be content to have the pensions reduced one third, and an equal reduction from those offices whose duties are discharged by deputy, and whose emoluments to the principals are large-from others one fourth might be deducted, and leave them as well off, and perhaps better, than they are now-while some of the more laborious and less liberally paid might be left as they are, and thus enjoy, at very little expense to the nation, an actual increase in remuneration for their services. Where deductions are made, it should be considered that many salaries have been increased to meet increased expenses of living-when circumstances are altered, it is but fair that salaries should be altered too.
II. The inconvenience of this measure to small proprietors of funded property who have no other means of support, would in many instances be serious and distressing. This is acknowleged as a real difficulty. But though it cannot be totally avoided, it may be palliated. It might be possible to make some recompence by way of annuity. If proper care were taken to guard against frauds and impositions, many of these might be relieved by an arrangement, which should leave their property or income nearly if not quite as productive as before. When the income-tax was in operation, the proprietor of a small sum in the funds, who had not altogether an income exceeding a certain amount, was exempted from the tax. Some plan of a similar nature might be devised for the same persons, under the measure here proposed.
III. The effect this measure would produce upon public societies, as insurance, annuity offices, &c. Much of the same species of observation may be applied to them, as has been al
ready addressed to the fundholders in general. If their property were diminished in nominal value, it would not suffer so great a deterioration in real value, and it would gain in security what it loses in amount. The intricacy and complexity of their circumstances might occasion some difficulties-but none that are insuperable; and these difficulties would be more patiently borne, under the apprehension and conviction that they would be the means of avoiding still more serious evils, and more substantial ultimate losses.
IV. The difficulty of raising future loans for public emer gencies, is also considered as an objection to this measure. It is said, that faith must be kept with the public creditor, or no more credit can ever be given. It is needless to repeat what has been already said on the subject of public credit: and as to the facility of raising loans upon any future emergency, it would be more easy to raise a loan after this composition than before it; the lender would know what he has to trust to--now he does not. What however is still better, there would be little or no occasion for loans.
In short, to this complexion it must come at last, or to something worse. And it would be well if those who object to this, would propose something more likely to meet our present difficulties and to provide for futurity. It is needless and idle to say, that this proposal is bad-or that this is too painful a remedy. It cannot be said that the remedy is worse than the disease; the remedy may be painful, but the disease will be mortal. It is far more like honesty to pay something while we can, than to go hobbling and shuffling from expedient to expedient till we have nothing left to pay withal. Shall we have another income-tax ?-and what will that produce in the present distressed state of commerce and agriculture? Shall we have a tax on capital? Yes, that is the best remedy. So it is. The merchant and farmer have paid it already, and most completely; it only remains for the fundholder to pay his share, and all will be well.