« AnteriorContinuar »
prefentative will not readily vote for a deftructive tax, when he cannot hope to dif guife his conduct. The intention of the prefent fketch, is to unfold the principles upon which taxes ought to be founded, and to point out what are beneficial, what noxious. I have endeavoured to introduce Some light into a fubject involved in Egyptian darkness; and if that end be attained, I fhall die in the faith that I have not been an unprofitable fervant to my country.
HIS fubject confifts of many parts, not a little intricate. A proper diftribution will tend to perfpicuity; and I think it may be fitly divided into the following fections. ft, General confiderations on taxes. 2d, Power of impofing taxes. 3d, Different forts of taxes, with their advantages and difadvantages. 4th, Manner of levying taxes. 5th, Rules to be obferved in taxing. 6th, Taxes examined with refpect to their effects. 7th, Taxes for advancing industry and com
General Confiderations on Taxes.
AS opulence is not friendly to study and knowledge, the men beft qualified for being generals, admirals, judges, or
minifters of ftate, are feldom opulent; and to make fuch men ferve without pay, would be in effect to eafe the rich at the expence of the poor. With refpect to the military branch in particular, the bulk of those who compofe an army, if withdrawn from daily labour, muft ftarve, unless the public which they serve afford them mainA republican government, during peace, may indeed be fupported at a very small charge, among a temperate and patriotic people. In a monarchy, a public fund is indifpenfable, even during peace: and in war it is indifpenfable, whatever be the government. The Spartans carried all before them in Greece, but were forced to quit their hold, having no fund for a standing army; and the other Greek ftates were obliged to confederate with the Athenians, who had a public fund, and who after the Perfian war became mafters at fea. A defect fo obvious in the Spartan government, did affuredly not escape Lycurgus, the most profound of all legiflators. Forefeeing that conqueft would be deftructive to his countrymen, his fole purpofe was to guard them from being conquered; which in Sparta
required no public fund, as all the citizens were equal, and equally bound to defend themselves and their country. A state, it is true, without a public fund, is ill qualified to oppose a standing army, regularly difciplined, and regularly paid. But in political matters, experience is our only fure guide; and the hiftory of nations, at that early period, was too barren to afford inftruction. Lycurgus may well be excufed, confidering how little progrefs political knowledge had made in a much later period. Charles VII. of France, was the first in modern times who established a fund for a ftanding army. Against that dangerous innovation, the crown-vaffals had no refource but to imitate their fovereign; and yet, without even dreaming of a refource, they suffered themselves to be undermined, and at last overturned, by the King their fuperior. Thus, on the one hand, a nation however warlike that has not a public fund, is no match for a standing army enured to war: extenfive commerce, on the other hand, enables a nation to fupport a ftanding army; but by introducing luxury it eradicates manhood, and renders that army an
unfit match for any poor and warlike invader. Hard feem the fate of nations, laid thus open to deftruction from every quarter. All that can be faid is, that fuch viciffitudes feem to enter into the fcheme of Providence.
The ftability of land fits it, above all other fubjects, for a public patrimony. But as crown-lands lie open to the rapacity of favourites, it becomes neceffary, when these are diffipated, to introduce taxes; which have the following properties, that they unite in one common intereft the fovereign and his fubjects, and that they can be augmented or diminished according to exigencies.
The art of levying money by taxes was fo little understood in the fixteenth century, that after the famous battle of Pavia, in which the French King was made prifoner, Charles V. was obliged to difband his victorious army, tho' confifting but of 24,000 men, because he had not the art to levy, in his extensive dominions, a fum neceffary to keep it on foot. So little knowledge was there in England of political arithmetic in the days of Edward III. that L. 12: 4 on each parish was computed