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puted to be fufficient for raifing a fubfidy of L. 50,000. It being found, that there were but 8700 parishes, exclufive of Wales, the parliament, in order to raise the faid fubfidy, affeffed on each parifh L. 5, 16 s.
In impofing taxes, ought not the expence of living to be deducted, and to confider the remainder as the only taxable fubject? This mode was adopted in the ftate of Athens. A rent of A rent of 500 measures of corn, burdened the landlord with the yearly contribution of a talent: a rent of 300, burdened him with half a talent a rent of 200, burdened him with the fixth part of a talent; and land under that rent paid no tax. Here the tax was not in proportion to the estate, but to what could be fpared out of it; or, in other words, in proportion to the ability of the proprietor. At the fame time, ability must not be estimated by what a man actually faves, which would exempt the profufe and profligate from paying taxes, but by what a man can pay who lives with oeconomy according to his rank. This rule is founded on the very nature of government: to tax a man's food, or the fubject that affords him bare neceffaries, is worfe than
the denying him protection: it ftarves him. Hence the following propofition may be laid down as the corner ftone of taxation-building, "That every man ought to contribute to the public re
venue, not in proportion to his fub"ftance, but to his ability." I am forry to observe, that this rule is little regarded in British taxes; though nothing would contribute more to fweeten the minds of the people, and to make them ford of their government, than a regulation fraught with fo much equity.
Taxes were long in ufe before it was discovered, that they could be made fubfervient to other purpofes, befide that of fupporting government. In the fifteenth century, the states of Burgundy rejected with indignation a demand made by the Duke, of a duty on falt; tho' they found no other objection, but that it would opprefs the poor people, who lived mostly on falt meat and falt fish. It did not occur to them, that fuch a tax might hurt their manufactures, by raising the price of labour. A tax of two fhillings on every hearth, known by the name of hearthmoney, was granted to Charles II. his heirs
and fucceffors, for ever. It was abrogated by an act of William and Mary, anno 1688, on the following preamble, "That "it is not only a great oppreffion upon "the poorer fort, but a badge of flavery
upon the whole people, expofing every "man's houfe to be entered into and "searched at pleasure, by perfons un"known to him." Had the harm done by fuch a tax to our manufactures been at that time understood, it would have been urged as the capital reafon against it. Our late improvements in commercial politics have unfolded an important doctrine, That taxes are feldom indifferent to the public good; that frequently they are more oppreffive to the people, than beneficial to the fovereign; and, on the other hand, that they may be fo contrived, as to rival bounties in promoting induftry, manufactures, and commerce. Thefe different effects of taxes, have rendered the fubject not a little intricate.
It is an article of importance in government, to have it afcertained, what proportion of the annual income of a nation may be drawn from the people by taxes, without impoverishing them. An eighth part
is held to be too much; husbandry, commerce, and population, would fuffer. Davenant fays, that the Dutch pay to the public annually, the fourth part of the income of their country; and he adds, that their strict oeconomy enables them to bear that immenfe load, without raifing the price of labour so high as to cut them out of the foreign market, It was probably fo in the days of Davenant; but, of late, matters are much altered: the dearnefs of living and of labour, has excluded all the Dutch manufactures from the foreign market. Till the French war in King William's reign, England paid in taxes but about a twentieth part of its annual income.
Power of impofing Taxes.
THat to impofe taxes belongs to the fovereign, and to him only, is undoubted. But it has been doubted, whether even King and parliament, who pof
fefs the fovereign authority in Britain, can legally impofe a tax without confent of the people. The celebrated Locke, in his effay on Government (a), lays down the following propofition as fundamental. "'Tis true, governments cannot be fup"ported without great charge; and 'tis "fit every one who enjoys his share of
protection fhould pay out of his estate "his proportion for the maintenance of it. "But fill it must be with his own con"fent, i. e. the confent of the majority, "giving it either by themfelves, or their reprefentatives chofen by them; for if any one fhall claim a power to lay and "levy taxes on the people by his own au
thority, and without fuch confent of "the people, he thereby invades the fun"damental law of property, and fubverts "the end of government. For what pro
perty have I in that which another may "by right take when he pleases to him"felf?" No author has reflected more honour on his native country, and on mankind, than Mr Locke. Yet no name is above truth;. and I am obliged to obferve, tho' with regret, that in the forego
(a) Chap. 11. § 140.