Page images
[ocr errors]

people a sum of money, bearing a proportion to the amount individually possessed: the owners of the palace and the cot

tage pay without distinction under the present code; the 5 peer and the peasant consume nearly alike of beer, and leather, and soap, and salt; if there is a difference, it is in favor of the former, who may have a hare or pheasant for dinner, while the latter from penury is glad to obtain a morsel of bacon or salt beef; the very distress of industry operates against the victim ; the present fiscal system compels the

labourer, a dwarf' in wealih, to carry the load of the lord who 5 is a giant in afluence! as the poor man has little, be satis

fied with his paying little, but such as have much, ought to pay in proportion. Extract the taxes out of the accumulated wealth of the country, and not out of the blood, and sinews, and bones of a devoted and indefatigable people.

Crime, poverty, disease, and death, have been caused by the present partial system, absorbing from the industrious people-earnings which should have fed and clothed themout of every three drops of sweat, to have heen shed to suppor a system of finance founded upon unjust, ruinous, and fallacious principles.'

In a paragraph beginning in page 4 of the pamphlet, we have the author's plan in brief:- Land is the common source from whence most exciseable articles are derived. It would be more just to tax this source, than pursue it through every ramification of its product. A tax laid upon land, would be in effect a tax upon the produce of land it would not be a tax upon the owner and occupier of land, but upon

the consumer of the produce; that would not fall like the soap and salt tax, the most heavy upon those having the least ability to pay, and who are the greatest consumers, but upon those of fortune and splendour.

In common justice we are here compelled to notice what has been called the Spencean System of taxation, as they are but a few shades different from the plan of our author. The plan which has been denominated Spencean, has been run down without examination, and which verifies the old proverb, that to give a dog a bad name, is enough to hang him. The persons who formed a society on this plan, and called themselves Spenceans, mixed up other matters of politics with their proposed system, and seemed to make their plan but as a cloak for meeting. At least, the government made it out in this manner, and consequently put down the meetings: but the equitable tax now proposed, is the same thing, with a few excep


[ocr errors]

tions and modifications, as the plan called Spencean. The grand obstacle to, and alarm excited by the Spencean plan, was, that it intimated a disposition to dispossess the present possessors of land, and by throwing the whole into the hands of a just government, it should make a more equal distribution of it, and derive a revenue from a price per acre, from each renter, and thus abolish all taxation. The plan called Spencean, is certainly the most simple and the most equitable system of society and government that can be imagined ; and it would be well if the

new republics of South Arnerica would adopt it; but it is rain to urge it against the prejudices of those who have established properties in this country, unless there be some modifications made in it, such as our author recommends in his system, that the land may continue to be held,' by its present possessors as freehold, or leasehold, or by any other title, but that a sufficient sum per aere shall be paid by such holders to meet all the exigencies of the state. The success of this plan, and the great benefit that would be derived from it, is indubitable; for instance, the Duke of Bedforů, or Devonshire, or any other great landholder, has, we will say, in . his possession, 5,000 acres, and a great portion of that forms pleasure-grounds, or waste uncultivated land, now under the proposed system, either of those dukes must pay the 'sum, whether it be 10, or whether it be 20 shillings per acres, for all his land, whether cultivated or not, and the only alternative would be, to give up the possession of such as he might not wish to pay for, and the government might soon fiod possessors that would take it at the necessary price per acre. Our author proposes, that all improvements that might be made on the land, should be for the sole benefit of the possessor; and that the government should only know the land by measure; and further, that if any individual, by much pains or tabour, should rescue land from the sea, he should have the free possession if it, without tax, for a certain number of years, adequate to the labour bestowed on it. It is but justice to Mr. Evans, of Newcastle Street, Strand, the persecuted supporter of the Spencean system, to say, that his proposals in his pamphlet entitled “Christian Policy,” are assimilated to those now under review. Mr. Evans, we consider, very weakly and ridiculously attempted to soften the prejudices of the aristocracy, by proposing to give each of its members a sinecure out of the rents of the land, instead of making them landholders.

We say, with Mr. Wilkinson, let them keep their present possessions, let them enjoy their mansions, their lawns, and their

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



parks, but, in the name of justice, let them contribute a proper quota to the exigencies of the state, which is by no means the case at present. Mr. Wilkinson's pamphlet has many things to recommend it, in preference to any thing that has appeared before:-its stile is as classical as it is popular, and it is the effusion of an erudiate, as well as an honest, benevolent, and patriotic mind.

Our author has fully and satisfactorily shewn, that although a heavy and direct tax upon the land would at first seem appalling to the landholder, still, that in fact, it would place him in a better condition than at present, and that it would not exceed the multifarious claims now incident. We quote a paragraph from page 9:— The great encouragement that the equitable tax would give to the home trade, would be beneficial to all. Domestic manufacture would be in an unknown ,degree of demand—the employment that property would give to the arts, would mutually encourage agriculture, and increase consumption: instead of the people being a burthen upon the land, their return to work would operate as a premium upon produce; the multitude that is now an oppression, would then be a gain, and that is to be effected by the removal of those taxes that produce pauperism, whether directly or indirectly. To put those assertions in a more simple form, we would make the author more explicit, if possible, by saying, that in ceasing to tax the produce, all the necessaries of life would be brought within the means of the labourer, by which the quantity consumed would be much greater than at present our produce would stand a fair competition in all foreign markets, and those two circumstances combining, would give full employ to all labourers, and the new tax upon the land would become a stimulus to the most extensive cultivation and produce. So that it clearly produces a regular chain of benefits to all parties.

In page 22 we find the following excellent remarks :-? The 6 amount of taxes ought to be as invariable as possible; nothing

tends more to discourage enterprise than taxation proporc tioned to industry; it is the slothful that the laws should punish, and not the indefatigable; the inverse mode of action practised is preposterous, a penalty upon merit, and premium upon crime, and idleness. Nothing is so dangercous as the apathy this mischievous policy produces upon the

public mind; a state, where the people on one hand have no s hope of acquiring, preserving, oremploying to their wishes, the

produce of their labour, can excite no exertion; and on the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

bother, when the gaol has no terrors, and the workhouse no

shame.' The latter supposition is evidently the state of this country at the present moment. The following are the authors ideas of the advantages of his plan : The equitable plan

of taxation has been shown to be favourable to the accumulation of wealth into the hands of industrious men; it embraces the means of obviating, in future, that mischievous concentration of property, which has already destroyed so many governments: evidently one of the effects of the system in practice is to annihilate all small property owners: Such a public policy may answer some temporary purpose, but what has ruined all states, that have been so unfortunate as be thus misled, must eventually endanger others that follow the same course ; whatever enfeebles the labourers of

the country, weakens the government; labour forms the base 6 of the throne, and was it not for the working people, the executive would have no more power than a lamb.'

The following facts and data are peculiarly worthy the attention of every Englishman : As incomprehensible things - are only so because people have no standard, or nothing to 6

compare them to, people measure one thing unknown by another that they know the properties of, so it would not be improper to compare the taxes upon the territories of France with those of Great Britain, and reason from what we know there, to what should be here. From the former,

computed to contain 108,000,000 of acres, an annual revenue • is derived of 30,000,0001. which is about 5s. 3d. per acre, on an average, all sorts of property being included. The sum of 30,000,0001. sterling is contributed by 28,500,000 people, which is something more than 20s. each person. Great Britain, about half the same extent of territory, and 18,000,000 of people, contributes yearly twice as much, making the proportions as four to one in favour of France, without taking into account the additional balance in favour of land, by comparative exemption from tithes, and poor's rates, more extensive cultivation, and richer soil. The taxes and burthens of the French people are a mere nullity when contrasted with those borne by the British nation: taking all circumstances into consideration, our burthens are six times heavier than those of the people of France. Theadvantage of a general land tax is the same in all countries. Look at France, 5s. 3d. per acre would raise an efficient revenue for all the affairs of that country. It is but a mite, and could not

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

be felt.

[ocr errors]

The next observation we quote is the essence of truth:Upon the morals of the people, the present system of finance has the most baneful effect; as taxes are raised from the means of drunkenness, gambling, and debauchery, the government derives support in proportion to the prevalence of those inglorious passions. The more revelling orgies, the more taxes ; as the people become incapacitated bỹ penury from following such voluptuous enjoyments, so will the revenue from the excise and customs decline;. as immora

lity decays, so will the laxes.' Nothing can be more fallacious than the charge w'sich the supporters of the present system make upon the Reformers, it is the reverse of truth, and the charge is alone applicable to those who make it. It is, that the Reformers are endeavouring to root out morality, and to break up the right of property. For years past this false charge has been made upon the advocates of Parliamentary Reform in the most daring and impudent manner. It has resounded from the throne, the bench, the bar, and the pulpit, and the base and hypocritical gravity which has accompanied the charge has blinded thousands to give an assent to it. It is the reverse of truth, for if the whole people had been so blind as to have acquiesced in the measures of the government for the last thirty, forty, or fifty years, morality would have been extinct, and as it is, property has been subjected to an almost universal change. The radix of property being matter, itself is imperishable_indestructible, but on any other supposition, the English government would have annihilated the very source of property. This is no anticipation of what will take place, it has taken place: the English government has-annihilated the property and the morality of the country, as far as its power extended. The foregoing assertions are well supported by the following paragraph from the pamphlet in question :- The texture of spciety that has been introduced by the

present mode of taxation, is lamentable in all its consequences; instead of wide-spreading, perhaps universal philanthrophy and hospitality, a feeling of egotism and self-interest has frozen up all the fine and generous feelings of the people, sympathy and charity is banished by sordid avarice: the dignified passions of the human mind are destroyed, and callous insensibility predominates: boast not of the multitude of charities this nation abounds in, but take shame for their abundance;

unequal and excessive taxation first impoverished the people; - absorbed from them the honest means of support at their Ć

houses and fire-sides, sanctuaries for sickness and old age

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »