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should be laid upon all the luxuries and even the necessaries of life, which they are at liberty, to purchase or not, than to be troubled with the com. manding authority of the tax-gatherer. Tithes and taxes are paid with reluctance, because people see their money or property taken from them, with- . out any equivalent; but if any article be taxed which they wish to purchase, they have the option to purchase it or not; and, if they do purchase, they have at least always something for their money. If this were not the case, people would not consent to purchase salt at thirty shillings the hundred weight, when, without the duty, they could purchase it for a shilling.
It is evident that, in a commercial country, a large revenue is easiest raised by duties of customs and excise; and if this were extended to the colo. nies, with proper encouragement to trade, by wise regulations, as to duties and other respects, these, with a small and not oppressive income tax, together with taxes on stamps and luxuries, would raise a revenue little felt, that would be not only sufficient to supply the present exigences of the state, and pay the interest of the national debt, but also rapidly reduce the principal, and thereby provide for casual contingences. The malt tax, the taxes on beer and other excisable commodities, or necessaries of life, produce nearly three times as much as the whole revenue of the state amounted to before the year 1775; and the greater part of this revenue is paid by the labouring and industrious part of the community, and most taxes fall heaviest on the middle and industrious classes of people. This is neither just nor wise policy.
It has been observed, that the wisest governments, when they have exhausted all the proper subjects of taxation, must, in cases of necessity, have recourse to improper ones; but if nine millions of people paid thirty-six millions of taxes, in the year 1782, without feeling the burden oppressive, it is evident that eighteen millions of people, composing the present population of the United Kingdom, with greater means, could easily pay seventy-two millions of taxes, if properly levied, independently of the immense revenue that could be raised by a proper regulation as to the colonies; and the distresses of the country, and incapacity of the people to pay the taxes, evidently show that the
, present mode of taxation must be partial and unjust, and that the distresses of the country can never be relieved, but by a more judicious and equitable mode of taxation.
ABSTRACT of the Net Produce of the Revenue of Great Britain, exclusive of the Arrears of War Duty, on Malt and Property, in the years and quarters ending the 10th of October 1817 and 1818, showing the increase or decrease on each head thereof.
The increase upon the last quarter is said to be £1,482,748; and the increase which has been found in the revenue of Ireland will make the last quarter's increase together upwards of £1,700,000. But it will be observed, that the principal increase is upon Customs and Excise, particularly the latter, raised chiefly upon soap, beer, gin, and other necessary articles of life, which fall heavily on the poor and the middle classes of people. It however shows, that there has been a great increase of employment and general industry in the country, within the last year, otherwise the people would not have had these additional sums to spend. But this is not the fairest mode of drawing taxes, or producing a revenue from the the people. Most excise duties are laid upon
necessary articles of life, and are principally paid by the poor and industrious classes.
Colonization and Commerce
We are told that Abram and Lot had such great substance in cattle, that the land world not bear them both, that they might dwell together. There was strife between their herdsmen; and Abram proposed to Lot to separate, and said, “ Is not the whole land before thee? If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; if thou depart to the right hand, then will I go to the left."
This simple observation and proposal, it is said, is a striking illustration of that great spring of action which overspread the whole earth with people; and, in the progress of time, drove some of the less fortunate inhabitants of the globe, yielding to irresistible pressure, to seek a scanty subsistence in the burning deserts of Asia and Africa, and the frozen deserts of Siberia and North America*. But it must be remembered, that this great spring of action was strife, and not solely the pressure of want of subsistence. It is strise that divides families against themselves, and societies against themselves, more than poverty or necessity. It is also said, that the first migrations would naturally find no other obstacles than the nature of the country where they fixed to reside; but when a considerable part of the earth had been peopled, though but thinly, the possessors of those districts would not yield them to others without a struggle; and the redundant inhabitants of any of the more central spots could not find room for them: selves, without expelling their nearest neighbours, or at least passing through their territories, which would necessarily give occasion to frequent contests; but, if this be the case, it is astonishing that there are not more traces to be found of this ancient and immense increase of population. From Lot and from Abram it may be found, that the causes of war and emigration are strife and injustice; but even these scarcely account for emigration to all parts of the earth, nor could poverty, necessity, nor the want of subsistence, be the sole causes of it; for poverty could range but for a little while, and over no great space, before it must be exhausted; and what tribes would seek the frigid wilds of northern Europe, or the barren coasts of polar regions, if the motive were only to procure food or subsistence? Whether those settlers were of the race of Lot, or of Abram, or how they came there, has not yet been proved. It is not impossible that they might, in time, have penetrated through vast continents ; but how they got on islands, at immense distances from those continents, is a subject of enquiry which
* Essay on Population.