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The financial administration of the State of New York, which, from its wealth, its population, and its political importance, exerts no inconsiderable influence on the fortunes of the United States, has long been a subject of anxiety to those who watch the progress of the Great Federal Republic, and view with apprehension the operation of causes tending to impair its reputation or to imperil its success.
It was, therefore, satisfactory to find that the Legislature of that State had, in 1870, authorised the appointment of a. commission “ to revise the laws for the assessment and collection of taxes,” and the nomination of Mr. David A. Wells, with two colleagues, to conduct the inquiry, afforded an assurance that it would be directed by the high political capacity and enlightened views which characterised the Report of the Special Commissioner of the Revenue of the United States.
The following Report contains the results of this inquiry, which has been, as will be seen, of the most comprehensive and searching kind, and appears to the committee of the Cobden Club to possess so much interest from different points of view, that they have decided on its re-publication, with a view to extend its circulation in this country.
The importance of the questions treated in the Report cannot be over-estimated. The stability and permanence of free institutions, in every nation, are essentially dependent upon the nature of its local government, and it is not too much
to say that the success of local government will be mainly determined by the extent and character of local taxation.
In the financial system of the American Union, State and local taxation, as contra-distinguished from federal or central taxation, necessarily occupy a much larger place than in that of the United Kingdom; but it is important to remember that were it not for the National Debt, and for the enormous cost of military and naval armaments, the local taxation even of this country, would constitute the principal part of its burdens.
It is also to be observed that while the progressive diminution of central or general taxation affords in most countries the only hope, as it supplies the surest test, of effectual progress, the claims of advancing civilisation, and increasing population, will be met more and more by extended local expenditure, and that on this account it is of vital consequence that the principles and incidence of all local taxes should be made the subject of the closest scrutiny, and that all elements of injustice, unnecessary oppression, and waste, should be exposed, and, as far as possible, removed.
The Committee hope that the information contained in the following Report, will possess an additional and a practical interest at the present moment, in connexion with Mr. Goschen's measures relating to the local taxation of this country, at present under the consid eration of Parliament.