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habits are not eradicated in a moment. It is not strange, therefore, that so old an offender should now and then relapse for a short time into wrong dispositions. But to give him his due, as the proverb recommends, we must say, that he always returns, after two or three lines of impiety, to his preaching tone. We would seriously advise Mr Montgomery to omit, or alter, about a hundred lines in different parts of this large volume, and to republish it under the name of • Gabriel.' The reflections of which it consists would come less absurdly, as far as there is a more and a less in extreme absurdity, from a good than from a bad angel.
We can afford room only for a single quotation. We give one taken at random-neither worse nor better, as far as we can perceive, than any other equal number of lines in the book. The Devil goes to the play, and moralizes thereon as follows:
• Music and Pomp their mingling spirit shed
Methinks I hear a pitying angel cry. Here we conclude. If our remarks give pain to Mr Robert Montgomery, we are sorry for it. But, at whatever cost of pain to individuals, literature must be purified from this taint. And, to show that we are not actuated by any feelings of personal enmity towards him, we hereby give notice, that, as soon as any book shall, by means of puffing, reach a second edition, our intention is, to do unto the writer of it as we have done unto Mr Robert Montgomery.
Art. X.--Enquiries with respect to the Nature and Influence of
Taxation. Pp. 81. London. 1830.
THE admirable and well-timed work of Sir Henry Parnell on
1 Financial Reform, and the able and luminous speeches of Mr Goulburn on bringing forward the budget, and of Mr Poulett Thomson on moving for a committee to enquire into the state of taxation, have diffused a great deal of valuable information with respect to our financial situation. The work of Sir Henry Parnell is sound, clear, and comprehensive. The Honourable Baronet has gone over the whole field of our expenditure; he has presented every item in the most striking point of view, and pointed out the reductions that might be made without injury to the public service. But as this is a subject on which we propose entering at some length on a future occasion, we shall confine ourselves at present to a few remarks on the modifications proposed to be made in our system of taxation.
We believe the truth to be, notwithstanding all that has been said as to the enormous weight of taxation in this country, that we suffer infinitely more from the erroneous mode in which taxes have been imposed, than from their absolute weight. Were a few of the present taxes repealed, and others modified, we entertain no doubt that the same amount of revenue that is now raised might be obtained without any difficulty. The radical error into which most of our financiers have fallen, bas consisted in their supposing, in contempt of the well-known remark of Dr Swift, that to increase or diminish a tax, was to effect a corresponding increase or diminution of the revenue. The whole of Mr Vansittart's financial policy was bottomed on this fallacious hypothesis. To think of adding to the revenue by lowering the duty on any article, appeared to him to involve a contradiction. He took for granted, and the House of Commons did not choose to question so great an authority, that whether the price of an article rose or fell, its consumption would remain constant !
It is from the effects of this precious system, if so we may term it, that the country is now suffering. Of all the articles on which duties have been laid--and our readers are aware how very comprehensive is the list-there is hardly one which is not overtaxed—that is, there is hardly one that would not yield more revenue were the duty upon it reduced. And such, we believe, is now the opinion of most of our public men. No sooner had his Majesty been graciously pleased to call Mr Vansittart to the
House of Lords, than his successor, demonstrated by the evidence of fact and experiment, what every one acquainted with the subject had predicted on general grounds, that the revenue might be increased by reducing duties.
Mr Vansittart was the very best friend, and Mr Robinson the worst enemy, of the smuggling interest. During the administration of the former, the duties on spirits in Ireland and Scotland had been raised to 5s. 6d. the wine gallon; and in consequence of this disproportionately heavy tax, smuggling, with the rapine and outrage inseparable from it, was carried to such a height, that not one-third of the spirits consumed in these parts of the empire paid duty. In 1824, the duties were reduced from 5s. 6d. to 2s. the wine gallon; and the revenue derived from spirits, as we showed in our last number, has increased in Ireland from L.912,288, to L.1,395,120; and in Scotland from L.727,650, to L.809,559. Smuggling has, at the same time, been completely put down. It is, besides, wholly false to affirm, that there has been any increase of drunkenness; spirits legally distilled have been substituted in the place of those that were illegally distilled, and that is all.
Fortunately, too, this is not a solitary instance of the comparatively great productiveness of moderate duties. In 1806, when the duty on coffee was ls. 8d. a-pound, the revenue derived from it amounted to L.152,759. In 1809, when the duty bad been reduced to 7d., the revenue, instead of falling, increased to L.245,886; and in 1828, when the duty was 6d., the revenue amounted to L.425,389; the consumption being about fifteen times as great as in 1806. In other articles, such as wine, the duties, on which had been carried to an oppressive height, their reduction has been followed by similar effects.
Now, all that we desire of ministers is, that they should vigorously prosecute this course. We do not call upon them to relinquish revenue, for we know that a very large revenue is absolutely necessary to meet the pressing exigencies of the public service. But we call upon them to avail themselves of the experience afforded by the reductions made during the administration of Mr Robinson,—to repeal such duties as, from being injurious to industry, tend to dry up the sources of all revenue; and to modify and reduce such as, from being carried to an oppressive height, have become highly burdensome to the public, without being so productive as they would be were they lower.
Ministers, we are happy to be able to say, appear to be satisfied that this is the proper course to follow. And though
they have, unnecessarily as we think, deferred the revision of several most objectionable taxes, they bave resolved upon introducing some most important improvements. The repeal of the beer duty is a measure for which they are particularly entitled to the public gratitude. We endeavoured, in a late number, to point out the grossly partial and oppressive nature of this tax. It is not, however, to be doubted that the repeal of the malt duty would have secured more Parliamentary support to the minister; and he is peculiarly deserving of commendation for having resolved to do an act of justice to the lower and middle classes, by repealing a tax which falls wholly on them, at the risk of weakening his own interest.
Had the repeal of the beer duty stood alone, it would not have been of any very material service. But coupled, as it is to be, with the abolition of the existing restraints on its sale, it will be of signal advantage. The revenue derived from the beer daty is about L.3,000,000. Large, however, as this sum certainly is, we have no doubt that in the event of the existing regulations with respect to the manufacture of malt being simplified, the demand for it will be so much augmented, that the increased revenue from it will go far to make up the deficiency. Mr Goulburn calculated that the various restrictions and difficulties at present imposed on the manufacture and sale of beer, might be moderately estimated as equivalent to an additional duty of L. 1,500,000! Nor is the getting rid of this enormous charge the only collateral advantage that will accrue to the public from this wise and liberal measure. The beer trade being now, for the first time, perfectly free, the same keen and close competition will be introduced into it as into other departments of industry. The brewers and sellers of beer, deprived of their monopoly, will henceforth have to depend wholly on the superior quality or superior cheapness of the article they offer for sale. It may, therefore, be fairly presumed, that the practice of adulteration will be nearly, if not entirely, suppressed ; at the same time, that the lower price and free sale of this wholesome beverage will do more than could possibly have been done otherwise to arrest the progress of gin-drinking. We believe, too, that no long period will elapse before the agriculturists will have reason to be satisfied that, in repealing the beer duty, Mr Goulburn has most effectually consulted their interest. The abolition of all restrictions on the sale of beer, will extend the demand for it in a far greater degree than could have been effected by the reduction, or even repeal, of the malt duty; and will consequently lead to a proportionally greater demand for barley. The measure, in short, is one that cannot be too highly praised. Other ministers may have lamented over public distress in speeches of greater pathos, but few have given so substantial a proof of their desire to alleviate them.
Besides the beer duty, Mr Goulburn has consented to repeal the duties on leather and cider. The duty on leather was formerly 3d. a-pound, but was reduced within these few years to 11d. Either, however, the duty ought not to have been reduced at all, or it ought to have been unconditionally repealed. By continuing the ld. duty, all the officers and regulations had to be kept up that were required to collect the higher duty, while the reduction of 1 d. on the cost of a pound of leather was almost imperceptible. But the repeal of the duty, by setting the manufacture free from restraint and surveillance, will be of signal benefit to the trade; and will occasion a sensible reduction in the price, and a great improvement in the quality, of this very important article.
Mr Robinson reduced the duty on cider from 30s. to 10s. abarrel. At this reduced rate it produced from L.25,000 to L.30,000 a-year. But it was obviously not worth subjecting an important branch of industry to fiscal regulations for so small a sum, and the duty is to be repealed.
Thus far, there is every thing to praise, and nothing to blame, in the budget. We confess, however, that we think ministers made an improper concession either to an ill-founded clamour, or to a powerful party, when they consented to increase the duty on spirits. But it is scarcely necessary, after what we stated in our last number, to enter upon this topic. In so far as respects Ireland and Scotland, the increase of 2d. per gallon is so very trifling as not to be worth notice, except as an evil precedent; but the increase of Is. a-gallon on the duty on spirits consumed in England, appears to us to be a most objectionable measure. It increases the temptation to smuggle from Scotland and Ireland into England, and to illicit distillation and adulteration in the latter. We see no good reason for supposing that it will have any beneficial effect whatever. As a means of decreasing drunkenness, it will be found to be quite impotent. The repeal of the beer duty is, in this respect, worth ten thousand acts to increase the price or prohibit the use of gin. And we are sorry that Mr Goulburn should have adulterated his great measure with this base alloy.
Supposing, however, that the measure were in other respects expedient, it is altogether objectionable from its giving an unjust preference to rum over British spirits. In 1825, the duty