A little farther on, and we come to Caravan-bridge,—of all Smyrna's objects, perhaps the one best known by reputation. It has its name from the number of caravans that, entering Smyrna from the interior, have to pass over it. And see, there is at this moment a string of camels in the way, so that we may as well halt in this convenient shade till they be gone by. That little Ethiopian will look after our horses, and Ali will bring us coffee and chibouques in a twinkling. See how pleasantly these trees overshadow our resting-place, and how the gliding of the water, here a broader and more rapid stream, seems to cool our very thoughts. This is the great picnic place for the citizens—a sort of Turkish Vauxhall. Yet what a difference between the orderly composure of these holiday makers, and the noisy mirth of our own compatriots. These folks take their kef, as they do every thing else, quietly. Here you may see hundreds of revellers, and not a drunkard among them. Perhaps the repose of the scene draws some of its influence from those sombre burying grounds, of which two are just opposite. No where is such truth of funereal effect preserved as in this country. Pere la Chaise, and all European cemeteries are puerile in comparison. The stately evergreen which they have consecrated to the overshadowing of the dead fulfils the idea of solemnity and awe. There is effect in the manner in which the simple head-stones are planted together, with no separation of rails, no interspersion of pretending sarcophagi. All have returned to their dust, and have put off the ephemeral distinctions of life; they have returned to the bosom of their mother, where there is no aristocracy, and slumber as brethren till they shall be awakened to new distinctions.
This is a place where at odd times many a pleasant hour may be passed. It is such a thoroughfare, (at least the bridge, though you are in the shade by its side, well out of the bustle,) that there is always something passing worthy of notice. It is also a capital place to practise the language, if you have any of it to expend. You see the strangest figures entering from the interior with their merchandise, which is all diligently examined by the officer of the customs here posted. It is a singular thing that the long trains of camels are invariably headed by a donkey; who takes the lead as coolly as if it were quite in order that such an insignificant brute should drag after him some five hundred animals, each big enough to eat him. The Caravandgis might be supposed to come all from one locality, so strong is the family likeness subsisting between them. Perhaps they actually do, for this hereditary disposition of employments is quite according to the genius of the nation. They are short, stout, little men, with round smooth faces, especially stolid in expression. They dress in the old style, never wearing the fez; and sure we ought to take the portrait of one of them, were it only for the sake of their boots. Such buckets are not often worn, and to pedestrians would be impracticable. But these men do not walk: seated on their donkeys, they jog on at the head of the caravan, bearing the merchandise of Asia through wildernesses where the foot of man is strange. With man they have little communion, and with nature they have little sympathy, or their soulless visages belie them. Life to them must be a blended experience of tobacco and camel's bells. I have marked them at night, when arrived at their journey's end, and bivouacking in the midst of their animals. The brutes formed a circular rampart, in the centre of which reclined the men. It was a desolate spot, such as generally disposes men to sociability with the stray fellow-creature or two who may happen to have been led to the same point; and here were two or three fellow-countrymen of the drivers. But they took no notice of their neighbours; they performed their prostrations, they disposed of their supper, and coiled themselves up to rest. If they rose for a moment, it was to look after some restless camel; and early in the morning, long before the sun, when I turned out, they were departed to a more remote solitude. But now the road is clear, and we make a start of it, leaving the town fairly behind.
"Stop, my men," said J——; "look at your horses' feet."
"What's that for?"
"We shall pass never another smithy this livelong day; and should a screw be loose in any of their shoes, it would be rather a bring up for us." Sage and sound advice for those who have a long ride before them; which yet at this time of our need we rejected; and for which I afterwards suffered. Awakening to a sense of my error, I did afterwards make a divergence to a village by the way; but there found no artist, and in the course of the day I learned fully to appreciate the importance of a nail in time. By the way, the shoes hereabout are of a peculiar kind, composed of a plate that entirely covers the hoof. They are at least effective in preventing the infraction of pebbles.
Our road was in the line that leads to the pretty village of Bonabat, leaving the no less pretty village of Boujah on the right, but far away, and hidden among the hills. These are two pleasant suburban retreats that the merchants of Smyrna, have established as a ricovero from the toils of the city. Bonabat is more especially inhabited by the French, and Boujah by the English. There is a third village somewhat farther off in the direction of Ephesus called Sittagui. A few years ago, when the Turkey trade was in its palmy days, the merchants used to do their business in most agreeable style. It was during certain months only that they went every day to their offices, the rest of the year being permitted to enjoyment. At present, though perhaps somewhat less magnificent in their style, they are eminently comfortable in their ways. During the summer months, their families are removed to these pretty country places; and at sundown each evening the ways are covered with the returning fathers and brothers. For us Englishmen, Boujah was naturally the accustomed haunt. Here is to be found the charming mixture of nationalities, which is the feature of Smyrneot society. Their ways are manly, without constraint, and in many respects patriarchal. The young ladies never wear bonnets, and are generally to be seen of a fine evening sitting in the open air before their own gates. The whole community having been pretty well all brought up together from childhood are on the happiest terms of intimacy: surnames are almost obsolete. Ungrateful must the heart be that can remember without pleasure days past in their society; where every house is open, and every face has a smile for the guest. There is one particular spot here, called the Three Wells, where my evening's walk has ever brought before me images fraught with recollection of Rebecca's introduction to Isaac, or of Jacob wooing Rachel. We now passed into the open country, where the road, leading over a low ridge of hills, becomes of less definite track. And the last village was passed, and thenceforward we were to meet stations only as rare landmarks. Hereabouts sugar, as a general luxury, disappears; the caffedgis supplying the mere coffee, unless some more luxurious stranger demand the drug. It is then dealt out from a small private store, and notified by a separate charge in the bill. The homely old Turks are ignorant of the uses of sugar; and it would seem that their language does not supply a descriptive term, as their "shuk-kar" is evidently a mispronunciation of our word. One could not, without romancing, say much of the beauty of the country through which we were passing at this early stage of our journey. It is even flat, and tame; and appears to be so more decidedly by contrast with most that lies in this region. Almost every where else the prospect is bounded by beautiful hills, here and there aspiring to the character of mountains, whose sides vary constantly in tint as they rangingly receive the rays of the rising or the setting sun. Or sometimes one has to pass through vast plains, where neglect and desolation have, in the exuberance of nature, assumed the appearance of luxuriant cultivation. Few artificial pastures could equal the natural beds of oleander that are sometimes found here stretching far away till lost behind the crags of a ravine; and which, in their unconstrained vegetation, show colours that the hothouse might envy. And particularly are the wildernesses of myrtle remarkable, which for miles grow in thick jungle, through which it is difficult to preserve the narrow track kept for passage. It is curious to pass through these odorous thickets, where you can never see around you, and seldom many feet before you, on account of the windings of the way. Long are heard the tinklings of the camel's bells, and the heavy plod of their feet, before the train comes into sight, and many are the manoeuvrings to effect a passage in peace. The camels, however many, are all linked together, and to the preceding donkey; and as they cannot be always persuaded to observe due distance, so as to keep the line taught, nor to follow each other on the same side of the road, it may be conceived that to pass them is sometimes a work of difficulty. It is a comfort that they never bite—at least never in ordinary cases; but still, till one is used to their near contact, it does seem formidable to be involved and hampered among these as one constantly must be. But this particular road of ours was, for some way, diversified by neither beauty nor incident; and, as things go, perhaps it is well that so it was; for therefore have I the less scruple at passing over observations topographical, and making haste to tell of what things befel us in the city of the unbelievers. One single party of travellers we did meet, whose journeying exercised considerable influence on our fortunes. It was about mid-day that we saw approaching, from the opposite direction to ourselves, a Frank gentleman, attended by a respectable looking squire. We knew him to be coming from Magnesia, because there was no other place from which he could be coming; and, by the same token, we shrewdly guessed him to be the one Frank inhabitant, the pro-consul, on whose good offices we had reckoned. The only alternative was, that he might be some casual visiter like ourselves, whom business or curiosity had led on a journey, whence he was returning. But, as he drew nearer, we read in the incurious expression of his face, that he was certainly at home; and the air of accustomed importance that beset him argued him to be one in authority. No men, surely, can be so alive to the sense of borrowed dignity as consular agents in out-of-the-way corners; at least no men carry so pompous an exposition on their brow. By these tokens we identified our stranger friend.
"Hail him," said K——.
"Bon giorno, signori!"
"Servo, signori. Andate in Magnesia?"
"I told you so," said K——.
And so it was. He, her Britannic Majesty's, and half-a-dozen other majesty's agent, stood convicted by his speech. The man had not been out of Magnesia, perhaps, any day for the last twelvemonths, and he had chosen, for the prosecution of his foreign interests, that precise day, when these three desolate Englishmen had come to throw themselves on his cares.
However, our blood was up, and our souls superior to trifles.
"Here's a poser! shall we reveal?"
"Not a bit of it. We don't want him, nor any one else. Any mixture of aid would have marred the spirit of our expedition: besides, remember our friend the Seraph."
This Seraph was of no higher than terrestrial order, being no other than the Armenian to whom we had the letter commendatory. What the word in their application means, I cannot say exactly, but believe it to be descriptive of the sordid occupation of a basqua; at any rate, it is a common style and title [Greek: Armenikos].
In the confidence of this our possession, we allowed the European to pass on without giving him any hint of our forlorn condition, and without craving any direction for our conduct. He evidently thought that we had some bosom friend ready to receive us, or at any rate that we were fully up to all the ways and means of the country—as well he might, seeing us roam about in such degage style. We were far too jealous of our dignity to betray any symptoms of indecision, or having been taken aback; and our adieux were waved to him with a perfect air of being at home and comfortable.
"Now then for an Armenian at home! How fortunate that fellow should be out of the way, for now our friend the Seraph will be sure to insist on our honouring his roof."
"Capital spreads, too, they give—judging by the samples one sees laid out of an evening in their halls."
"Hospitable people; are they not, K——?"
"Oh, very. Not that ever I have been in one of their houses."
"Nor I—any farther than having a pipe with old John the Dragoman at his porch."
Here was a crown to our adventure! An untrodden city, an unvisited people, a welcome to the mysterious bosom of Armenian hospitality!
* * * * *
"Free Trade," say the Americans "is another word for direct taxation, and direct taxation is another word for repudiation of states' debts." The Americans are right; it is so: and the strongest proof of these propositions is to be found in the conduct of the Americans themselves. The subject, however, is one not less interesting on this than the other side of the Atlantic. It involves the fortune and the temporal prosperity of every man in the united kingdom; and we do not hesitate to say that, on the embracing of just and reasonable views on this all-important subject by the constituencies of the united kingdom, the maintenance of the public credit,—the upholding of the public prosperity,—the ultimate existence of England as an independent nation, must come to depend.
We hear much, in the popular phrase of the day, of "great facts." We will assume "free trade" as a "great fact." We will not stop to inquire how it was brought about, or whether, by any means, it could have been avoided. These are the topics of history, and history, no one need fear, will do them justice. As little shall we stop to ask, whether direct or indirect taxation is the best, or whether a mixture of both is to be recommended. We shall not ask whether it is better to pay taxes on the price of the articles we purchase, when the amount is not perceived, or, if perceived, seldom objected to, at least against government, and when the disagreeable operation of paying money is compensated, at least in some degree, by the pleasure derived from the article purchased,—or to pay them at once to the tax-gatherer, when we get nothing for our ample disbursements but a bit of paper from the collector to remind us of the extent of our losses. As little shall we inquire, from history, how many nations have been ruined by direct taxation, and whether there is one, the decline of which can be traced to indirect; or from reason, whether it is possible that a nation can be ruined by indirect taxes, when the only effect of their becoming too high is, that they check the consumption of the articles on which they are laid, and therefore cease to be paid. We shall not remind our readers that, in the latter years of the war L72,000,000, under the protective system, was levied in the shape of taxes amidst general prosperity, on eighteen millions of people in the British empire; and that now, under the free trade system, fifty-two millions net revenue is felt as extremely oppressive by twenty-eight millions. These topics, vast and important as they are, and deeply as they bear on the past history and future prospects of the British empire, have become the province of history, because the great change on which they hinge has been made and cannot be unmade. We have chosen to have free trade,—in other words, to abandon indirect taxation; and free trade we must have, and indirect taxation will in consequence be abandoned.
But it is particularly to be observed, in the outset of this system, that free trade, once adopted and applied to certain great branches of national industry, must necessarily be progressive, and embrace all, if we would avoid the total ruin of many of the staple branches of our production and main source of our direct revenue. In a short time, grain of all sorts will be left with the nominal protection of a shilling a quarter; and many branches of manufactures already find themselves with a protecting duty so small that, keeping in view the difference of the value of money in England and the continental states, it amounts to nothing. If the classes thus left without any protection, or a merely nominal one, exposed to the effects of foreign competition, are not indemnified for their losses by the diminished price of the articles which they themselves purchase, they must grow poorer every day. Amidst the general cheapening of the articles sold, which constitute the income of the productive classes, if there is not a proportional cheapening of the articles bought which compose their expenditure, they must inevitably be destroyed.
This truth is so obvious that it is adapted to the level of every capacity, and accordingly we already see it producing agitation for the farther repeal of indirect taxes, which it does not require the gift of prophecy to foresee will, in the end, though perhaps after a severe struggle, prove successful. It may not do so in this session of Parliament or the next; but, in process of time, the effect is certain.
A squeezable ministry, a yielding premier, will ere long be found, who, in a moment of difficulty, will be glad to buy off one set of assailants, as we did the Danes of old, by giving up what they desire. The separate agitations which must, in the end, produce this result, are already manifesting themselves. The West India planters allege, with reason, that, exposed as they are, when burdened with costly and irregular free labourers, to the competition of slave labour in Cuba and Brazil, without, in a few years, any protection, it is indispensable that the market of the mother country should be thrown open to them for all parts of their produce, especially in distilleries and breweries. The farmers, exposed to this attack in flank, while the corn laws have been repealed in their front, have no resource left but to clamour incessantly for the repeal of the malt-tax. In this attempt it is probable they will, in the end, prove successful, not because their demands are either just or reasonable, for as power is now constituted in this country that affords no guarantee whatever for being listened to, but because their claims are likely to be supported by the beer-drinkers in towns, a numerous and influential class of the community. The tea-dealers, encouraged by the success of agitation in other quarters, are already making a loud clamour for a reduction of the duty on tea, and prepared to prove, to the entire satisfaction of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that nothing is so likely to increase a branch of revenue now producing L4,800,000 a-year, as to lower the duty from half-a-crown to a shilling on the pound. The tobacco dealers will not be behind their brethren in agitation; and we may soon expect to see all the venal talent of the nation enlisted in the great cause of free trade in smoking and chewing. The spirit-dealers will, most assuredly, not be the last to insist upon a reduction of the duties affecting them; and they are sure to be supported by the whole publicans in the urban constituencies; a class of men so numerous that it is certain their united voice is not long likely to be treated without attention. Every class, in short, will insist for a remission of the taxes affecting themselves, without the slightest regard to the effect it is likely to have on the revenue, the public credit, or the general security of the empire; and when we reflect on the stupendous array of indirect taxes, which, under the influence of similar partial but fierce agitations, have been abandoned by successive conceding administrations to purchase temporary popularity, we feel convinced that the time is not far distant when the remaining customs and excise, producing, at present, about thirty millions of revenue, will share the same fate.
It is useless to lament this tendency, because lamentations will not stop it, and the reform bill has vested power in classes who, for good or for evil, will work it out. Nearly two-thirds of the Imperial Parliament are, under its enactments, the representatives of burghs. In these burghs the great majority of the voters are shop-keepers, that is, persons whose interest it is to buy cheap and sell dear. In making the first use of their newly acquired power to force on free trade, and a repeal of all duties affecting themselves, our burghs have exactly followed in the footsteps of their predecessors, when parliamentary writs were first addressed to them by the Earl of Leicester, in 1264. "The burghers," says Guizot, "as much astonished as charmed at the importance which Leicester gave them, took advantage of their influence to procure freedom to trade, and to get quit of all custom-house duties, instead of establishing, in conjunction with him, the government on a durable foundation." The influence of these urban constituencies is not likely to decrease under the increasing embarrassments of the landed producers, and the augmented stimulus to certain branches of trade from foreign importations. And, in consequence, as the revenue melts away under the effect of successive repeals of the indirect taxes, the question will, ere long, force itself on the government and the country, How is the interest of the debt to be paid? How are the charges of the national establishments to be defrayed? The extraordinary prosperity of the last two years, the result of the three fine harvests which had preceded them, cannot be expected to continue. A railway mania is not immortal;—like every other violent passion it must soon wear itself out. Peace cannot much longer be relied on;—the clouds are already gathering in more than one quarter. A recurrence to general indirect taxes is not to be thought of in these days of restricted currency and unrestricted importation. The only alternative is, either a reduction of the interest of the national debt, or a great increase of direct taxation.
County Members. Borough Members. England, 162 336 Scotland, 30 23 Ireland, 66 39 —— —— 258 398
Or as 2 to 3 nearly.
 Guizot's Essais Sur l'Hist. de France, 475, 476.
It is not probable that a forcible reduction of the national debt will be attempted, at least till the other alternative has been tried and failed. The public funds are the great saving bank of the nation. Out of 192,970 persons who received the half-yearly dividend at the Bank of England in the year 1841, no less than 158,735 drew dividends under L50 half-yearly, of whom 58,000 were under L5; while those above L50 and not exceeding L200 were only 10,094, and those exceeding L2000 only 125! This is the great security for the public funds in England—the extent to which shares in them are held by persons composing that middle commercial class, in whom, under the present constitution, supreme power is practically vested.
 Porter's Parliamentary Tables, xii. 6.
Nor is it only the actual holders of the public funds who would be immediately struck at by an invasion of the national debt. Stock of every kind would at once fall pari passu with the three per cents.—credit of every kind would be violently shaken—the rate of discount at the Bank of England would instantly rise—money would become scarce over the country—every debtor would find his whole creditors on his back at once, while his means of recovering payment from those indebted to him would be proportionately abated. It is not going too far to say that, within a year after a blow had been struck at the public funds, one-half of the whole trading classes would find themselves insolvent. None would be able to stand the shock but those possessed of considerable capital. The majority who carried the measure would, for the most part, be ruined by its effects. This consequence is not a remote or secondary one, which large bodies of men can never be brought to see; it is immediate and direct, and is practically known, by the intercourse with banks, and the necessity of getting bills discounted, to the whole commercial community in the country. It is not probable that the burgher class, to whom the Reform Bill has given power, will voluntarily advocate a measure so evidently and palpably destructive to themselves. The public funds of Great Britain rest on the securest of all bases in a popular community, the self-interest of the holders of power. They would soon be swept away under universal suffrage, as they have been in so many states of America, because the majority under such a system have no funds to hold.
Two things, then, may be considered as certain as any thing depending on the varying chances of human affairs can be. 1. That the indirect taxes which at present constitute three-fifths of the net revenue of Great Britain will, in great part, in process of time, be swept away. 2. That to uphold the public credit and save from ruin the commercial classes, a great addition must be made to direct taxation.
It has become, therefore, a matter of the very highest importance to consider how an additional revenue can be raised without wide-spread ruin in that way; and what are the principles on which direct taxation should be founded, in order to be at once equal, just, and productive. It will be found, on consideration, that they are simple and of universal application—so plain as to be obvious, when stated, to every capacity, although a protracted struggle may doubtless be anticipated from the various classes whose immunities or exemptions such a just and equal system may abolish or abridge.
The first principles on the subject will naturally suggest themselves on the principle of "lucus a non lucendo," upon considering the gross inequalities, the enormous injustice of our present system of direct taxation. Upon reviewing it, one can hardly discover under what prevailing interest in the Legislature the regulations have been framed, so strangely is occasional and unjust favour to the landed interest, in some particulars, blended with frequent and equally unjust oppression of them in others—so unequally is undue favour to the middle classes, in some respects, combined with unjust and partial burdens upon them in others.
To begin with one particular, in which the landed interest are greatly and unjustly exempted, while the other classes are severely and unjustly burdened. There is no duty on bequests or inheritance in land, while there is such a duty, and a very heavy one, in movable succession. The legacy duty on succession, from one unconnected with the legatee by blood, is ten per cent.; from relations six, and from parents one per cent. By the aid of the probate duty, which must be paid by the executors, and the expense of suing out letters of administration in England, or an edict and confirmation as executor in Scotland, these duties are practically nearly doubled. Succession in land, on the other hand, costs nothing, at least nothing requires to be paid to government; and though the expense of making up titles to landed estates is often very heavy, that is a burden for the benefit of lawyers, not the good of the state. A poor man who gets a legacy of L100, pays L10 direct to the Exchequer, and the executor, in addition, pays the heavy stamp on probate of the succession; but the great landholder succeeds to L100,000 a-year without paying a shilling to the state.
A creditor in Scotland, who succeeds to a bond for L100,000, heritably secured, pays nothing; if it is on personal security, he pays the full legacy duty of L10,000.
This glaring inequality, the remnant of the days of feudal oppression, or the relic of a time when the landholders had no money, and taxes could be extracted from movable property only, should forthwith be abolished. Succession of all kinds, whether in land, bonds heritably secured, or movable funds, should be taxed at the same rate. And by the addition of the vast amount of the landed property to the produce of the succession duty, it would be in the power of Government to reduce the general tax at least a half without any diminution, probably a large increase, in the general result. This must be at once apparent, when it is recollected that out of L5,303,000, which the income tax produced in 1845, from Britain, no less than L2,666,000, or nearly a half, came from the land. When it is recollected that the remainder embraced, besides income from realized money, no less than L1,541,000 for professional income, which of course corresponds to a comparatively small amount of realized capital, it is evident how great an increase to the taxable amount of succession this most equitable change would produce. It need hardly be said that the land should pay on so many years' purchase, say thirty in Great Britain, and twenty in Ireland of the clear rent, after deducting the interest of mortgages or heritable bonds or jointures. They would pay the tax on the succession of their holders respectively. And the distinction as to the lesser amount of the tax to be paid by children and relations, than strangers, now observed in the succession to personal property, should be applied also to landed succession.
This is one obvious burden, which should be applied equally to landed as to any other class of proprietors. But there are several particulars in which they are most unjustly subjected to burdens from which other classes are relieved; and if they get justice done them in this respect, they could well afford to pay the succession duty.
In the first place, the levying of the POOR'S RATE as a burden exclusively laid on real property in England, that is, lands and houses, to the entire liberation of personal property or professional incomes, is a most monstrous inequality—indefensible on every principle of justice or expedience, and the long continuance of which can only be explained by the well known and proverbial supineness of that class of men, and their inability to rouse themselves to any combined or general effort, even for matters in which their own vital interests are concerned. The Poor's Rate, it is well known, is, especially in England, a very heavy burden. It amounted, prior to the late change in the law in England, to above L8,000,000 a-year: and although it was at first considerably reduced in the years immediately succeeding the first introduction of that Act in 1834, yet it has been steadily rising since, and has now nearly attained its former level. Under the most favourable circumstances it cannot be estimated in round numbers at less than L6,000,000 a-year; in seasons of distress it never fails to reach L7,000,000. Scotland hitherto has paid less, because under the administration of the old law, the support afforded to the poor was miserably stinted, and quite inadequate to meet their necessities. This was fully exposed by the efforts of Dr. Alison and other distinguished philanthropists, and a parliamentary inquiry having demonstrated the truth of their statements, the Act of 1846 introduced a more humane and careful provision for the poor. Under the operation of this Act, the Poor Rate in Scotland has in most places considerably, and in some alarmingly, increased. The dreadful state of Ireland, suffering less under the failure, total as it has been, of the potato crop, than the general indigent condition of the poor, has at length forcibly aroused the attention of all classes in the empire, and it may confidently be predicted that the mockery of supposing the Irish paupers, 2,300,000 in number, to be provided for because L240,000 a-year, or about two shillings a head a-year, is levied for their relief on a rental of above L12,000,000 annually, cannot much longer be maintained. The Poor's Rate, therefore, is a subject which already interests deeply, and is likely to interest still more deeply, every part of the empire, and it is of the highest importance to consider what are the principles on which, in conformity with justice and expedience, it should be levied.
Poor's Rate and County Rate. 1832 L8,662,000 1833 8,279,217 1834 8,338,079 1842 6,552,800 1843 7,085,595 1844 6,848,717
Parl. Paper. Porter, xii. 247.
The monstrous injustice of the present system will be rendered apparent by a single example. Manufactories, collieries, iron-works, and commercial towns, are, it is well known, the great producers of the poor, because they bring together the labouring classes in vast numbers from all quarters while trade is prosperous, and leave them in a state of suffering or destitution a burden on the landholders the moment it becomes depressed. The commercial classes, too, are immediately and directly benefited by the labour of these manufacturing poor while they retain their health; while the landholders in their vicinity are only so indirectly and in a lesser degree. This is decisively demonstrated by the colossal fortunes so frequently made in the commercial classes, contrasted with the declining circumstances or actual insolvency of the landholders by whom they are surrounded. Do these, the merchants and manufacturers, pay the larger proportion of the poor tax, thus rendered inevitable by the nature of their operations, which are in so high a degree beneficial to themselves? Quite the reverse: they do not, in proportion to their profits, pay a tenth part of its amount. The poor's rate, as at present levied, is on the rural proprietors an Income, on burgh inhabitants a House tax. The difference is prodigious, and leads to results in practice of the grossest injustice.
A landowner has an estate of L2000 a-year in a parish of which the poor's-rate is 1s. in the pound, or L100 a-year on his property. A manufactory is established, or an iron-work set agoing, or a coal mine opened upon it, from which the fortunate owner derives L50,000 a-year of profit. The buildings on it, however, are only valued at L2000 a-year. He pays for his pauper creating work, yielding him L50,000 a-year, L100 annually, the same as what the landowner in the same parish pays for his pauper-feeding estate of L2000 a-year. In other words, in proportion to the respective incomes, the landholder, who had no hand in bringing in the poor, and derives little or nothing from their labour, pays just five-and-twenty times as much as the manufacturer who introduced them, and is daily making a colossal fortune by their exertions! And this becomes the more unjust when it is recollected, that under the present system of free trade in corn and easy communication with distant quarters which railways and steam-boats afford, the little benefit the neighbouring landholders formerly derived from the presence of such manufacturing crowds, is fast disappearing. But further, the manufacturer or mine-owner having got off thus easily during the time of prosperous trade, when he was realising his fortune, stops his works, and discharges his workmen when the adverse season arrives. The rateable value of the manufactory or the mine has, for the present, almost or wholly disappeared, and the poor starving workmen are handed over to be supported by the land-owner.
Persons not practically acquainted with these matters may think this statement is overcharged: on the contrary, it is within the truth in some instances. We know an instance of a great iron master, whose profits average above L100,000 a-year, who pays less poor's rates for the poor he has mainly created, than a landholder in the same parish, of L2000 a-year, who never brought a pauper on its funds in his life. Such is the consequences of the present barbarous system of levying the poor's rate as an income tax on the landlords who are burdened with paupers, and only a house tax on the manufacturers who create and profit by them. The first thing to be done towards the introduction of a just system of direct taxation is to lay the maintenance of the poor equally on all classes; and above all to abolish the present most unjust system of making it only a house tax on the producers of poor in towns, and an income tax on their feeders in the country.
The LAND TAX is another burden, exclusively affecting real property, which should either be abolished, altogether or levied equally on all classes. Its amount is not so great as the poor's rate, nevertheless it is considerable, as it produces about L1,172,000 a-year.
 Porter's Parl. Tables, xii. 36.
The whole ASSESSED TAXES, though not avowedly and exclusively a tax on the landed interest, are, practically speaking, and in reality, a burden on them almost entirely; at least they are so much heavier on the landowners than the inhabitants of towns, that the burden is nothing in comparison on urban indwellers. Had they been practically felt as a grievance by the urban population they would long since have shared the fate of the house tax and been abolished. They have so long been kept up only because, with a few exceptions, they press almost exclusively upon that passive and supine class of landlords, the natural prey of Chancellors of the Exchequer, whom it seems generally impossible by any exertions, or the advent of any danger how urgent soever, to rouse to any common measure of defence. It no doubt sounds well to say that the assessed taxes are laid generally on luxuries, and therefore they are paid equally by all classes which indulge in them. But a closer examination will show that this view is entirely fallacious, and that the subjects actually taxed, though really luxuries to urban, are necessary aids to rural life. For example, a carriage, a riding horse, a coachman, a groom, are really luxuries in town, and their use may be considered as a fair test of affluent, or at least easy circumstances. But in the country they are absolutely necessaries. They are indispensable to business, to health, to mutual communication, to society, to existence. What similarity is there between the situation of a merchant with L1000 a-year, living in a comfortable town house, with an omnibus driving past his door every five minutes, a stand of cabs within call, and dining three days in the week at a club where he needs no servants of his own; and a landholder enjoying the same income, living in a country situation, with no neighbour within five miles, and having six miles to ride or drive to the nearest town or railway station where his business is to be transacted, or where a public conveyance can be reached?
Gardeners, park-keepers, foresters and the like, are generally not luxuries in the country, they are a necessary part of an establishment which is to turn the land to a profitable use. You might as well tax operatives in mills, or miners in collieries, or mechanics in manufactories, as such servants. Yet they are all swept into the assessed taxes, upon the rude and unfounded presumption that they are, equally with a large establishment of men-servants in towns, an indication of affluent circumstances. The window tax is incomparably, more oppressive in country houses than in town ones, from their greater size in general, and being for the most part constructed at a period when no attention was paid to the number of windows, and they were generally made very small from being formed before the window tax was laid on. Taking all these circumstances into view, it is not going too far to assert, that on equal fortunes the assessed taxes are twice as heavy in the country as in towns; and that of L3,312,000 which they produce annually, after deducting the land tax, about L2,500,000, is paid by landowners either in town or country. It is inconceivable—no one a priori could credit it—how few householders in town, and not being landowners, pay any assessed taxes at all—or any of such amount as to be really a burden. The total number of houses charged to the window tax, in Great Britain, is 447,000, and the duty levied on them is, L1,613,774, or, at an average, about L3, 10s. a-house, while the number of inhabited houses was, in 1841, 3,164,000, or above seven times the number. The total number charged with one man-servant, is only 49,320, and, persons keeping men-servants at all, 110,849, facts indicating how extremely partial is the operation of these taxes, and how severely they fall on the class most heavily burdened in other respects, and therefore least able to bear them.
 Porter's Parl. Tables, xii. 37, 42; and xi. 275.
The HIGHWAY RATES are another burden exclusively affecting land, although the whole community derive benefit from their use. This burden, exclusive of the sum levied at turnpike gates, in England amounted to L1,169,891, a-year. This charge, heavy as it is, is felt as the more vexatious, that the rate-payers are not at liberty either to limit the use of the road, for which they pay, to themselves, or to allow it to fall into disrepair. An indictment of the road lies at common law, if it becomes unfit for traffic, even at the instance of any party using the road, though he does not pay any part of the rate. In other words, the neighbouring landholders are compelled to keep up the roads for the benefit of the public generally, who contribute nothing towards their maintenance. This matter becomes the more serious that in consequence of the general adoption and immense spread of railways, the traffic on the principal lines of road in England, has either almost entirely disappeared, or become inadequate to contributing any thing material to the support even of the turnpikes hitherto entirely maintained by them. It is not difficult to foresee, that the time is not far distant when nearly the whole roads of England will fall as a burden on the rate payers; for these roads cannot be abandoned, or the country off the railway lines would have no communication at all. And the sums paid by railway companies, how large soever, to landholders, afford no general compensation; for they benefit a few in the close vicinity of the railways only, while the highway rate affects all.
 Lords' Report on Burdens on Real Property, 1846, p. vi.
The CHURCH RATE is another burden exclusively affecting land, though all classes obtain the benefit of it in the comfort and convenience of churches. It amounted, in 1839, the last year for which a return was made, to L506,512. Nothing can be clearer than that this is a burden truly affecting real estates. It is entirely different from tithes, which are not, correctly speaking, a burden on land, but a separate estate apart from that of the landlord, which never was his, for which he has given no valuable consideration. But on what principle of justice is the burden of upholding churches exclusively laid on the land, when all classes sit in churches, and enjoy the benefit of their accommodation. The thing is evidently and palpably unjust, and won't bear an argument.
 Lords' Report on Burdens on Real Property, 1846, p. 6.
The POLICE, LUNATIC ASYLUM, and BRIDGE RATES, constitute another burden on real property to which no other property is subject, which, though not universally introduced, are very oppressive in those counties where their establishment has been found necessary. Mr. Blamire, a very competent witness, estimates these incidental and partial charges at 2s. 1d. an acre. The land is still liable also to a heavy disbursement on account of the Militia, if that national force should be again called out. There has been no return yet laid before parliament of these partial burdens on land, but they cannot be estimated at less than the church rate, or L500,000 a-year.
 Ibid. p. 7.
The STAMP DUTIES, from deeds and instruments which produce annually L1,646,000 a-year, fall for the most part as a burden on real property. This must be evident to every person who considers that real estates in land or houses are the great security on which money is advanced in every part of the country, and the extremely heavy burdens, in the shape of a direct payment in the requisite stamps for deeds to government, is imposed on the transmission and burdening of such property. It is particularly severe, in proportion to the value of the subjects burdened, in the mortgaging or alienating of small freeholds or heritable subjects. It is stated in the Lords' Report, on the burdens affecting real property, "The stamp on a conveyance of a certain length, on a sale of real subjects of the value of L50, would cost 12-1/2 per cent, or L6, 10s.; on a L100 sale, to 5 per cent; on a L200 sale, to 2-1/2 per cent; on a L500 sale, to L1, 14s. 3d. per L100; and above that sum, to one per cent." The weight on the establishment of mortgages, especially on small sums, is not less remarkable. The same report adds, "A mortgage for L50 costs, in stamps, and law expenses, thirty per cent.; a mortgage for L100, twenty per cent.; one for L450 seven per cent.; for L1500 three per cent.; for L12,500 one per cent.; for L25,000 fifteen shillings per cent, and for L100,000 twelve shillings per cent." These burdens on the sale or mortgaging of real property are felt as the more oppressive, when it is recollected that movable property to the greatest amount, as in the public funds, or the like, may be alienated, or burdened in the most valid and effectual manner for the cost of a power of attorney, which is a guinea and half-a-crown per cent. to the broker who executes the transaction. Materials do not exist for separating exactly the deed-stamps falling as a burden on land transmissions and mortgages, from those affecting personal estates; but it is certainly within the mark to say, that they are three-fourths of the whole stamp-duties on deeds and instruments, or L1,200,000 a-year.
 Ibid. 1847, p. 8.
Thus, it appears that, setting aside the tithe, as not the land-owner's property, and, therefore, a separate estate, and not, properly speaking, a burden on land; and saying nothing of the malt-tax, which produces annually L4,500,000 a-year, on the supposition that, at present at least, that falls as a burden on the consumer; and saying nothing of the income-tax, which, as will immediately appear, falls as a much severer burden on land-rents than commercial incomes,—these distinct, clear, and indisputable burdens laid on land, from which property of other sorts in England are exempt, stand thus:—
I. Poor's Rate in 1845, a very prosperous year, L6,847,205 II. Land-tax, 1,164,042 III. Highway Rates, 1,169,891 IV. Church Rates, 506,812 V. Police, Lunatic, and Bridge-rates, estimated, 500,000 VI. Excess of assessed taxes falling on land above personal estates, estimated, 1,500,000 VII. Stamp-duties peculiar to land, 1,200,000 ————— L12,887,950
The rental of real property in England, rated to the Poor's Rates, is L62,540,030; but the real rental, as ascertained by the more rigid and accurate returns for the Income-tax, is L85,802,735. On the first of these sums, the taxes exclusively falling on land amount to a tax of twenty-five, on the last of EIGHTEEN per cent. annually. This is in addition to the Income-tax, and all the indirect taxes which the owners of land and houses pay in common with all the rest of the community, and which by it are complained of as so oppressive.
 Lords' Report, 1847, p. 7.
Enough, it is thought, has now been said to prove the extreme inequality and injustice with which direct public burdens are levied in this country, and the necessity for a thorough and searching revision of our system of taxation, in this respect, especially since, from the way in which the tide sets, it has become so evident that direct will progressively be more extensively substituted for indirect taxation. But, in addition to these, there are several other circumstances which aggravate fourfold the burdens thus exclusively laid on real property.
I. In the first place, the alterations in the monetary system of the country, by the resumption of cash payments in 1819, followed up in Scotland and Ireland, as well as England, by the stringent Bankers' Act of 1844, has added fully forty per cent. to the weight of all taxes and other burdens, public or private, affecting landed property, because it has altered, to that extent, the value of money, and diminished the price of the articles of rural produce from which the laud-holders' means of paying them are derived. If the prices of wheat and of all other kinds of agricultural produce, for ten years before 1819, and ten years before 1845, be compared, it will at once appear that the difference is even greater than has been here stated. But that consideration is of vital importance in this question, for if the price of all kinds of rural produce has declined nearly as nine to six by the operation of these monetary changes, the weight of debts and taxes, of course, must have been increased in the same proportion. We are not now to enter into any argument as to the expedience or necessity of that great change in our monetary system: we assume it as a fact, and refer to it only as rendering imperative a revision of the direct taxes bearing so heavily on the great interests whose means of paying them have been thus so seriously abridged.
 Prices of wheat average, per Winchester quarter, in the years after mentioned, viz.:—
s. d. s. d. 1809 78 11 1834 46 2 1810 103 3 1835 39 4 1811 92 5 1836 28 6 1812 122 8 1837 56 10 1813 106 6 1838 64 7 1814 72 1 1839 70 8 1815 63 8 1840 66 4 1816 76 2 1841 64 4 1817 94 0 1842 64 6 1818 83 8 1843 54 4 1819 72 3 1844 51 3 ——— ——— Average 87 3 Average 56 5
Tooke on Prices, ii. 389, and Lords' Report on Burdens on Real Property, App. No. 26.
II. In the second place, and this is a most important circumstance, the burdens which have been mentioned all fall as a burden on the landowner, how much soever his property may be charged with mortgages, jointures, or other real burdens. These must all be paid in full by himself alone, how small soever be the fraction of the nominal income of his estate which remains to him after discharging the annual amount of its real burdens. There is no right to deduct poor's rates, land tax, or other burdens affecting land, from mortgages, or even jointure holders, unless they are expressly declared liable to such, which is very seldom the case. These annual charges must all be paid clear to the creditor, without any deduction, except that of the income tax, which the debtor is allowed to retain by the Act imposing it. But this consideration is of vital importance to the landholders when the amount of their mortgages and other real burdens is taken into consideration. Their annual amount has been estimated by very competent judges at two-thirds of the income derived from land, although, as there is no general record in England for real burdens, their amount cannot at present be accurately ascertained. But take it, in order to be within the mark, at three-fifths of the real rental, as ascertained by the income tax returns, these show, as already stated, an income of L85,000,000 annually derived from land. Take three-fifths, or L51,000,000 of this sum as absorbed annually by mortgagers and annuitants holding real and preferable securities over land, and there will remain L34,000,000 annually to the holders of land and houses. Now on this L34,000,000 the real burdens above mentioned, amounting to L12,900,000 a-year, are fastened. If to these be added the income tax paid by the land, amounting, by the income tax returns, to L2,112,000, the clear income derived by landholders from the real property of England, with the direct taxes paid by them, will stand thus—
Clear Income as above L34,000,000 Deduct direct taxes levied exclusively on land, L12,900,000 Income tax paid by land, 2,100,000 ————- 15,000,000 —————- Remains, L19,000,000
Thus it appears that out of thirty-four millions of clear rental left to the owners of real property in England, no less than fifteen millions, or nearly a half, is taken from them annually in the shape of direct taxes which they cannot by any possibility avoid! How long would the commercial or city industry of England stand direct taxes to the amount of 46 per cent on their clear income? If that had been the state of their finances, we should have had no clamour in 1831 for enlarged representation, or in 1846 for the destruction, to their advantage, of all the protection to other branches of industry. We should have had no Anti-Corn Law League subscriptions of L100,000 to buy up all the venal talent in the form of itinerant orators and pamphleteers in the country. We should have had no conversions of conceding premiers by the weight of external agitation. In social, not less than military warfare, the longest purse carries the day; and the party which is the heaviest burdened is sure to be in the end overthrown.
III. The abolition of the Corn Laws, partially at present, entirely at the end of two years and a half, by the bill of 1846, not only has made this enormous burden of 46 per cent. on their clear income deductis debitis a permanent load on the landowners, but it has rendered it a hopeless one, because it has destroyed every means which they previously might have possessed of indemnifying themselves for its weight, by sharing its oppression with other classes. This is a matter of the very highest importance, which will soon make itself felt, though, in consequence of the nearly total failure of the potato crop in the west of Great Britain and Ireland, it has not yet been so. The usual resource of persons, who are burdened with heavy payments to government, is to lay as much as they can of it on others, by enhancing as much as possible the price of their produce. It is in this way that indirect taxes fall in general on the consumer; and it is on this principle that, in estimating the burdens exclusively affecting land, we have not included the malt duty, because it is in great part at least paid by the consumers of beer or porter. But, of course, if it becomes from any cause impossible for the party burdened, in the first instance, to raise the price of his produce, or if, on the contrary, he is compelled to lower it, the whole tax will fall direct on himself, because he will be without the means of laying it on the purchaser from him.
Now, the abolition of the Corn Laws has done this. In two years and a half, the whole grain of Poland and America will be admitted into the English market at the nominal duty of a shilling a quarter. It will be impossible for the farmers and landowners after that to keep up the price of grain of any sort in the British market beyond the prices in Prussia, and with the addition of 5s. a quarter for the cost of transit, and perhaps half as much for the profit of the importer. Wheat, beyond all question, will fall on an average of years to forty shillings a quarter, barley and oats to twenty. This is just as certain as the parallel reduction of average prices of wheat from 87s. a quarter to 56s. has been by the money law of 1819. Accordingly, now that the stress is over, they have no longer an interest to conceal or pervert the truth; the anti-corn law journals are the first to proclaim this result as certain, and they coolly recommend the English farmers to abandon altogether the cultivation of wheat, which can no longer be expected to pay, and to lay out their lands in pasture grass and the producing of garden stuffs. But amidst this general and now admitted decline in the price of grain, the 46 per cent. of direct burdens on land will continue unchanged; happy if it does not receive a large augmentation. The effect of this will be to augment the weight of the burdens to which they are already subjected on the landholders by at least twenty per cent., and, in addition, to throw upon them the whole malt tax, now amounting to L4,500,000 a-year. The moment the British farmer is obliged to lower the price of his barley to the level of the continental nations, where labour is so much cheaper, and rents comparatively light, the whole malt tax falls, without deduction or limitation, on British agriculture.
IV. The income tax, though apparently a burden equally affecting all classes, in reality attaches with much more severity to the landed than to any other class. There is, indeed, an advantage unduly enjoyed by capitalists of all sorts, landed or moneyed, in comparison with annuitants or professional men, which, as will immediately appear, loudly calls for a remedy. But, as compared with the merchant or moneyed man, who derives his income from trade or realised capital in a movable form, the landholder is, in every direct taxation, exposed to a most serious disadvantage. His income cannot be concealed, and it is returned by others than himself. The farmer or tenant, who has no interest in the matter, returns his landlord's rent. The trader, shopkeeper, or merchant estimates and returns his own income. The possessions of the first, and their annual rental, are universally known, and concealment as to them is impossible or sure of detection; the gains of the last are entirely secret, and wrapped up, even to the owner, in books or accounts, generally unintelligible in all cases but those of considerable merchants—to all but the persons who prepared them. Whoever is practically acquainted with human nature will at once perceive the immense effect which this difference must have on the amount of the burden, in appearance the same, as it affects the different classes of society.
And the result of this difference appears in the most decisive manner, in the amount of the sums paid by the different classes of society, as shown by the income tax returns. From them, it appears that the contributions from commerce, trades, and professions of all sorts, is not quite half of that obtained from landed property. The first is, in round numbers, L2,700,000; the second, L1,500,000. But let it be recollected that the L1,541,000 a-year, which, in 1845, was paid by professional men of all descriptions, in Great Britain, included, besides merchants and traders, the whole class of professional men not traders, as lawyers, attorneys, physicians, &c. At the very lowest computation their share of this must amount to L341,000 a-year. There remains then L1,200,000 as the contribution of trade and commerce, of all kinds, from Great Britain, while that from land is L2,670,000 a-year, or considerably more than double. Can it be believed that this is founded on a fair return of incomes by the commercial classes? Are they prepared to admit that their property and income, and consequent interest and title to sway in the state, is not half of that which is derived from land? Or do they shelter themselves under the comfortable assurance that their real income is incomparably greater, and that they quietly escape with a half or a third of the income tax which they ought to pay? We leave it to the trading class, and their abettors in the press, to settle this question with the commissioners of income tax throughout the country. We mention the fact, that trade and commerce do not pay half the income tax that land does, as a reason, among the many others which exist, for a thorough and radical reform of our financial system, so far as direct taxation is concerned.
 Net amount of income tax for year ending 5th April, 1845:—
England. Scotland. Total. Schedule A, Land rents, L2,112,072 L253,976 L2,366,048. ———— B, Tenants 292,646 22,961 315,607. ———— C, Annuities, funds, &c. 766,066 ——— 766,066. ———— D, Trades and professions, 1,424,017 117,953 1,541,970. ———— E, Offices, Pensions, &c., 305,401 8,500 313,901. ————— ———— —————- L4,900,202 L403,390 L5,303,502.
Whoever considers seriously, and in an impartial spirit, the various particulars which have now been stated, will not only cease to wonder at the frequent, it may almost be said universal, embarrassment of the landed proprietors, but he will arrive at the conclusion, that if they continue much longer unchanged, they must terminate in their general ruin. We say general ruin, because it will not be universal. The great landowners, the magnates, whether moneyed or territorial, of the land will alone survive the general wreck. They will, by degrees, swallow up all the smaller estates in their neighbourhood; and it will come to be literally true in Britain what was said, by a Roman emperor, of Gaul, in the decline of the empire, "That the estates of the rich go on continually increasing and absorbing all lesser estates around them, till they come to the estate of another as rich as themselves." With direct taxes, amounting to 50 or 60 per cent. on the disposable income, which, under the change of prices, induced by the change in the corn laws, they will very soon be, even without any addition from farther taxes, it is wholly impossible that any landowner who does not possess enormous tracts of country, or vast funded or moneyed property in addition to his territorial possessions, can avoid insolvency. What the effect of the total destruction of the middle class of British landholders must be on the balance of the constitution, and the state of society in these islands, it is not our present purpose to inquire. Suffice it to say, that it is precisely the state of things which signalised the later stages of the Roman empire, and coincides with so many other circumstances in marking the striking analogy between our present condition and that which proved fatal to the ancient masters of the world.
Well may the Lords' Committee on the burdens affecting landed property have said, "Neither the law nor the spirit of the constitution originally contemplated so partial a system of taxation." In truth, originally some of the heaviest present exclusive burdens on real property were born equally by personal estates. "The poor law of Elizabeth," says the report, "and the land tax of William and Mary, embraced every species of income; but in consequence of the comparative facility of rating visible property, and the small amount of income derived from other sources in the early period of their assessment, personalty seems to have escaped its legal share of contribution to the public service. The liability of stock in trade, however, was continued by law to a late period, and is, up to the present day, only suspended by an annual act of exemption." The Committee here point out, or rather hint at the real cause of the extraordinary exemption from their due share of the public burdens which has grown up insensibly in favour of movable property. Land has two admirable qualities in the estimation of Chancellors of the Exchequer. It can neither be concealed nor removed. Movable estates, stock in trade, are susceptible of both. The landholder has no secret invisible funds which he can bring forth when desired in the form of convenient loans to government to meet the state necessities. He has only a visible fixed estate, which can neither be concealed nor withdrawn from its annual burdens. Hence the influence and exemptions of the one, and the injustice experienced by and burdens of the other.
 Report, p. 9.
But in addition to this, there is another circumstance which has powerfully contributed to establish this extraordinary and iniquitous exemption of personal property from direct taxation. This is the difficulty which in practice amounts to an impossibility of getting by any means at the real amount of rateable personal property. The Commissioners of the Income Tax through the country will have no difficulty in understanding what is here meant. All the efforts of government and their official organs to ascertain the real amount of assessable movable property, have been insufficient to accomplish that end. Doubtless there are in the commercial and professional class many just and honourable men who give a true account to the last farthing of their gains. These are men, the honour and support of the country, whose word is their bond, and who may confidently be relied on to speak the truth under any circumstances. But, unhappily, experience has too clearly proved that the facility of concealing gains derived from stock in trade, and thus withdrawing it from its just liability for assessment, is too strong a temptation to be resisted. The proof of this is decisive. The returns of the income tax show L175,000,000 of annual income rated to that assessment, while only L1,541,000 was in 1845 paid by the whole professional persons in Great Britain. Of this L1,541,000, only L1200,000, at the very utmost can be estimated as coming from commercial or trade incomes, which, at sevenpence in the pound, corresponds to about L40,000,000 of annual income. Is it possible to believe that the whole commercial and trading classes in Great Britain, whose wealth is in every direction purchasing up the estates of the landed proprietors in the island, only enjoy forty out of one hundred and seventy-five millions of the rateable national income? Have they less than a fourth of the whole income rated to the income tax? If they have no more, they certainly make a good use of what they have, and must deem themselves singularly fortunate in that happy exemption from taxation which has enabled them, with less than a fourth of the general income, to get the command of the state, and buy up the properties of all the other classes.
There is one peculiarity in the income tax as at present established, which is productive of the greatest injustice, and loudly calls for immediate remedy. This consists in the taxing all incomes at the same rate, whether derived from professional income, annuity, land, or realized funds. This is just another instance of the careless and reckless way in which our system of direct taxation has at different times been framed, without any regard to principle, and alternately unjustly favouring or grossly oppressing every class in society, except the great capitalists. They have been always and unduly considered. What can be more unjust than to tax every man of the same income at the same rate, whether it is derived from land or funded property, worth thirty years' purchase, or railway or bank stock worth twenty, or an annuity worth five, or a precarious professional income, which would not bring, from the uncertainty of life and the public favour, or the winds or monetary changes, above two or three? Under the present most unjust system, they all pay alike on their income, that is, some pay about FIFTEEN TIMES as much on what they are worth in the world in comparison with others! A man who derives L300 a-year from the three per cents. on land has a capital stock worth about L10,000. He pays as much, and no more, as a poor widow, just dropping into the grave, who has a jointure of L300 a-year, for which no insurance company in the kingdom would give her above L500, or a hard-working lawyer or country surgeon with the same income, whose chances of life and business are not worth three years' purchase. The gross injustice of this inequality requires no illustration.
Nor is it any answer to this to say, that if the professional and commercial classes are unduly oppressed by the income tax, they, are proportionally benefited by their general exemption from the heavy, direct taxation which in other respects weighs down the land; and that the one injustice may be set off against the other. We protest against the system of setting off one injustice against another: there is no compensation of evils in an equitable administration. In the present instance there can be no compensation, for the acts of injustice are committed against different classes. It is the trading classes which enjoy the means, from the occult nature of their gains, of evading by fallacious returns the income tax. The honest and honourable pay it to the last farthing: it is the dishonest who escape. The persons upon whom the levying the income tax in its present form operates with the most cruel severity are the professional men and annuitants. They cannot evade it, as the trading classes can. Their gains are generally known: if they are at all eminent or prosperous, the kindness or envy of the public generally helps them to at least a half more than they really enjoy. Merchants or shopkeepers are less in the public eye; and even when most prominent, their transactions are so various and wide-spread, that no one but themselves can estimate their profits. Every one knows, or can easily guess, what Dr. Chambers or the Attorney-General make a-year; but it would puzzle the most experienced heads on 'Change to say what were the yearly profits of the great bankers, merchants and manufacturers.
There is another enormous injustice connected with the income tax, and indeed all the direct taxes to Government, which loudly calls for remedy—Ireland pays none of them. It is high time that England and Scotland should rouse themselves to a sense of this most unreasonable and unjust exemption, and unite their strength by the proper constitutional means to remove it. We are always told Ireland cannot afford to pay any direct taxes. What, then, comes of its L12,000,000 of rental? Scotland, with little more than a third of that land rent, pays it and the assessed taxes besides, without either complaint or difficulty. But it is said the landlords are so eat up with mortgages, that they have not a fourth part of their nominal incomes left to live upon. That is a good reason for only making them pay, as under the income tax they would, on the free balance, deductis debitis. But, in the name of Heaven, why should the bondholders pay nothing? If they sit at home at ease in Dublin, Cork, or Belfast, and quietly enjoy L9,000,000 out of the L12,000,000 of Irish rental, why cannot they as well pay the income tax as their brethren in London, Liverpool, or Glasgow? The bondholders of Ireland alone, would, if they paid an income tax, contribute more to the common necessities of the State than the whole land and industry of Scotland put together. So vast are the natural resources which Providence has bestowed on that fickle and misguided people, and so few those enjoyed by the hardy and industrious Scotch mountaineers.
On what conceivable ground of justice or reason can this most monstrous and invidious exemption in favour of Ireland from income and assessed taxes be defended? Is it that Ireland with its 12,000,000 arable acres, and 5,000,000 of mountain and waste, has fewer natural resources than Scotland with its 4,500,000 of arable acres, and 12,000,000 of mountain and waste? Is it that 8,500,000 persons now in Ireland, cannot pay even what 2,900,000 now pay in Scotland? Is it that Ireland is so singularly peaceable and loyal, and gives so little anxiety or disquiet to the rest of the empire, that it must be rewarded for its admirable and dutiful conduct by an absolute exemption from all direct taxation to government? Is it that the troops required to be kept in it are so few, and in Scotland so numerous, that the former country may be liberated from taxation, while the latter is subjected to it in full extent? Is it that industry in towns in Ireland is so great, and manufacturing skill so transcendant, that it is entitled to be liberated from direct taxation in consideration of the vast amount of its indirect custom-house duties, in comparison of which those of London, yielding L12,000,000; of Liverpool, yielding L4,500,000 a-year; or Glasgow and the Clyde harbours, yielding L1,200,000; and Leith, yielding L589,000, are as nothing? Or is it that this extraordinary exemption is the reward of tumult, disaffection, and treason; of turbulent demagogues and factious priests, and an indolent people; of active and incessant combination for the purposes of evil, and total inability to combine for the purposes of good? And is it the first fruits of the regeneration of government by the Reform Bill, that it can raise a revenue only from the loyal and pacific and industrious part of the empire, and must proclaim relief from all taxation as the reward of tumult, disorder, murder, monster meetings, and treason? We leave it to the advocates of the present system of government, or those who established it, to answer these questions. We did neither the one nor the other, but have constantly opposed both; and Great Britain, in the system of direct taxation we have now exposed, is reaping the fruits of the changes she has thought proper to introduce.
Lastly, there is another peculiarity of the income tax which requires revision, and that is this;—at present it descends only to L150 a-year income; and every one practically acquainted with these matters, knows that this, with the trading classes at least, whose gains can be concealed, amounts to a practical exemption, generally speaking, of all under at least L200 a-year. Nothing can be plainer than that, as matters stand at least, this exemption of all below such line is invidious, unjust, and, if persisted in, will lead to ruinous consequences. No reason can be assigned for it which will bear examination; for it is to be supposed the practical necessity of conciliating the ten pounders, the great majority of whom escape the tax altogether in this way, will not, in public at least, be assigned as a reason, how cogent soever it may be felt and candidly acknowledged in private. Why should a man, whose income, perhaps derived from land or funded property below L150, pay nothing, while a hard working clerk, attorney, or country surgeon, who makes L155, and is not worth a tenth part of the other's realised capital, pays income-tax? It is in vain to say you must draw a line somewhere. So you must, but you must not draw it in a way to do gross and palpable injustice,—to exempt the comparatively affluent, and oppress the industrious poor. There is a vital distinction, which it would be well if the income tax recognised, between income, of any amount, derived from realised property and from professional exertions. By all means give the humble professional classes the benefit of this distinction. But to draw the line, not according to the quality of the income as derived from capital or labour, but from its absolute amount, is arbitrary, invidious, and unjust.
The great advantage to be derived from making the income tax, modified as now suggested, descend lower in society is, that it would interest a larger number in guarding against its abuse. At present, it is said, there are three hundred and twenty thousand persons rated to the income tax in Great Britain, but not half of them really pay on their own account. Many pay the income tax of one; as a landlord's whole tenants for his rent, though not more than one or two, perhaps none, certainly not half the number, are separate persons whose incomes are really made liable. But can any thing be more unjust than to select in this way a particular class, not more than a two-hundredth part of the community, and subject them and them alone to the heaviest of the direct taxes? It is just the privileged class of old France over again, with this difference, that the privileged class in England is distinguished by being obliged to bear not to avoid the hated taille. Nevertheless, nothing is more certain than that, as long as this invidious and unjust accumulation of the whole direct tax is on one class of 150,000 persons, it will be highly popular with the remaining 29,000,000, and that the popular journals will never cease to resound with the propriety of extending still farther the partial burden of direct, and the general exemption under the name of Free Trade from the indirect taxes.
The increase of direct taxation, till it proved fatal to industry, population, national strength, and every thing save great capital, was the cause of the ruin of the Roman empire. Many circumstances, alas! concur in showing, and will ere long demonstrate to the most inconsiderate, that we are fast following in the same direction; and if so, we shall beyond all question share the same fate. The extension of the income tax, on a graduated scale, to persons as low even as L50 a-year, is the only way to arrest this great and growing evil. What is wanted is not the money to be drawn from these poorer but more numerous classes, but the interesting them in resisting its undue extension. If 150,000 persons only pay the income tax, it is very likely ere long to be raised to 10 or 15 per cent. If a million pay it, no such extension need be dreaded. No matter though the additional 850,000 pay only 10s. a piece, or L425,000 in all: their doing so would probably save the state from ruin. What is wanted is not their money, but their breath; not their contributions, but their clamour. They have a majority of votes in the constituencies. In a serious conflict their voice would be decisive in favour of any side they espoused. Interested to prevent the confiscation of property, they will effectually do so. Exempted from direct taxation, they will promote its increase till it has swallowed up the state, and themselves in its ruin, as it did the Roman empire.
So much has been said on the inequalities and injustice of the present system of direct taxation established in Great Britain, that little room remains for the true principles on the subject; but fortunately, like a beacon, it shows what rock should be avoided in the course. A system of direct taxation would not be far from just, which in every respect was precisely the reverse of that which at present exists amongst us.
I. The first thing to be done is to equalise the succession tax, lay it equally on land and personal estate, and lower it to the whole one-half. Five per cent. in succession to strangers; two-and-a-half to relations; and a half per cent. to parents or brothers, alike in land and money, would probably augment the produce of the tax, and certainly greatly relieve a most meritorious class of society, the representatives of small capitals.
II. All direct taxes should be levied equally on landed and personal estates, and, subject to the distinction after-mentioned, equally on professional income, as the fruit of realised capital. This rule should apply to all local or parochial, as well as public burdens. The effect of it would be to let in, as taxable income, in addition to the L2,666,000 now derived from land, a sum at least as large derived from personal estates or incomes. It would therefore lower this most oppressive tax, supposing its absolute amount undiminished one-half. The same would be the case with land tax, highway rates, church rates, police rates, &c. They would all be lowered a-half to the persons at present burdened with them, and that simply by the adoption of the just principle, that all fortunes in the same situation should be taxed alike for the general service of the state, and that the commercial classes who create the poor, and are enriched by their labour, should contribute equally with the landed to their support.
III. In levying the income tax, a different rate should be imposed on income, according as it is derived or not derived from realised capital. If it is so it should be taxed alike for all direct taxes. But if it is derived from annuity or professions, a lower rate should be adopted. If the property tax is 5 per cent. the income tax should not exceed 2-1/2 per cent.; whatever the one is the other should be a-half of it only. This modification of an impost now felt as so oppressive by all subjected to it, would go far towards reconciling the numerous class of small traders, the great majority in all urban constituencies, to the change—to its continuance, and also justify its extension to all incomes above L50 or L100 a-year. Without that extension it will inevitably degenerate into a confiscation of property above a certain level.
IV. Stamps or conveyances, or burdening of property, should be the same, and not higher, on personalty or landed estates. For the additional security of the latter, the borrower pays amply in the greater expense of the law deeds requisite to constitute effectual securities over real estates than over stock or movable funds. Stamps on bills, &c., which are advances for a short period only, should be rated at a widely different scale from that adopted in permanent loans. But there is no reason why securities over real estates should require to be written on paper bearing a higher stamp than those over personal effects.
V. The present system of the assessed taxes should be altered, so as to make it include all classes alike, and not, as at present, fall twice as heavily on the inhabitants of the country as those of towns. This may be done best by making these taxes a certain proportion of the value of the house inhabited by the party, as rated for the property tax—perhaps a fourth or fifth part, abolishing all other assessed taxes. This would reach all classes alike in town and country: for whatever may be said as to doing without an establishment in town, no one can do even there without a house. And the rich misers who live in a poor lodging and spend nothing, would be effectually reached in the heavy property tax, on their funds, wherever invested.
VI. To obviate the innumerable frauds daily practised in the concealment of professional incomes, especially by small traders, a power should be given to the Commissioners in all cases where they were dissatisfied with the return of professional income, to assess the party for income at five times the value at which his house is rated. On this principle if a lawyer or physician lives in a house rated at L100 a-year, he would pay on L500 a-year as income: if he occupied one rated at L2000, he would be taxed on L10,000. If the tax on realised property was 5 per cent. which it will soon be, that would just subject the professional one to two and a half. Perhaps it would be better to adopt some such general principle for all cases of professional income, and avoid the requiring returns at all.
In some cases the above plan might be adopted as a substitute for the income tax, or rather as a mode of levying it on professional persons. Those whose income is derived from land, the funds, or other realised property, would be entitled to exemption or deduction, upon production of the proper evidence that they were rated for the property tax at the higher rate.
VII. Ireland should pay the income and all direct taxes, at least on land, bonds, and other realised property, as well as the assessed and other direct taxes, just as Great Britain. Nothing can be advanced, founded either in reason or justice, in favour of the further continuance of their present most invidious and unjust exemption.
We have thus laid before our readers a just and reasonable system of direct taxation, from which the landed interest, now so unjustly oppressed, would derive great relief, simply by doing equal justice to them and the other classes in the state. The amount of injustice which such a system would remove, may be accurately measured by the amount of resistance which the system we have now advocated would doubtless experience, just as the injustice of the exemption from direct taxation enjoyed by the nobles and clergy of old France was measured by the obstinate resistance they made to an equalisation of the public burdens. Men cling to nothing with such a tenacity as unjust privileges and exemptions. But the changes we recommend have one lasting recommendation: they are founded on obvious justice. They go only to levy all taxes alike on all classes, in proportion, as nearly as may be, to their ability to pay them. And we implore the Conservative body, with whom we have so long acted, to consider whether it would not be far wiser to unite their strength to convince the country of the justice and expedience of some, at least, of these changes, than to follow the example of the Free Traders in urging the repeal of the malt tax, which could only be followed, as no addition to the indirect taxes is to be thought of, by a vast increase of the income tax, two-thirds of which would fall on the land itself.
And now a single word in conclusion on ourselves. We need not say how long and steadily we ranged ourselves on the side of the late Premier, or how widely the principles now contended for differ from those which he has carried into effect. We are actuated by no spirit of hostility either to the late or the present Government. Our course is that of freedom and independence. During Sir R. Peel's long and able contest with the movement party from 1838 to 1841, we stood faithfully by him, and that when many who have been most courtly during the subsequent days of his power, were not the least intemperate leaders on the other side. From respect for his talents and gratitude for his public services when in opposition, and a natural reluctance to believe that we had been mistaken in one whom we so long acknowledged as the leader of the Conservative party, we tempered our political discussion during the last twelvemonths with more forbearance than we should have done under other circumstances. But the die is now cast: it has been cast by himself. We can feel no dependence in a minister who introduces measures directly at variance with the whole principles of his public life: and we earnestly trust that by far the greater portion of the true-hearted and loyal men who, from over-confidence in their chief, have allowed themselves to be compromised in the late political transactions, will not again commit themselves to any leader in whose candour and integrity they cannot thoroughly rely.
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Printed by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh.
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