Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

manner most agreeable to the people that pay then.

P. The thing speaks for itself. Suppose I agree to allow you, soine time hence as soon as I can spare it, twenty pounds to dispose of as you please; would it be proper for you to go immediately, put yourself into a present condition of want by your extravagance, and borrow seven pounds of the carpenter, seven of the gardener, seven of the miller, and seven of the brewer, in all twenty-eight, and to oblige me to let the first fell timber to pay himself, the second pillage my garden, the third cut and carry my wheat, and the fourth my barley, in consideration of the debt and the interest, and the favour of advancing the money, and so on?

G. It would be a cruel conspiracy, and our having power to effect it would not change its nature.

P. The most odious tax in this country is the excise, the most expensive in collecting, the most injurious to trade and home consumption, and the least consistent with our free constitution. The most safe and proper tax is the land-tax, and the most agreeable is the postage of letters.

G. We always pay this tax with pleasure at school when we receive letters from home.

P. The carriage of letters is really a business in the hands of government, and the profits are the tax. The people pay it cheerfully, because they have something for their money.

G. Would it be difficult to exchange some of our most offensive taxes which hurt trade by trans

ferring the property of the industrious into the hands of the idle, into other taxes similar to that of postage?

P. I think not. There are modes which would be more productive to government, and really advantageous to the people. • G. Is not the influence of taxation a considerable object?

P. Unquestionably. Taxes have an influence on government, elections, trade, industry, learni ing, genius, men and manners, and every thing

else in a country; even the poultry have less food for the dearness of corn.

G. Is it not very much in our power to diminish the influence of taxation in regard to ourselves ?

P. It is. You have an instance in this family. When you were a little boy, you remember wine brought to table after dinner?

G. I do; but I see none now, and I think the family full as well and as happy without it.

P. I believe it is. I hated the war; set the task-master, who taxed us to support it, at defiance, and got money and virtue by the taxes. The minister laid an additional duty on wine : we left off wine. He taxed spirits : your mother ordered rum and brandy to be put among the medicines. He taxed servants, we dismissed two. Thus as he laid on a tax, we lopped off a luxury, and though the family has increased from five children to twelve, and our income has stood as it was, yet we have not gone, as without these

precautions we must have gone, either into debt or ruin,

G. The minister did not acquire your esteem by taxation. . .: P. He filled me with pity and horror. The state of the sugar trade alone was sufficient to excite emotions of this kind. To see brown muscovado sugars from 26 shillings a hundred, the price in 1775, rise to 70 shillings a hundred, the price in 1779. To see only 106 sugar houses, and some of them to be let in the city of London, where a few years before 159 were at work: to see coppersmiths, blacksmiths, plumbers, iron-founders, back-makers, potters, coopers, carters, builders of every description, all supported by these houses, unemployed : to see the immense con-. sumption of coals and candles, scarcely to be equalled in any other trade, all stopped: to see the import decay no less than 45,000 hogsheads a year; to see ruin in a thousand ways attendant on all this, was enough to make a harder heart than mine bleed,

G. These were influences you could not preyent, and they are justly chargeable on taxation, for no money for the minister, no war for the nation. · P. If we were to proceed to the actual application, and the end of taxation, I should detain you too long. Consider these at your leisure, and now only recollect the substance of what we have said.

The mind, like the hand, in grasping at too much would lose all.

G. People in civil society, you say, have a right to their own property: but they ought to give up a part for the preservation of the rest. This part ought to be freely given for just and necessary causes both domestic and foreign, of which the givers or their deputies are competent judges. The quantity given ought to bear a proportion to the ability of the proprietors, and to the importance of the end to be obtained. British taxes are in great part interest of money already expended. The method of obtaining them has neither been honourable nor just; but the people have the remedy in their own hands. The mode of laying and collecting soine of them has not been the most eligible: but even this is remediable. The infuence will be as extensive as the sums; and if the sums be enormous they will have an enormous influence on trade, government, and every thing else. The application is not always to the purposes for which they were raised, and the original end and design for which taxation is allowed in a free state is totally defeated. Is not this the substance, Sir?

P. It is.

G. Is there no calling a wasteful steward to account?

P. Hah! have you found that out? Well, Responsibility to-morrow.

[ocr errors][merged small]

you think people in public trusts are accountable to their constituents ?

G. Can any man assign a good reason why they should not?

P. What can a poor scholar do, who has nothing but his own lips to live on? He must learn to find reasons for every thing, even reasons for not reasoning at all.

G. I do not think much reasoning necessary on this subject - P. Nor I, if the subject be properly stated. Responsibility, or responsibleness, if you will, is a state of obligation to answer, or account. I should choose to distribute this subject into parts by distinguishing objects, and to simplify each part by a familiar question.

G. Be it so.

P. First, then, let us consider a private trust, natural and civil. I look upon you, and the rest of my children, as committed to my trust by the God of nature; and I consider myself as accoun

« ZurückWeiter »