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was the chief, if not only reason, why they were so famed in the world for good government, because that they paid their army and ministers of state so well, that they lay not under the temptation of violence or bribery.
I shall here come to a close, in relation to taxes and impositions, under the heathen Roman emperors; and only, in order to the making good my position, that taxes are no charge, infer from this done by the Romans, that it was none in their days, inasmuch as it kept the people from violence, and ravage of the soldiers, and the worse exactions and corruptions of civil magistrates.
We will now make an enquiry into the taxes and impositions of Christian princes, and then compare them with those of these kingdoms.
First, Then let us look into the impositions of commonwealths. The greatest and most ancient is Venice. None will say that they are a poor state, though all must own that they lie under heavy taxes, insomuch that it is believed in those countries, that the Christians under the Turks are subject to less impositions, than such as live under the Venetians; where, besides great customs upon all merchandise, they pay excise for every bit of bread and meat, nay, for the very salt they eat; and, after all this, the poorest labourer pays his poll-money. And yet, where is there a richer people? And no government, either Christian or heathen, in the known world of such antiquity, and without charge, though pestered with continual wars, at one time, for the space of seven years, had all the Christian princes in Europe in a league and war against them, except England.
We will mention the next commonwealth, in power and riches, the United Provinces. I need not particularise their taxes; few there are of our kingdoms, but know them; and that they are so great, that it is believed, the poorest labouring man in Holland adds to their intrado four pounds sterling a year, so great is the excise on every thing they eat or drink; besides, upon the occasion of any war, it is usual to raise the fortieth penny upon their whole estates; yet these people vie with all nations, in matter of trade and riches; and it is matter of controversy, which of the two, whether they, or Venice, in proportion to their extents of land, are the richer. They of Holland out-do them in their common people, as to wealth and coin. Now, then, it must be allowed, that taxes there do no harm, since the very peasants, bores they call them, are so rich, as frequently to give a tun of gold, which is ten-thousand pounds of our money, in portion with their daughters.
The naming of these two commonwealths may serve for all under that distinction. I shall now come to taxes under monarchs. To Dominate some few, as instances to supply the rest, I will begin with the Empire, where taxes are generally low, and consequently the people poor; for it will be so, as I shall hereafter demonstrate, wherever the rich gentry and others have nothing to fetch money out of their coffers, but their own expence, by which the commonalty can have little opportunity to improve themselves.
Spain follows much the steps of the Empire in their taxes; and, although there are numerous causes assigned for the poverty of that part particularly, under the name of Spain, yet, that of their irregular and uncertain taxes does powerfully contribute to the indigent state of that kingdom; for that the country cannot be planted, by reason of the armies living upon the spoil of it, not having a penny pay for six months together; by which means, the country feels little difference from the conquest of their enemies, and the quartering their own forces.
Portugal is more craving in its taxes, impositions being heavy on importations, which are of the worst sort, yet better than none; and, seeing it raises a considerable revenue, their army and officers of state are well paid, and their country much richer, and more populous than Spain, that borders upon them.
I shall put a period to that part of my discourse, referring to the taxes of foreign princes, with that of France, which is rather the abhorrence, than example of any Christian prince; his tyrannical impositions being grown to an unlimited exaction upon all men, both sacred and civil; and yet so, if the barbarity of the thing could have been separated from the effect, those unbounded taxes would not have impoverished the country; if the money had not been spent out of his own dominions in foreign conquests, which rarely prove beneficial to the country that invades.
If we consider France, in the beginning of their invasions on their neighbours, we shall find them not so rich as they were seven years after, notwithstanding that great part of their taxes were sent out of the kingdom to raise men, and more spent in paying the army in the enemy's country, and buying of towns. Now, at first view, this may seem strange and unaccountable, that impositions upon a people, and a great part of them carried out of their country, should make them thrive: Yet, notwithstanding this seeming paradox, it is a certain truth, as, in the sequel of the discourse, will be fully evident. And, that Francemight have managed a war with all Europe, and not have beggared the kingdom, as now it is, if they had not destroyed it by their fierce persecution of the Hugonots; for that has evidently been the ruin of that kingdom. Whereas, had the French Protestants been encouraged and maintained in their rights and religion, they would have been their best and most loyal men, both in peace and war: for so they proved in the minority of this king, in the general defection of France; and, had they been now possessed of their religion and rights of France, it is to be feared, we had not so easily commanded the seas, most of the French seamen being of that profession.
We now come to compare the taxes of these kingdoms with those of foreign princes; and, to save multiplying of words, will reduce all under two heads:
First, The laws and manner of imposing taxes upon their subjects: and,
Secondly, The quantum and duration of such taxes.
different as the climates which they are under. I shall not trouble myself, or the reader, with naming of all the kingdoms In Europe, but shall only instance some of the most considerable; in order whereunto, I shall begin with Germany, the impositions of which country may be brought under two heads: That of the tenure and obligation of the princes, nobility, and free cities, to furnish a certain number of men in the wars against the Turk.
The second, By levying money in the dyets, neither of which, if compared with those of England, can be thought easy. That of furnishing men is little better than tyrannical in the lords and nobles, who arbitrarily force their tenants, and perhaps neighbours, to compleat their numbers, without any relief in the greatest abuse, having none to make complaint or application to, to redress their grievances and violent usage. Then, for their dyets, they are so few for the commonalty, and so much influenced and overpowered by the predominant interest of their grandees, that the impositions can hardly be laid with any equal or just regard to, or right consideration of the poor.
Taxes in Spain are yet more arbitrarily imposed, the people having no vote there, but all the duties laid in effect by the king and his council. In some cases they will advise with the nobility and other communities, but it is no more than mere compliment, or matter of form; for, whatsoever the king and council enact, that they must acquiesce and agree to; and the truth is, it appears so by their irregular, vexatious, and yet most unprofitable way of taxes, in which they are much short and inferior to any government in Europe.
France makes a fair shew to the people, and yet makes a better market for the king. He imposes duties under the pretence of the parliaments of each province laying it on the people; but, at the same time, it is only the king's word that makes the ordinance of parliament; not as here in England, where it comes last to the king, for the royal assent: But there the king sends the parliament word, that he will have so much money; and all the favour, that they can obtain from him, is, to place it on such commodities, or ways, as they think most expedient.
And it is not unworthy observation to remark, that these parliaments of France are, in effect, no more than courts of judicature, in matters of right, betwixt man and man, hearing and judging causes, and their places bought from the king, not elected by the people. So that, from such parliaments, nothing can be expected but the king's dictates.
The great Duke of Muscovy is above all tyrannical in his impositions, charging on the subject what he pleases; and yet, which is more oppressive to his people, forestalls the chief commodities of the kingdom, or what comes from others, and sets what price he thinks fit upon them, by which he destroys his own merchants and dealers; and where other kings make themselves, and their subjects, rich, by raising money on them, he makes himself poor, and his subjects miserable slaves, barring them of all industry, by shutting them out from trade, and agreeably to such oppressions, his vast
dominions are thinly planted, and poor to a prodigy; and, had they the liberty of seeing other countries, he would yet have a smaller stock of inhabitants; but he keeps what he has, by making it death for all the kindred of such as go out of his dominions, without hit license and permission.
Next to him, in arbitrary impositions, is the Duke of Florence, who is not bounded in his taxes, and likewise ingrosses several trades, and sets what price he pleases, upon his own commodities; by which his country would also be made poor, but that he has the opportunity of other helps, which the Great Duke of Muscovy is not assisted with, viz. a country placed in the gardeu of the world; and, by his making Leghorn a free port, made it the center of trade, and by that, got the start of all princes in Europe.
The kingdom of Sweden has many advantages of raising money from the country, rather than people, and yet they are not exempt from taxes; all which contributes to the enriching of that kingdom, which has little of arts or trade to improve it, only that which nature produces; and she indeed has been liberal to that great kingdom, in mines of all sorts, though least of gold or silver; but abounds in copper, tin, iron, &c. of all which, the king has a tenth, as also of cattle and corn; he has likewise the vast demesns of bishops and church-lands, out of which he only allows a small competency to his own bishops, and after all this, he has liberty, by the laws of the land, to raise money on the subject, in case of war.
The King of Poland is restrained, and can do nothing, but by the decree of the dyet; yet has, by that, power, upon occasion of sud. den streights and emergencies in war, to raise money upon the people, by his own command, without assembling the dyet.
Denmark has a provision for its support, above any kingdom in Europe, God Almighty having, as it were, out of a particular providence, supplied that kingdom, out of its own production, seeing there is little in it, either of arts or nature.
The toll of the Sound is a considerable revenue to the crown, aud, as before-mentioned, such as no prince in Europe has the like, for that, in all other kingdoms, taxes are raised on themselves; but this of the toll from ships, passing the Sound, is from strangers that only pass by his country, and cannot reimburse themselves there: Whereas dulics imposed on foreigners, that bring in their commodities to another country, is no more, than laying it on themselves, only with this difference, that they make foreigners the first collectors of it.
The other duties on Denmark are not considerable ; that on cattle, which they sell in Germany, is of most value; as their inlrado is not great, so is their country poor.
I need not mention the manner of laying taxes in commonwealths; it is always with the consent of the people, who are too apt to censure their representatives, if they give not satisfaction to the populace.
And, notwithstanding that of Venice is aristocratical, yet have they such numbers in their senate, that no tax can be laid, but for the food of the commonwealth, there being, at least, two-thousand fire. undred gentlemen of Venice, which are all the senate; and although many of them are engaged in the wars, and foreign employments, yet there can never be less, if but one quarter of them, than our great council the parliament.
Thus I have given but a succinct account of the nature and impositions of taxes in foreign kingdoms, which now in as few words let us compare ours with, and we shall see how happy a people we are above the best of our neighbours.
And first, let us consider who it is that lay impositions upon us: It is men chose by ourselves.
The difference indeed is great, in the modus of our taxes from other kingdoms, and also in the use of them. For the modus in other kingdoms, they generally consider only the nobility and gentry, that impositions may not touch or affect them, and care not how in. Supportable or grievous they are to the commonalty: but with us the taxes reach every man in proportion to his quality and expence.
In other kingdoms they place taxes only to raise money, and have no regard to the trade of their kingdoms, that so their taxes may not prejudice their commerce. But in England, care is always had, that impositions may not impede our trade and manufactories.
Now, as to the use and employment of taxes in other kingdoms, they also differ much from ours.
In some kingdoms they are imposed to inslave the people, and keep them poor, as in Muscovy; in other parts taxes are laid to inrich the nobility, as in Poland; in others, to fill the coffers of the prince, as in Florence.
Whereas none of these uses take up our taxes; they are with great care and caution laid out, and by the same law that raises them, appropriated for a particular service, and last no longer upon the peo. pie, than the necessity of the nation requires ; for that we never have money raised, but for the defence of the kingdom; though, as I shall shew in the close of this discourse, it would redound to the advantage of the kingdom, if there were more taxes raised, and these assigned to publick uses in peace as well as war.
I shall now come to the chief design of this discourse, which is, to demonstrate, that taxes are no charge either to the kingdom in general, or to particular persons; but, on the contrary, again to all.
But to render this matter the more plain and intelligible, I shall proceed after the following method:
I. Shew who in the kingdom pay the greatest part of the taxes. II. What use is made of these taxes; and how they circulate in the kingdom.
III. How trade is improved by taxes.
IV. That the poor are employed by them.
V. That a set of men, of no use in the kingdom, are by taxes made profitable in the commonwealth.
VI. That taxes, especially when trade is stopped by war, is the only remedy to keep the trading and mechanick hands of the king, dom employed.