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raising and screwing of people is a harsh.and odious business, and goes against the hair, so that it will be found extremely difficult.
But the design of the proposal, here offered, is not to raise any body; but only to ease those that are overcharged, and who pay above their portion. Which is a thing so equitable and so favourable, that there is good reason to hope that no man will be so inhuman to oppose it. Considering withal, that none are to have this easement, unless they make their case so plain that no doubt can be made of it.
The proposal hath been briefly mentioned already in the Project of a Descent upon France, and more at large it is this:
I. That a land-tax be granted, the same with that which was granted this last year (the amount whereof is, we know, about seventeen-hun- dred thousand pounds) and that the same proportions be laid upon the several counties, and upon each particular man.
II. Provided, nevertheless, that no man be obliged to pay above two shillings in the pound, of the true and full yearly value of his land.
III. That, in order hereunto, all persons aggrieved, that is, all that are to pay above that proportion, may complain to such commissioners as the parliament shall please to nominate for each county.
IV. That these commissioners, upon clear proofs in writing of the true value of the land, shall make just abatements, and shall settle the complainants tax at the said proportion of two shillings in the pound.
V. That the commissioners cause all these depositions, and their orders upon them, to be fairly transcribed into a book, and so trans, mit them to the committee, which the parliament shall please to appoint for this service.
VI. That this committee of parliament shall inspect the said depositions and orders, and shall disallow the orders, if the evidence seem not clear, or alter them as they see cause.
VII. All orders and abatements made by the commissioners to stand good, unless, and until they are disallowed by the committee of parliament.
VIII. No proof to be admitted, but by written depositions; even the quality and credit of the witnesses, there be occasion for it, to be proved in writing.
Thus I have laid open the whole design; which aims at nothing but to relieve the oppressed. Here will be good store of informers, but, of all that ever were, they will be the most innocent; for every man must inform for himself. And he may easily do it with effect; for there is nothing more easy, than for any man to shew plainly the true value of his land.
If the land be let, or have been lately, at a rack-rent, it is easy to shew what that rent is or was; and the tenant's own oath will be good evidence, if he can also swear, that the whole tax must be allowed by the landlord, which the law directs, if there be no cove, nantt to the contrary. Also the same thing may be proved by the landlord's steward or bailiff, or any servant that knows.
If the land be let for lives or years, and at an under-rent; it may be shewed what the rent is, and, likewise, what fine was paid, and for what term.
But, if the land be a man's own, and was never let, there must be more ado, though even then the thing will not be greatly difficult. It will give a great light, if a surveyor swear to the quantity; shewing also how much of it is common field, am how much inclosure; litewise, how much is meadow, arable, pasture, and wood. Then others must prove the common rate of those sorts of land, in that place and neighbourhood. And substantial neighbours may make oath, what they believe and judge to be the true value of the particular land in question. Also the party may shew, at what rate he bought the land, if he hath lately bought it; or at what rate he hath offered it to be let or sold. In short, there are many ways to make out a thing of this nature, if it be true. But to palliate a false value is very difficult, so as to give clear and full satisfaction; without which, there must no relief be expected by the complainants.
I must now answer a question concerning this matter; and liketvise two objections.
The question that may be asked is this:
What is the meaning of this committee of parliament, which, according to these proposals, mustcontroul the commissioners of the counties?
And I answer, that the meaning is:
That the commissioners may take greater care to do equal and righteous things, when they find that their proceedings must be seen and examined by others; whereas they would be apt to take too much liberty, if it should be only known to themselves, what methods they follow, and upon what grounds they go. But yet, in all likelihood, the committee will not much alter what the commissioners have done.
The first ofthe objections is:That the thing here proposed is exceeding laborious.
That the bringing taxes to an equality is so glorious an atchiere* tnent, that we ought to spare for no pains to compass it. Nor is it only noble and beneficial, but also of absolute necessity. 'If the equal dividing the common booty be necessary to pirates and buccaneers, the equal distribution of the publick burdens is much more to a state;' saith a late author. But, moreover, as this work is great) so there will be many hands to do it. The country commissioners will divide themselves, as they used to do in the case of assessments. And the committee of parliament, which will be numerous, will name several sub-committees out of their own number, and share the work to them, who, amongst them, must peruse the books sent from the counties; and report to the whole committee, what they disallow and what they doubt of. The transcribing the depositions into these books may seem a tedious business, and of too much time. But even here so many hands may be employed, as will make quick work. For several men may be at the same time transcribing upon
loose sheets, and then those sheets be made up in a book. Indeed, there should be two books, one to be sent to the parliament, the other to be kept in the county. All this writing to be paid for, by those, for whose benefit it is done, according to the length and depositions that concern them. And it is much if it cost any man five shillings.
The second objection is:
That by these abatements, according to the proposals here offered, the tax will fall short.
In answer to which I must acknowledge, that the tax will fall short, at least, half a million; but if the publick occasions require it, this may and must be made good by a farther tax; which by this time will be pretty equal. And, surely, it is much fitter, that the whole nation should bear this further burthen by an equal tax, than that part of the nation should bear it, by having the inequality con. tinued upon them, and by paying above their proportion.
It is confessed, that, when all is done that hath been here proposed, there will still remain some inequality; for, as the rates are now, there are many that, to the last great tax, pay under two shillings in the pound; and there is nothing here offered to raise them. We must therefore be content, at least at present, to let them enjoy this advantage. Let them pay twenty pence, or eighteen pence, or less, while others pay two shillings. But that some should pay but twenty pence, or eighteen pence, while others pay four, five, or six shillings, or more; so that some are at ease, whilst others are destroyed; is too unreasonable, and ought to be endured no longer.
You will ask, what injury is it to me, if my neighbour be eased; I answer, the injury is, that I am not eased too. And, if he pay below his proportion, I must pay above mine. And, by the undue easing of him and others, the tax falls short of what it would other, wise be; so that the publick occasions call for further taxes, of which I shall bear part, and still above my proportion. If some part-owners should pay less in proportion than others toward the ship's charge, it would be a plain wrong to those others. And so it would be, if some lands in a marsh should, for maintaining the sea walls, pay but six. pence an acre, when other lands pay twelve-pence.
It hath been said, that, though a tax were laid, as hath been here proposed, yet there would be still some inequality. But the next tax after might bring things more even. For it might be granted for the same gross sum, with this proviso that none pay above one shilling in the pound; with the same methods for giving ease. And this tax would make good what the other falls short, for both these taxes will amount to three shillings in the pound; which is very near the true proportion, that all lands should pay the tax now on foot.
Thus, by the way that hath been here proposed, there must be two steps to arrive at the reformation intended. But I conceive, upon further consideration, that the thing may be done at once, and that the first new tax may be at the former rates, provided that none pay above one shilling in the pound. Which will be the same thing in effect, as a tax of twelve-pence in the pound, with a new and sure method to have it equally assessed. This tax may, by the good old word, be called a subsidy; and the parliament, now, and at other times, may please to grant either one subsidy, or part of one, or a subsidy and a half, or two or three subsidies or more, according as the publick occasions require.
But still, after all hath been done, the taxes will not yet be exactly equal. For there are divers, as I am well informed, that do not pay six-pence a pound to the great tax* now upon us. I leave these to be further considered, and, in the mean time, though they do not pay to the full, yet they will pay three times as much in proportion, as they did formerly.
I have all this while been driving at equality; but there is an equality so unequal, that I cannot but declare my sense against it; and that is, that houses should bear equal proportion with lands, for which there is no reason, as every man's reason will tell him. They ought, therefore, to be abated a fourth or a fifth part.
If the parliament shall not think fit to enter upon this great work at present (though it is every man's work, and would be soon done) they may however, by a shorter way, give some relief (if they please) to those that are oppressed in the land-tax; that is, to those that pay plainly above their proportion. And this may be done, by making the sum of the tax, next granted, to be something less than the last, and then distributing this abatement among the counties, that are now notoriously overcharged, the other counties continuing as they are. Thus, whereas the last tax was for about seventeen hundred thousand pounds, the next may be for fifteen or fourteen hundred thousand; which is two or three hundred thousand pounds less. And then the oppressed counties, which counties are well known, may have their monthly payments abated, in such proportions as the parliament shall find meet. The raising either of men, or counties, is such a noli me tangere, that there is no meddling with it; but there is great reason to hope, that the giving just ease, to those who want it, will meet with no opposition. For my own part, I have no particular concern in this matter. I am in a county that is not like to be eased; and I pay about three shillings in the pound, which is near the true proportion: But I wonder the counties, that are concerned, have not petitioned all this while. In such a case as this, even clamorous petitions would be excusable.
There is another consideration about taxes, which I recommend to those worthy persons who have a hand in granting them; and that is, that the payments be not made too quick. We know that the present great tax (to say nothing of those precedents) is paid with exceeding difficulty. And such another tax in the neck of it, to be paid likewise forthwith, it is doubted would occasion extreme distresses. When a man hath bled much, if you go to take a further great quantity from him, at once, and presently, it may prove fatal, his body cannot bear it: But, after a while, his blood being recruited, and supplied, you may take more without hurt or danger; especially if you do it by de.
• Three shillings In (he pound.
frees. And it is just so with our nation in point of taxes. We could pay a moderate tax for many years, and be little the worse; and people would have room, and time, to supply all by industry and parsimony, the two great promoters both of private and publick riches. But our money, of late, hath been swept away so fast from us, little of it returning, that it hath not only sheared from the landlord a good part of his rent, but also disabled the tenant from paying the rest, the market being dead, and no money stirring; and then the cities, and towns, must needs, as they do, find a grievous deadness of trade; so that a general poverty hath suddenly overwhelmed us.
We could better pay two millions in four years, than a million and a half in one year. In which first way, the war might be maintained by taxes, that probably would be paid in time of peace, when we shall be better able to do it. Also his majesty's present occasions will be as well provided for this way, if there be a credit given upon those future payments. You will say, this will draw on interest. But I answer, that the interest will not do us so much harm, as the respite will do us good.
In this affair we must consider, not only what is best to be done, but also, and more especially, what we are able to do. Perhaps, it were best to pay ready money down; but, if we cannot do it, we must be glad to take time, and allow interest: And it is better to have upon us, for some years, a burden we can bear, than to be crushed at once by a burden we cannot bear.
If it be an advantage to lend money to the publick above the com, tnon interest, it is among ourselves, and any one that will may have it. There is also this convenience, that all those lenders will be firmly engaged to wish well to the government.
I would not have us follow the example of Holland, where their whole standing revenue is anticipated for a great many years, by vast sums of money taken up at interest; and there are many families, that live upon the constant interest of monies lent to the state. But I hope we shall never be brought to such necessities; and I would have our dealings, in this kind, to be for moderate sums, and a moderate number of years.
We may remember, that, in King Charles's first Dutch war, the parliament gave at once two millions and a half; but to be paid in some years: So that what is here offered, in this matter, is, even in England, no new thing.
But, what if this war continue next year, and we must raise more money? How, and upon what, shall the tax be laid? My answer is, that, if there be a necessity for it, it may be a concurrent land-tax; or the tax may be pushed further on, upon some years to come: That is, after the end of the four years before-mentioned.
It cannot be denied, but that the ways now mentioned, and especially the last, will draw on more interest. But, to make this interest easy, it is further humbly proposed:1. That a land-tax be granted, suppose for a million of pounds, payable at the end of five years.
2. That, upon the credit of it, the king be enabled to give tallies, TOt. ix. L 1