Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

dollars, estimated as the amount of subscriptions for building vessels, and they give an aggregate of about four millions for defraying the extraordinary expenses. Deduct this sum from the amount of those expenses, which is nine millions, and there remains a balance of five millions still to be provided. This the President is authorized to borrow on the best terms that can be obtained, and the surplus of impost and tonnage duties, beyond the permanent appropriations charged on them, is pledged to pay the interest and principal of the loan. These duties, we have seen, amount, on the most moderate estimate, to seven millions of dollars; the permanent appropriations charged on them, which are for the civil list, and the interest of the public debt, do not exceed 4,500,000. So that the fund, as solid a one as any government possesses, is amply sufficient for loans to the amount of twenty millions, instead of five, should it be necessary to borrow to that extent. The faith of the United States is, moreover, pledged to make up any deficiency. In short, I am persuaded, that the pecuniary resources of this country, like its military and maritime resources, have, as yet, been but slightly touched. Our whole system of taxation, including the direct tax of two millions laid by Congress in the present session, amounts only to about ten millions of dollars; which, divided among a population of probably six millions of souls, gives one dollar and one-third for the annual contribution of each person. In inany parts of the country, this is one day's labour; in most parts, not more than two; and no where more than three. If we suppose one-fourth of this six millions to consist of persons capable of supporting themselves, and pay. ing taxes, by their labour, and then divide the whole amount of the taxes among that fourth, it will come to sometbing more than six dollars each; a sum which, with common industry, a person may earn in ten days or less. Thus we find, that the whole of our contributions to government, as now increased, amount to about ten days labour in the year, for each person capable of labour. Let this be compared with the state of other countries, even such as are most flourishing and happy, and it will be found, that we pay nothing in comparison with them. I have no doubt, for my own part, that we might pay twice as much, or even three times, were it necessary, without inconvenience; provided a Akilful system were adopted for the collection, and steadily pursued.

I must beg your pardon, my dear Sir, for this digression, if such it should be thought. I intended it by way of answer to the insinuations of those, and such there are, who are so fond of telling us that we are not able to support the expense of protecting our property and our rights.

This leads me to explain the nature of the direct tax, and the manner in which it is apportioned, laid and collected. All the details cannot be brought within the compass of a letter ;

and

and they are the less necessary, sirice the laws themselves have been published, and some pains have been taken to distribute them through the country: but I will present you with the outine.

The tax, amounting to two millions of dollars, is laid on lands, dwelling-houses, and slaves. This is perfectly equal ; because, although there are slaves in some states, and not in others, yet, as each state has its part of the tax fixed, it must - pay that part, whether it has slaves or not; and, what it does not raise from slaves, it must raise from lands and dwellinghouses. All slaves under twelve, and above fifty, are exempted, as well as all such as are exempted by the laws of the state, where they are. The others pay half a dollar each. All dwelling-houses, which, with the out-houses belonging to them, and the lot on which they stand, not exceeding two acres foć any one house, are worth less than 100 dollars, are also exempted ; and so are all lands which are exempted by the laws of the state where they lie. All other lands and dwelling-houses are to pay according to a valuation. The dwelling-houses are to be valued with the out-houses belonging to them respectiveJy, and the lot on which they stand, not exceeding two acres in any case; and the lands, with all wharfs and other buildings upon them, except dwelling-houses above the value of one hundred dollars.

For the purpose of making these valuations, each state is thrown into a suitable number of divisions, with a commissioner in each; and the commissioners in the state, form 'a board for superintending and conducing he business. This board divides the state in a proper number of assessment districts, and appoints in each, one principal assessor, and a suitable number of assistant assessors, wbose duty it is to collect lists of all the lands, dwelling-houses, and slaves, and to value the former, under the direction of the commissioners. The property is to be described, in a very particular manner, and every precaution is used to prevent the valuations from being unequal.

The valuations being finished, and a record of them, and of the lists whereon they are founded, being made in each assessment district, an abstract of the whole, together with the original lists, is transmitted by the board of commissioners to the secretary of the treasury; and he issues orders to the supervisor of each state, to proceed to the assessment and collection of the tax; for which purpose, the supervisor may appoint as many collectors as he thinks fit. Having before him the valuation of every house, and tract, or lot of land, in the state, and an enumeration of all the slaves liable to taxation, he proceeds to ascertain how much will be raised on the slaves, and deducts the aniount from the sum payable by the state. He then assesses on every dwelling-house valued, with the out-houses and lot, K 2

at more than one hundred, and not more than five hundred dollars, one fifth per cent, or twenty cents in the hundred dollars, on the amount of its valuation ; on those above five hundred, and not more than one thousand, three-tenths per cent. ; on those above one, and not more than three thousand, four-tenths per cent.; on those above three, and not more than six thousand, five-tenths, or one half; on those above six, and not more than ten thousand, six-tenths ; on those above ten, and not more than fifteen thousand, seven-tenths ; on those above fifteen, and not more than twenty thousand, eight-tenths; on those above twenty, and not more than thirty thousand, nine-tenths; and on those above, thirty thousand, one per cent. Having ascertained what, according to these proportions, will be raised upon dwelling-houses within the state, he deducts that amount also from the sum payable by the state; and the balance, if any, is laid upon the lands, according to the valuation, and at such rate per cent as will be sufficient to make it up. This rate the supervisor fixes.

Should the slave and house-tax amount to more than the sum payable by the state, the supervisor must reduce the rates on houses, so as to bring it down to that sum : and there will, in that case, be no tax on the lands.

Hence, it appears, that houses of a high value pay much more, in proportion, than those of a low one. A house worth 100 dollars, for instance, pays but one-fifth per cent. or twenty cents; while one of 30,000 doilars value, and there are many such, especially in the great towns, will pay one per cent, or 300 dollars : five times as much in proportion as the former. This goes upon the principle of a tax upon expense, not a tax upon capital ; that being considered as the true criterion whereby taxes ought to be apportioned : and, it is supposed, that the house in which a man lives, will afford, generally speaking, a tolerably exact indication of his means of expense, and of paying taxes ; consequently, that a man who lives in a house worth 30,000 doilars, must have an income which will enable him to pay 300 dollars, as easily as one inhabiting a house worth only 100 dollars, can pay twenty cents. Thus, the burden is made to fall' on those who are able to bear it, and on every one in proportion to his ability,

When the proportions to be paid by slayes, houses, and lands, respectively, are thus fixed, the supervisor issues his warrant to certain officers to be appointed in each assessment district, called surveyors of the revenue, whose duty it is to ascertain the amount payable by each person in the district, and make out collection lists accordingly. This done, the lists are delivered to the collectors, who proceed to the collection of the tax. Each collector must, as soon as he receives his list, advertise in at least four places within his district, for all persons to come and pay the tax, and he must call on those who do not attend,

and and demand it from them. If they do not pay within twenty, · days after the demand, he may proceed to collect it by distress of their goods, except beasts of the plough, arms, household furniture, and the necessary apparel of the family. Should the tax, or any part of it, remain unpaid for a year, lands may be sold; but the owner may redeem them, at any time within two years after the sale, by the payment or tender of the amount of the tax, with costs and charges, and twelve per cent interest.

Each collector, before receiving a tax list for collection, must give bond and security for double the amount contained in the list. He must account monthly for the monies he receives,. and may be removed and compelled to deliver up his lists, if guilty of any misconduct, besides being liable to the action of the party injured. He must make a final settlement of his accounts within thirteen months, under pain of becoming liable for the whole amount of his lists, and having his lands and goods, with those of his securities, sold to raise the money. Many other precautions are used to prevent abuse, and insure a speedy collection and payment by the collectors.

The commissioners receive three dollars per day each, while employed in the duty of their office, besides the sum of 150 dollars, as a general compensation. The principal assessors have one dollar and an half per day, while so employed; and the assistant assessors, from one dollar to one and an half, according to the nature of their business. The surveyors of the revenue, who are to be permanent officers, are compensated by certain fets on the business they do. The supervisors have one half per cent. on the amount of all monies received and paid over by them under the act, the inspectors one quarter per cent. and the collectors five per cent. The expense of collecting the tax, therefore, will be about seven per cent. That of the valuation, will be more considerable; perhaps 200,000 dollars, or ten per cent : but a valuation once nade, will serve for several years, probably ten or twelve; and when renewed, will cost less than the first time.

This tax is laid for only one year, and is not intended to be made permanent, unless the state of the finances should absolutely require it. · Probably, however, it will be continued from year to year, for some time. Perhaps it may be reduced, and it is far from being impossible, that the public exigencies, especially in case the war should become such as to require great exertions, may render an increase of it absolutely necessary.

The whole sum, two millions of dollars, is divided among the states, according to their respective numbers, including two-fifths of the slaves. By this apportionment, New Hampshire pays 77,705 dollars ; Massachusetts 260,435. RhodeIsland 37,502. Connecticut 129,767. Vermont 46,864. NewK3

York

York 181,687. New Jersey 98,387. Pennsylvania 237,177. Delaware 30,430. Maryland 152,599. Virginia 345,488. Kentuckey 37,643. North-Carolina 193,697. Tu Essee 18,806. South-Carolina 112,997, and Georgia 38,814. Of the whole amount, it is supposed that slaves will pay about 130,000 dollars, dwelling-houses about 1,000,000, and lands, consequently, about 870,000.

Such is the nature, amount, and mode of collection, of this tax, which would not have been necessary, had not the condic of France compelled us to arm ; but which, I am fully persuaded, the Americans will most cheerfully pay, when they reflect that the money is to be employed, not in paying tribute to a foreign nation, but in defending their own rights, honour, and independence. For such objects as these, I am even persuaded, that double the amount would, if necessary, be paid with cheerfulness.

The last advices from our commissioners, were received about the 20th of June, and bear date on the 3d and 4th of April. General Marshall, one of the commissioners, brought them. It appears by these dispatches, that Generals Pinckney and Marshall, finding all hope of an accommodation, on other than disgraceful terms, to be quite at an end, resolved to return home, to which the French government, not finding thein disposed to yield up the honour of their country, made no objection. General Marshall, therefore, embarked for America, and General Pinckney went to the south of France, where his daughter's health made it necessary for her to remain some lime. The Directory detained Mr. Gerry, with a view, as he states in his letter to the President, of drawing him again into discussions about a loan; in other words, a tribute : but he declares his intention of concluding nothing in the absence of his colleagues. He is known, by this time, to have received the new instructions sent by the President on the arrival of the first dispatches; and, in consequence of them, he is, probably, on his way home; for they direct the commissioners to listen to no propositions about a loan, to hold no intercourse with the French government, except through agents publicly and regularly accredited, and to leave France immediately, unless officially received by ihe Directory, in a manner suitable to their character, and to the dignity of their pation. It being, moreover, judged improper that one of these commissioners should renain in France, to conduct, alone, a business for which three had been appointed, the President, as soon as he found that Generals Pinckney and Marshall were dismissed, sent Mr. Gerry positive orders to return immediately.

To refuse to treat with two commissioners of characters so highly respectable, and retain the third in hopes of wheedling him into conditions dishonourable and ruinous to his country, is very conformable to French policy and French systems; but it is

highly

« ZurückWeiter »