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detected, be deemed and called a scoundrel, what ought he to be called, who can enjoy all the inestimable benefits of public society, and yet by smuggling, or dealing with smugglers, contrive to evade paying his just share of the expense, as settled by his own representatives in Parliament, and wrongfully throw it upon his honester and perhaps much poorer neighbours ? He will perhaps be ready to tell me, that he does not wrong his neighbours; he scorns the imputation ; he only cheats the King a little, who is very able to bear it. This, however, is a mistake. The public treasure is the treasure of the nation, to be applied to national purposes. And when a duty is laid for a particular public and necessary purpose, if, through smuggling, that duty falls short of raising the sum required, and other duties must therefore be laid to make up the deficiency, all the additional sum laid by the new duties and paid by other people, though it should amount to no more than a half-penny or a farthing per head, is so much actually picked out of the pockets of those other people by the smugglers and their abettors and encouragers.
Are they then any better or other than pickpockets? And what mean, low, rascally pickpockets must those be, that can pick pockets for half-pence and for farthings ?
I would not, however, be supposed to allow, in what I have just said, that cheating the King is a less offence against honesty, than cheating the public. The King and the public, in this case, are different names for the same thing ; but, if we consider the King distinctly, it will not lessen the crime; it is no justification of a robbery, that the person robbed was rich and able to bear it. The King has as much right to justice as the meanest of his subjects; and, as he is truly the common father of his people, those that rob him fall under the Scripture woe, pronounced against the son that robbeth his father, and saith it is no sin.
Mean as this practice is, do we not daily see people of character and fortune engaged in it for trifling advantages to themselves ? Is any lady ashamed to request of a gentleman of her acquaintance, that when he returns from abroad, he would smuggle her home a piece of silk or lace from France or Flanders ? Is any gentleman ashamed to undertake and execute the commission ? Not in the least. They will talk of it freely, even before others whose pockets they are thus contriving to pick by this piece of knavery.
Among other branches of the revenue, that of the postoffice is, by the late law, appropriated to the discharge of our public debt, to defray the expenses of the state. None but members of Parliament, and a few public officers, have now a right to avoid, by a frank, the payment of postage. When any letter, not written by them or on their business, is franked by any of them, it is a hurt to the revenue, an injury which they must now take the pains to conceal by writing the whole superscription themselves. And yet such is our insensibility to justice in this particular, that nothing is more common than to see, even in reputable company, a very honest gentleman or lady declare his or her intention to cheat the nation of three pence by a frank, and without blushing apply to one of the very legislators themselves, with a modest request, that he would be pleased to become an accomplice in the crime, and assist in the perpetration.
There are those who by these practices take a great deal in a year out of the public purse, and put the money into their own private pockets. If, passing through a room where public treasure is deposited, a man takes the opportunity of clandestinely pocketing and carrying off a guinea, is he not truly and properly a thief? And
if another evades paying into the treasury a guinea he ought to pay in, and applies it to his own use, when he knows it belongs to the public as much as that which has been paid in, what difference is there in the nature of the crime, or the baseness of committing it ?
Some laws make the receiving of stolen goods equally penal with stealing, and upon this principle, that if there were no receivers, there would be few thieves. Our proverb too says truly, that the receiver is as bad as the thief. By the same reasoning, as there would be few smugglers, if there were none who knowingly encouraged them by buying their goods, we may say, that the encouragers of smuggling are as bad as the smugglers; and that, as smugglers are a kind of thieves, both equally deserve the punishment of thievery.
In this view of wronging the revenue, what must we think of those who can evade paying for their wheels * and their plate, in defiance of law and justice, and yet declaim against corruption and peculation, as if their own hands and hearts were pure and unsullied ? The Americans offend us grievously, when, contrary to our laws, they smuggle goods into their own country; and yet they had no hand in making those laws. I do not however pretend from thence to justify them. But I think the offence much greater in those, who either directly or indirectly have been concerned in making the very laws they break. And when I hear them exclaiming against the Americans, and for every little infringement on the acts of trade, or obstruction given by a petty mob to an officer of our customs in that country, calling for
vengeance against the whole people as REBELS and TRAITORS, I cannot help thinking there are still those in the world who can see a mote in their brother's eye,
Alluding to the British taxes on carriage-wheels and on plate. — DUANE.
while they do not discern a beam in their own ; and that the old saying is as true now as ever it was, One man may better steal a horse, than another look over the hedge.
RESPECTING TRADE AND MANUFACTURES.
London, July 7, 1767. SUPPOSE a country, X, with three manufactures, as cloth, silk, iron; supplying three other countries, A, B, C, but is desirous of increasing the vent, and raising the price of cloth in favor of her own clothiers.
In order to this, she forbids the importation of foreign cloth from A.
A, in return, forbids silks from X.
Answer. — All four find their common stock of the enjoyments and conveniences of life diminished.
ON THE LABORING POOR.
Communicated to the Editor of a Newspaper, April, 1768.
SIR, I have met with much invective in the papers, for these two years past, against the hard-heartedness of the rich, and much complaint of the great oppressions suffered in this country by the laboring poor. Will you admit a word or two on the other side of the question ? I do not propose to be an advocate for oppression or oppressors. But when I see that the poor are, by such writings, exasperated against the rich, and excited to insurrections, by which much mischief is done, and some forfeit their lives, I could wish the true state of things were better understood, the poor not made by these busy writers more uneasy and unhappy than their situation subjects them to be, and the nation not brought into disrepute among foreigners, by public groundless accusations of ourselves, as if the rich in England had no compassion for the poor, and Englishmen wanted common humanity.
In justice, then, to this country, give me leave to remark, that the condition of the poor here is, by far, the best in Europe; for that, except in England and her American colonies, there is not in any country of the known world, not even in Scotland or Ireland, a provision by law to enforce a support of the poor. Every
. where else necessity reduces to beggary. This law was not made by the poor. The legislators were men of fortune. By that act they voluntarily subjected their own estates, and the estates of all others, to the payment of a tax for the maintenance of the poor, encum. bering those estates with a kind of rent-charge for that