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instead of being taxed, accompanied with the permission to blazon them forth with inviting and false professions, should never have been tolerated, as lotteries.
On the subject of taxes on foreign merchandise, there seems to need three or four principles as a foundation to build on : First, it is clear that the various climates, elevations, soils, natural produce, habits and attainments of the inhabitants, and some other inferior causes, are so altogether more congenial to some productions than others, that were it not for the want of revenue all would be benefited by all throwing open their trade both in supply and demand: thus each commodity would be followed up where the best quality and the greatest quantity could be produced at a given cost, and both the producer would realize the most profit that the production admitted of, and the consumer would get the best quality and the lowest price that the commodity admitted of.
Secondly, interferences on the part of governments generally tend to clog rather than facilitate the advantages of commerce, but then revenue is
wanted; therefore, governments say very naturally, we will tax foreign productions on importation, and get a two-fold advantage, first revenue (from our own subjects as the consumers 'tis true, still it is revenue ;) secondly, we shall give an advantage to our own producers of those commodities or substitutes for those commodities, and although for every two shillings we enable them to gain, we deprive our neighbours of the opportunity of gaining six shillings; and although further, our subjects pay, over and above a natural price, more than our producers gain by having the custom thus forced for them, because their climate, &c. will produce it better and more abundantly abroad, at less coss, yet, upon the whole, our people get the profit, such as it is, if they supply the commodity, and we get the revenue if the foreigner supplies the commodity: so if it comes dearer our subjects must use less of it, in bestowing the same money on that article as before for a smaller quantity and perhaps worse quality, but our people have more employment, and we more revenue than if we
did not tax it. Then comes the next feature, the country whom we have so treated we supply with other commodities which we can muster better and cheaper than they can, but their government says, “ Oh, they serve us so, do they ? and our people in that trade are starving; we will make reprisals by taxing their goods in proportion;" so their producer in turn gets his two shillings by depriving ours of his six shillings, and their government also gets revenue; but the moment that comes into operation both countries become impoverished by their taxings, and it would be much better for both if each would withdraw these mutual taxes and impose others that would have no bearing on the commercial intercourse of the two nations, neitner any tendency to promote or discourage any specific production, domestic or foreign, not but that taxing foreign commodities tends to enrich in its remote operation if other countries did not consequently serve us in the same
Now, though the pleaders with reference to our heavy debt have a good argument, yet,
notwithstanding all the fuss pro and con relative to free trade, does it not lie in fact pretty much within this narrow compass——that if all would agree together not to tax the productions of each other, there would be a great benefit spread or divided among them, as compared with the present system ? Also for ourselves for instance, and the reasoning holds good to all countries) then the real intrinsic relative values of our land for food, our coal and metals for manufacture, our ingenuity, perseverance and stamina of mind and body; our capital, our maritime situation, our fisheries, would all of themselves, as it were, find their own level, and each source of wealth would produce the country the most it was capable of, compatibly with not deducting from other source or sources of wealth a greater unnatural loss than was equivalent to its own unnatural gain, thus impoverishing the people by the difference, and which must be the effect of bounties given on any trade, whether fisheries or others. And, notwithstanding our debt, tithes, poor-rates, and all our other circumstances, good, bad, and indifferent, is not the above simple sentiment incontrovertible !
But if our productions are to be checked in foreign countries by heavy duties, and we check not theirs by equally heavy duties, whether it relates to goods supplied, or to shipping employed, or to rates levied on shipping for lights, custom-houses, corporations, &c. we are minus by our forbearance both in trade and revenue; and very especially are we minus by those who keep their property in this country and live abroad. We are paying taxes to take care of their property, while we throw our own away upon insolvent governments, and yet have to account to them for the interest, and the principal whenever the interest ceases; notwithstanding all that they use of foreign commodities pays our government no revenue, and all that they use of British commodities pays a tax to the government where they live ; indeed they ought to be especially taxed, by at least one per cent. per month, while away from us, on all income derived from this country, so far as it could be discovered ; but some arrangement relative to