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of the material world were little known in their age jr and they|rather pointed out the way to their successors, than gave them an example of walking in it.
In modern times, the physician Grew, shewed in his Cosmologia Sacra, the advantages to be derived, from uniting natural and moral knowledge : and he was followed by Hartley, whose Observations on Man will for ever be a model of the proper method of prosecuting such inquiries.
Amongst many natural causes which operate in the intellectual world, and affect the mind and manners of men, the nature of the government they live under is a very important one; and the taxes imposed by that government, come in for a large share of the general effect.
This is a view of taxation, that seems to have escaped the attention of politicians, although it merits much attention: for the influence of the public Taxes; both on the natural and moral constitution of the people, is very great. All have heard of the mischief that followed the reduction pf the duties on spirituous liquors, which gave rife to Hogarth's print of GmLane. The augmentation of others has been equally prejudicial. I cannot now enter into particulars, though I have collected many facts relative to the subject. I proceed to a few other general remarks on the subject of taxation.
Taxes may injure the healtb, the population, the industry, the knowledge, or the morals of mankind ; and > such as produce- any such consequences, are pernicious.
No tax should he imposed which tends to injure the health of the people. What are we to think, then, of taxes that tempt them to shut out the light of the-sun and the air of heaven, both of them so essential to life and vigour? Can a statesman repay the people for such an imposition, by reducing the price of tea, a foreign weed, useless at best, since many of our native plants might supply its place; and not useless only, but it is to be feared in many cafes noxious.
Houses may be taxed on their number, but not on their dimensions. The largest house, compared to the native activity of a man, is a prison. Every encouragement ought to be given to augment the size of places in which men spend so great a portion of their life.
No tax ought to be imposed that tends to discourage population. As matters stand at present in Britain, a man is puniflied in proportion as he is a good subject of the state. If he marries a healthy woman, he suffers for it; if he is healthy himself, it is at his peril. For why? If he should have half-a-dozen of children, the consequence will be, that he must pay fix times over the tax on christenings; fix times over the tax on leather for shoes ; and six times over the tax on all the other articles needful for his children. Is it not enough that he pay six times over the accoucheur, the nurse, the apothecary, the shoemaker, the taylor, the butcher,, the baker, Sec. &c.? Is there no way of ordering this matter better?
The Romans acknowledged the jus trium liber orum, the right of him who had three children to be relieved from taxes; but modern policy, far inferior to the ancient in this respect, has not yet had leisure to attend to such considerations. Hence dreadful evils ensue— hence the unfortunate father surveys with sorrow his pregnant spouse—hence natural affection is overcome; and stie, whom Nature appointed to be a mother, precludes her own title to this tender name. These are facts probably little attended to by men of rank and power; but they are too often seen by those whose profession calls them to visit the inferior classes of society.
Whatever exemptions were made in favour of married men with large families, might fitly be repaid by an increase on batchelors after 25. Taxes, if moderate and judiciously chosen, are so far from checking industry, that they stimulate and call it forth" to greater exertions: and as great care should be taken in erery wife government to render it as difficult as possible for people to live unemployed and idle, so every encouragement shouldbe given to those who undertake any lawful occupation. This is a grand general maxim, which may be applied to a vast number of individuals. Hence all taxes should be avoided, which have an immediate effect to prevent industry, such as taxes on the importation of raw materials for manufactures, which cannot be so well raised at home. The common apology for such taxes is, that they are designed to encourage our' own productions. But this is a narrow policy. No country produces all commodities equally well; and it is often much better to import an article from the country where it is naturally in perfection, than with vast labour, and much expence, produce a bad imitation, of it at home. Foreign trade employs skipping, is a nursery for seamen, and opens a vent for our manufactures. We may encourage our own productions, by granting a bounty to those who raise them of the same kind and goodness as the foreign. But it ought to be limited to such conditions; for if they are raised of a different kind or worse quality, then they do not supply the place of the foreign articles, nor prevent the necessity of applying to strangers. Therefore, to grant any bounty in such cases, is merely to take money out of one hand and put it into another, or indeed worse. Ruffian flax is exempted from a tax: but why is one imposed on Swedish iron, since we cannot equal that people in producing this commodity of equal goodness and price? The nations of Europe may be compared to the inhabitants of a town, where each one attaches himself to a particular profession, and finds it his interest rather to employ his neighbour in other matters, than to do all for himself. A nation that siiould affect to supply itself with every thing, appears to be no wiser than a man, who, being by profession a
carpenter, fliould also choose to be his own batcher, and baker, and taylor, &c. by way of saving expences. This would turn out a narrow plan of policy.
No tax should be imposed, which from its nature tends to discourage literature, and the improvement of the. human mind. Small are the advances we can make in knowledge with our utmost efforts. Why then should we throw bars in our own way? All the taxes on paper are impolitic. The national assembly have proposed to abolish them in France. They only affect the people who ought not to be affected by them. The writer of an obscene novel feels them not; but to the man of science, whose book often hardly pays expences, they are a serious and severe burden. All duties on foreign books are a disgrace to the princes who suffer them to be imposed. How few are the foreign books that can possibly be imported into any kingdom, since so few can read them i and should we deny to these few who have taken the pains to learn foreign languages, who are most laborious, learned, and often poor men, the means of acquainting themselves with the knowledge and discoveries made by foreign writers ; which discoveries we ourselves will soon and largely profit from? If a country has no good author of its own, the importation of foreign books should be encouraged by a. premium.
Taxes should not be imposed, which tend to injure the morals of the people. All those that are easily evaded do so, as there is a continual temptation laid in the way of mankind, to endeavour to escape them: Taxes that are too trifling produce the fame effect, as the stamp on gloves, which the buyer does not attend to, and,the shopman either pockets, to defraud government, or his master. Taxes too heavy are oppressive, and occasion a combination among those concerned, not to pay them fully. Then the most unconscientious man has the best chance, as he will always go farthest lengtlis ia evading the tax.
The whole of the. funding system, as it is called, or the establishment of a public debt, of which only the interest id paid, and the capital remains for ever dormant,—whether it originated from a profligate borrowing of money by a luxurious and expensive nation, to serve improper purposes, or from the artful policy of ministers, to save their popularity, and carry on their measures, without the odium of imposing new and heavy taxes,—is to be censured, as a narrow and delusive plan. It is diminishing a present evil to entail it on future generations, and meanly shrinking from a burden Providence has laid upon us, in order to'fhift it on the shoulders of our posterity. Every age ought to pay for its own wars, and then statesmen will be careful on what grounds they involve a people in war; every age ought to fight its own battles, to pay its own debts, to meet its own difficulties. We look up with gratitude to our heroic ancestors, who at any time encountered great dangers and difficulties, in defence of their liberties and their country; but how shall we admire them, if we find ourselves saddled with heavy burdens, to pay for their exertions? Instead of generous warriors, this idea reduces them to the level of hired mercenaries!
The number of taxes mould be as small as possible, in order to diminish the number of the tax gather~ers: for they are a class of men of no dire£i use in a state. Like; the people^in manufactories, employed to keep-clean the wheels of machines, it would be hetter that one could prevent dirt from getting at the wheels, and then these men's labour might be directed in some better channel.
Lastly, Every tax, however judicious, is from particular circumstances oppressive to certain persons. No legislature can attend to half the exceptions that should be made. To reconcile general taxation then with justice, it would seem that there ought to be established a board of exemption, to which all persons claiming to be exempted, in part, or in toto, from the influ