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and successors, for ever. It was abroga-
It is an article of importance in government, to have it ascertained, what proportion of the annual income of a nation may be drawn from the people by taxes, without impoverishing them. An eighth part
is held to be too much ; husbandry, commerce, and population, would suffer. Davenant says, that the Dutch pay to the public annually, the fourth part of the income of their country; and he adds, that their strict oeconomy enables them to bear that immense load, without raising the price of labour so high as to cut them out of the foreign market. It was probably so in the days of Davenant ; but, of late, matters are much altered : the dearness of living and of labour, has excluded all the Dutch manufactures from the foreign market. Till the French war in King William's reign, England paid in taxes but about a twentieth part of its annual income.
Power of imposing Taxes.
THat to impose taxes belongs to the so
vereign, and to him only, is undoubted. But it has been doubted, whether even King and parliament, who posVOL. II. ZZ
sess the sovereign authority in Britain, can legally impose a tax without consent of the people. The celebrated Locke, in his essay on Government (a), lays down the following proposition as fundamental. " 'Tis true, governments cannot be sup“ported without great charge ; and 'tis “ fit every one who enjoys his Ihare of “ protection should pay out of his estate “ his proportion for the maintenance of it. “ But still it must be with his own con“ fent, i. e, the consent of the majority, s giving it either by themselves, or their “ representatives chosen by them; for if “ any one shall claim a power to lay and “ levy taxes on the people by his own au“ thority, and without such consent of " the people, he thereby invades the fun“ damental law of property, and subverts " the end of government. For what pro" perty have I in that which another may " by right take when he pleases to him“ self?” No author has reflected more honour on his native country, and on mankind, than Mr Locke. Yet no name is above truth; and I am obliged to observe, tho' with regret, that in the forego
(a) Chap. 11. $ 140.
ing reasoning the right of imposing taxes is laid upon a very crazy foundation. It may indeed be said with some colour, that the freeholders virtually impower their representatives to tax them. But their vafsals and tenants, who have no vote in ea lecting members of parliament, empower none to tax them : yet they are taxed like others; and so are the vassals and tenants of peers. Add to these an immense number of artisans, manufacturers, day-labourers, domestics, &c. &c. with the whole female sex ; and it will appear, that those who are represented in parliament, make not the hundreth part of the taxable people. But further, it is acknowledged by our author, that the majority of the Lords and Commons must bind the minority. This circumstance might have opened his eyes : for surely the minority in this case are bound without their consent ; nay, against their consent. That a state cannot tax its subjects without their consent, is a rash proposition, totally subversive of government. Locke himself has suggested the solid foundation of taxes, tho' inadvertently he lays no weight on it. I borrow his own words : “ That every
“ one who enjoys his share of protection, “ fhould pay out of his estate his propor“ tion for the maintenance of the govern“ ment.” The duties of sovereign and of subject are reciprocal ; and common justice requires, that a subject, or any person who is protected by a government, ought to pay for that protection. Similar instances without number of such reciprocal duties, occur in the laws of every civilized nation. A man calls for meat and drink in a tavern : is he not bound to pay, tho' he made no agreement beforehand ? A man wafted over a river in a ferry-boat, must pay the common fare, though he made no promise. Nay, it is every man's interest to pay for protection : government cannot subsist without a public fund : and what will become of individuals, when left open to every rapacious invader ? Thus taxes are implied in the very nature of government; and the interposition of sovereign authority is only necessary for determining the expediency of a tax; and the quota, if found expedient.
Many writers, milled by the respectable authority of Locke, boldly maintain, that a British parliament cannot legally tax the .