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American colonies, who are not represented in parliament. This proposition, which has drawn the attention of the public of late years has led me to be more explicit on the power of imposing taxes, than otherwise would be necessary. Those who favour the independence of our colonies urge, “ That a man ought to have the disposal “ of what he acquires by honest industry, “ subject to no control : whence the ne“ ceffity of a parliament for imposing “ taxes, where every individual is either “ personally present, or by a representa“ tive of his own ele&ion. The aid ac“ cordingly given to a British sovereign, “ is not a tribute, but a free and volun“ tary gift.” What is said above will bring the dispute within a very narrow compass. If our colonists be British subjects, which hitherto has not been controverted, they are subjected to the British legislature in every article of government ; and as from the beginning they have been protected by Britain, they ought, like other subjects, to pay for that protection. There never was a time less favourable to their claim of freedom from taxes, than the close of the late war with France. Had
not Britain seasonably interposed, they would have been swallowed up by France, and becomes slaves to despotism.
If it be questioned, By what acts is a man understood to claim protection of a government; I answer, By setting his foot within the territory. If, upon landing at Dover, a foreigner be robbed, the law interposes for him as for a native. And as he is thus protected, he pays for protection when he purchases a pair of shoes, or a bottle of beer. The case is clear, with respect to a man who can chuse the place of his residence. But what shall be said of children, who are not capable of choice, nor of consent ? They are protected ; and protection implies the reciprocal duty of paying taxes. As soon as a young man is capable of acting for himself, he is at liberty to chuse other protectors, if those who have hitherto protected him be not to his taste.
If a legal power to impose taxes without consent of the people, did necessarily imply a legal power to impose taxes at pleasure, without limitation, Locke's argument would be invincible, in a country of freedom at least. A power to impose taxes
at pleasure, would indeed be an invasion of the fundamental law of property ; because, under pretext of taxing, it would subject every man's property to the arbitrary will of the sovereign. But the argument has no weight, where the sovereign's power is limited. The reciprocal duties between sovereign and subject imply, that the people ought to contribute what sums are necessary for the support of government, and that the sovereign ought not to demand more. It is true, that there is no regular check against him, when he transgreffes his duty in this particular : but there is an effectual check in the nature of every government that is not legally despotic, viz, a general concert among all ranks, to vindicate their liberty against a course of violence and oppression; and multiplied acts of that kind have more than once brought about such a concert.
As every member of the body-politic is under protection of the government, every one of them, as observed above, ought to pay for being protected ; and yet this proposition has been controverted by an author of fome note (a); who maintains,
(a) L'ami des hommes.
“ That the food and raiment furnished to “ the society by husbandmen and manu“ facturers, are all that these good people " are bound to contribute : and supposing " them bound to contribute more, it is “ not till others have done as much for “ the public.” At that rate, lawyers and physicians ought also to be exempted from contributing ; especially those who draw the greatest sums, because they are supposed to do the most good. That argument, the suggestion of a benevolent heart, is no proof of an enlightened understanding. The labours of the farmer, of the lawyer, of the physician, contribute not a mite to the public fund, nor tend to defray the expence of government. The luxurious proprietor of a great estate has a still better title to be exempted than the husbandman ; because he is a great benefactor to the public, by giving bread to a variety of industrious people. In a word, every man ought to contribute for being protected; and if a husbandman be protected in working for himself one-and-fifty weeks yearly, he ought thankfully to work one week more, for defraying the expence of that protection.
SECT, SECT. III.
Different Sorts of Taxes, with their Ad
vantages and Disadvantages,
ALL taxes are laid upon persons ; but
in different respects : a tax laid on a man personally, for himself and family, is termed a capitation-tax; a tax laid on him for his property, is termed a tax on goods. The latter is the only rational tax, because it may be proportioned to the ability of ihe proprietor. It has only one inconvenience, that his debts must be overlooked ; because to take these into the account, would lead to endless intricacies. But there is an obvious remedy for that inconvenience : let the man who complains free himself of debt, by selling land or moveables ; which will so far relieve him of the tax. Nor ought this measure to be considered as a hardship: it is feldom the interest of a landholder to be in debt ; and with respect to the public, the measure VOL. II. 3 A