Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

whom at least would have continued to work, had they not relied on parish-charity. But of this more at large in a separate Iketch.

Were the poor-rates abolished, a general act of naturalization would not only augment the strength of Britain, by adding to the number of its people, but would compel the natives to work cheaper, and consequently to be more industrious.

If these expedients be not relished, the only one that remains for preserving our manufactures, is, to encourage their exportation by a bounty, such as may enable us to cope with our rivals in foreign markets. But, where is the fund for a bounty fo extensive? It may be raised out of land, like the Athenian tax above mentioned, burdening great proprietors in a geometrical proportion, and freeing those who have not above L. 100 of land-rent. That tax would raise a great sum to the public, without any real loss to those who are burdened ; for comparative riches would remain the same as formerly. Nay, such a tax would in time prove highly beneficial to land-proprietors ; for, by promoting industry and commerce, it would raise the rent of land much above the contribution. The sums contributed, laid out upon interest at five per cent, would not produce so great profit. To make landholders embrace the tax, may it not be thought fufficient, that, unless for fome bounty, our foreign commerce must vanish, and land be reduced to its original low value ? Can any man hesitate about paying a shilling, when it prevents the loss of a pound?

I shall close with a rule of deeper concern than all that have been mentioned, which is, To avoid taxes that require the oath of party. They are destructive to morals, as being a temptation to perjury. Few there are so wicked, as to hurt others by perjury : at the same time, not many of the lower ranks fcruple much at perjury, when it prevents hurt to themselves. Consider the duty on candle : those only who brew for sale, pay the duty on malt. liquor ; and to avoid the brewer's oath, the quantity is ascertained by officers who attend the process : but the duty on candle is oppressive, as comprehending poor people who make no candle for sale ; and is subversive of morals, by requiring their oath

upon

upon the quantity they make for their own ufe. Figure a poor widow, burdened with five or fix children ; she is not permitted to make ready a little food for her infants by the light of a rag dipped in grease, without paying what she has not to pay, or being guilty of perjury. However up. right originally, poverty and anxiety about her infants, will tempt her to conceal the truth, and to deny upon oath a sad leffon to her poor children: ought they to be punished for copying after their mother, whom they loved and revered ? Whatever she did appears right in their eyes. The manner of levying the falt-tax in France is indeed arbitrary ; but it has not an immoral tendency : an oath is avoided ; and every master of a family pays for the quantity he is prefumed to confume. French wine is often imported into Britain as Spanish, which pays less duty. To check that fraud, the importer's oath is required; and, if perjury be fuspected, a jury is set upon him in exchequer. This is horrid : the importer is tempted by a high duty on French wine to commit perjury; for which he is prosecuted in a sovereign court, open to all the world : he turns

desperate,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

desperate, and loses all sense of honour. Thus custom-house oaths have become a proverb, as meriting no regard ; and corruption creeping on, will become univerfal. Some goods imported pay a duty ad valorem; and to ascertain the value, the importer's oath is required. In China, the books of the merchants are trusted, without an oath. Why not imitate so laudable a practice? If our people be more corrupted, perjury may be avoided, by ordaining the merchant to deliver his goods to any who will demand them, at the rate stated in his books; with the addition of ten per cent, as a sufficient profit to himself. Oaths have been greatly multiplied in Britain since the Revolution, without reserve, and contrary to sound policy. New oaths have been invented against those who are disaffected to the government; against fictitious titles in electing parliament-members ; against defrauding the revenue, &c. &c. They have been fo hackneyed, and have become so familiar, as to be held a matter of form merely, Perjury has dwindled into a venial transgression, and is scarce held an imputation on any man's character. Lamentable indeed has

been

been the conduct of our legislature : instead of laws for reforming or improving morals, the imprudent multiplication of oaths has not only spread corruption through every rank, but, by annihilating the authority of an oath over conscience, has rendered it entirely ineffe&ual.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

M TO other political subject is of greater TV importance to Britain than the present : a whole life might be profitably bestowed on it, and a large volume; but hints only are my task. Considering taxes with regard to their effects, they may be commodiously distinguished into five kinds. First, Taxes that increase the public revenue, without producing any other effect, good or bad. Second, Taxes that increase the public revenue; and are also beneficial to manufactures and commerce. Third, Taxes that increase the public revenue ; but are hurtful to manufactures and com

merce.

« AnteriorContinuar »