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benefit of those deriving their means of support from the public treasury. Taxes were piled on taxes, until they reached, said Sidney Smith, "every article which enters into the mouth, or covers the back, or is placed under foot; taxes upon everything which it is pleasant to see, hear, feel, smell, or taste; taxes upon warmth, light, and locomotion; taxes on everything on earth, and in the waters under the earth ; on everything that comes from abroad or is grown at home; taxes on the raw material; taxes on every fresh value that is added to it by the industry of man; taxes on the sauce which pampers man's appetite, and the drug which restores him to health ; on the ermine which decorates the judge, and the rope which hangs the criminal; on the poor man's salt and the rich man's spice; on the brass nails of the coffin and the ribbons of the bride; at bed or board, couchant or levant, we must pay.
"The school-boy,” as he further said, “whips his taxed top; the beardless youth manages his taxed horse with a taxed bridle, on a taxed road; and the dying Englishman, pouring his medicine which has paid seven per cent. into a spoon that has paid fifteen per cent., Alings himself back upon the chintz bed which has paid twenty-two per cent., makes his will on an eight-pound stamp, and expires in the arms of an apothecary, who has paid a license of a hundred pounds, for the privilege of putting him to death. His whole property is then immediately taxed from two to ten per cent. Besides the probate, large fees are demanded for burying him in the chancel; his virtues are handed down to posterity on taxed marble; and he is then gathered to his fathers, to be taxed no more.
Thus far, as we see, the progress has been from the taxation of fixed property, to the taxation of property in motion-being, precisely, towards the state of things now existing in all the semi-barbarous countries of the East; towards that, too, which had prevailed in France and England of the Middle Ages, when land and labor were of little value, and when fixed property scarcely at all existed.
Five-and-thirty years later, we meet with another step in the same direction, in the repeal of the tax on houses, by which was nearly closed the history of direct taxation in the United King
* Edinburgh Review.
dom. The result is seen in the fact, that, in the year 1854, there were collected £21,000,000 as duties on imports - £16,000,000 as taxes of excise - £7,000,000 from stamps — £3,000,000 from taxes on horses, carriages, railroad passengers, etc. --£7,500,000 from taxes on profits — and £1,500,000 from taxes on epistolary intercourse and other minor sources of income -— making a total of £56,000,000=$270,000,000—being $10 per head of the whole population, almost nine - tenths of which were derived from an exercise of the power to stop property, or ideas, on their way from the place of production to that of consumption. Such is what is called freedom of trade.
§ 7. Freedom of commerce looks to the promotion of rapidity in the circulation of property, whether material or mental. Freedom of trade looks, as we see, to the arrest of the circulation, with a view to the collection of contributions for the support of goverument. The one applies directly, and honestly, to the man who has property requiring to be protected. The other does so indirectly, and fraudulently-filching from his pocket, the amount required. Who is it, however, that ultimately pays the vast amount of taxes now collected for the service of the British government ? Is it the auctioneer, who pays the auction duty ? Certainly not; for he includes it in the commission charged to the owner of the goods. Is it the broker, who pays an incometax ? Certainly not; for he lives by taking a portion of the goods he sells. Is it the trader, who pays the stamp-tax ? Certainly not; for he charges the stamps to his principal. Is it the railroad owner, who pays a tax on the people who travel in his trains ? Certainly not; for he charges it to his passengers. Is it the publisher of newspapers, who pays a tax on advertisements ? Certainly not; for he makes his customers pay it. Is it the merchant, who pays a tax on letters ? Certainly not; for he charges his correspondents with their postage. Is it the publisher who pays a tax on paper ? Certainly not; for he includes it in the price of his books. Is it the ship-owner who pays a tax on his insurance ? Certainly not-insurance being, like freight, a charge to be borne by the goods insured.
Who, and what, is it, then, that pays this enormous sum ? Seeking an answer to this, the reader will do well to consult,
agein, the diagram representing the movement of society, here reproduced, because of the importance of the question now submitted for his consideration.
The broker, the auctioneer, the trader, the payers of stamp and auction duties, the tax-gatherers, and the men who live by the produce of taxes, each and all, stand between the men who produce and those who consume all living out of the share taken by them from the produce of the land, in the act of passing from the hand by which it is produced, to the mouth that is to eat it, or the back by which it is to be worn.
In the early periods of society — the obstacles to circulation being greatmiddlemen abound, and land and labor have little value. In the later period, they become less numerous—all the saving consequent thereon, being divided between the labor and the land, both of which acquire value, in the direct ratio of the removal of impediments standing in the way of circulation. Who and what, then, is it, that pays the taxes ? What can it be, but the labor given to the raising of the corn and the wool, and to the conversion of raw materials into cloth? The broker produces nothing. The trader adds nothing to the quantity, or quality, of things produced. The tax-gatherer affords no aid in the work of production. The fields would be as well cultivated, and yield as much corn, did there exist neither politicians, admirals, nor generals. The great farmer, who takes the place of small proprietors, merely replaces men who had every inducement to exertion, by others who know, and feel, too, that they have none. The more of such people there are, the smaller will always be the product — the larger must be the proportion borne by movable property to that which is fixed — the larger the proportion of tho diminished product taken by the middleman - the poorer the laborer — and the less the value of land. So it has ever been, and so must it ever be. The land and labor of a country are the ultimate payers of all the taxes, let the mode of collection be what it may. It is, therefore, to their interest, that it be as direct, and as little costly, as possible — they being the parties who are to foot up the account, for all the additions made for the promotion of individual interests.
$ 8. Turning, now, once more to the diagram, we may study the condition of the people of India - the men who sell cotton wool at less than a penny per pound, and buy it back, in the form of cloth, at from twenty to forty pence. Following that wool, we find it contributing largely towards the fortunes of British officers, and towards the dividends of the East India Company towards the freight of ships - the pay of sailors — the hire of warehouses — the tolls on railroads the commission of brokers, and the stamps on potes — passing through thousands and tens of thousands of hands, and, at every step of its passage, contributing towards the support of government, by means of a system of indirect taxation, that reaches every member of the community, from the poor man who indulges in a pinch of snuff, to the great bank-director, who contributes to the income-tax. The more numerous the hands through which the commodity passes, the more numerous are the opportunities for collecting taxes out of it. The consequences of all this, are seen in the facts, that the Hindoo who raises the cotton is too poor to buy cloth, while the Manchester operative is so poor, as to be unable to obtain a sufficient supply of bread; and poverty and slavery are near relations.
Looking now to Carolina and Alabama, we obtain the same result. Cotton leaves the plantation at five, six, or eight, cents per pound. When it returns, in the form of cloth, it commands sixty, seventy, and eighty cents— flour, even then, constituting an important portion of its weight. In its course, it has paid taxes in every form and shape — so large a portion having been absorbed on the road, that the man who raised it remains a slave, while he who has converted it is scarcely able to buy a shirt.
Turning, next, to the English farm-laborer, we find him receiving, in return for a year's labor, the price of fifty bushels of wheat - being, perhaps, a fifteenth or a twentieth of the quantity whose production is due to the labor he has given to the land. Inquiring into the condition of the mill operative, the consumer of corn, and his immediate neighbor, he finds that, like himself, he is receiving but little more than the price of a bushel - four-fifths of labor's produce being absorbed, as wages or profits, by the persons who stand between them. The more numerous these persons, the less must be the value of labor and land - they being the ultimate paymasters of all the persons who stand between the man who raises the raw material, and him who consumes the finished commodity. That this is so, is shown by the fact, that precisely as the prices of the two approximate, by reason of the gradual exclusion of the middlemen, land and labor rise in price; while precisely as they recede from each other, both are found united for the payment of the charges attendant upon getting to market-furnishing evidence of the fact in the decline of the one in value, and in the enslavement of the otber. Man's powers, and his needs, taken together, are a fixed quantity - the one increasing as the other diminishes. The first grow with the elimination of the middleman; the latter increases as the trader acquires power. With the growth of his powers, land acquires value; with their decay, it loses it.
Desiring, then, to see the people and the land which pay the British taxes, we must look for them among those who produce the raw materials, and those who consume the commodities produced — finding them in the exhausted lands and people of Ireland, India, Portugal, Turkey, Jamaica, and Carolina. That done, we may next look to the lands and people of the United Kingdom itself— finding the first, notwithstanding the substitution of the railroad for the turnpike, to have but little increased in value in the last forty years; while the last exhibits deterioration, and not improvement.*
The real payers of English taxes, are the people of all the countries that supply the raw materials of manufactures — buying them back in a finished form. Counting, as they do, by hundreds of millions, evidence of the exhaustive character of the system is to be found in the trivial amount of taxes, when compared with the large number of the persons upon whom they are assessed.
* See ante, vol. ii., p. 80, note.