Front Page Titles (by Subject) SKETCH VIII: Finances - Sketches of the History of Man, vol. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
SKETCH VIII: Finances - Henry Home, Lord Kames, Sketches of the History of Man, vol. 2 
Sketches of the History of Man Considerably enlarged by the last additions and corrections of the author, edited and with an Introduction by James A. Harris (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007). 3 Vols. Vol. 2.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
In the following slight Essay, intended for novices only, it satisfies my ambition, to rival certain pains-taking authors, who teach history in the perspicuous mode of question and answer. Among novices, it would be unpardonable to rank such of my fellow-citizens as are ambitious of a seat in parliament; many of whom sacrifice the inheritance of their ancestors, for an opportunity to exert their patriotism in that august assembly. Can such a sacrifice permit me to doubt of their being adepts in the mysteries of government, and of taxes in particular? They ought at least to be initiated in these mysteries.
It is of importance, that taxes, and their effects, be understood, not only by the members of our parliament, but by their electors: a re-presentative will not readily vote for a destructive tax, when he cannot hope to disguise his conduct. The intention of the present sketch, is to unfold the principles upon which taxes ought to be founded, and to point out what are beneficial, what noxious. I have endeavoured to introduce some light into a subject involved in Egyptian darkness; and if that end be attained, I shall die in the faith that I have not been an unprofitable servant to my country.
This subject consists of many parts, not a little intricate. A proper distribution will tend to perspicuity; and I think it may be fitly divided into the following sections. 1st, General considerations on taxes. 2d, Power of imposing taxes. 3d, Different sorts of taxes, with their advantages and disadvantages. 4th, Manner of levying taxes. 5th, Rules to be observed in taxing. 6th, Taxes examined with respect to their effects. 7th, Taxes for advancing industry and commerce.1
General Considerations on Taxes.
As opulence is not friendly to study and knowledge, the men best qualified for being generals, admirals, judges, or ministers of state, are seldom opulent; and to make such men serve without pay, would be in effect to ease the rich at the expence of the poor. With respect to the military branch in particular, the bulk of those who compose an army, if withdrawn from daily labour, must starve, unless the public which they serve afford them maintenance. A republican government, during peace, may indeed be supported at a very small charge, among a temperate and patriotic people. In a monarchy, a public fund is indispensable, even during peace: and in war it is indispensable, whatever be the government. The Spartans carried all before them in Greece, but were forced to quit their hold, having no fund for a standing army; and the other Greek states were obliged to confederate with the Athenians, who had a public fund, and who after the Persian war became masters at sea. A defect so obvious in the Spartan government, did assuredly not escape Lycurgus, the most profound of all legislators. Foreseeing that conquest would be destructive to his countrymen, his sole purpose was to guard them from being conquered; which in Sparta required no public fund, as all the citizens were equal, and equally bound to defend themselves and their country. A state, it is true, without a public fund, is ill qualified to oppose a standing army, regularly disciplined, and regularly paid. But in political matters, experience is our only sure guide; and the history of nations, at that early period, was too barren to afford instruction. Lycurgus may well be excused, considering how little progress political knowledge had made in a much later period. Charles VII. of France, was the first in modern times who established a fund for a standing army. Against that dangerous innovation, the crown-vassals had no resource but to imitate their sovereign; and yet, without even dreaming of a resource, they suffered themselves to be undermined, and at last overturned, by the King, their superior. Thus, on the one hand, a nation however warlike that has not a public fund, is no match for a standing army enured to war: extensive commerce, on the other hand, enables a nation to support a standing army; but by introducing luxury it eradicates manhood, and renders that army an unfit match for any poor and warlike intruder. Hard may seem the fate of nations, laid thus open to destruction from every quarter. All that can be said is, that such vicissitudes seem to enter into the scheme of Providence.
The stability of land fits it, above all other subjects, for a public patrimony. But as crown-lands lie open to the rapacity of favourites, it becomes necessary, when these are dissipated, to introduce taxes; which have the following properties, that they unite in one common interest the sovereign and his subjects, and that they can be augmented or diminished according to exigencies.
The art of levying money by taxes was so little understood in the sixteenth century, that after the famous battle of Pavia, in which the French King was made prisoner, Charles V. was obliged to disband his victorious army, tho’ consisting but of 24,000 men, because he had not the art to levy, in his extensive dominions, a sum necessary to keep it on foot. So little knowledge was there in England of political arithmetic in the days of Edward III. that L. 1: 2: 4 on each parish was com-puted to be sufficient for raising a subsidy of L. 50,000. It being found, that there were but 8700 parishes, exclusive of Wales, the parliament, in order to raise the said subsidy, assessed on each parish L. 5, 16 s.
In imposing taxes, ought not the expence of living to be deducted, and to consider the remainder as the only taxable subject? This mode was adopted in the state of Athens. A rent of 500 measures of corn, burdened the landlord with the yearly contribution of a talent: a rent of 300, burdened him with half a talent: a rent of 200, burdened him with the sixth part of a talent; and land under that rent paid no tax. Here the tax was not in proportion to the estate, but to what could be spared out of it; or, in other words, in proportion to the ability of the proprietor. At the same time, ability must not be estimated by what a man actually saves, which would exempt the profuse and profligate from paying taxes, but by what a man can pay who lives with oeconomy according to his rank. This rule is founded on the very nature of government: to tax a man’s food, or the subject that affords him bare necessaries, is worse than the denying him protection: it starves him. Hence the following proposition may be laid down as the corner stone of taxation-building, “That every man ought to contribute to the public revenue, not in proportion to his substance, but to his ability.” I am sorry to observe, that this rule is little regarded in British taxes; though nothing would contribute more to sweeten the minds of the people, and to make them fond of their government, than a regulation fraught with so much equity.
Taxes were long in use before it was discovered, that they could be made subservient to other purposes, beside that of supporting government. In the fifteenth century, the states of Burgundy rejected with indignation a demand made by the Duke, of a duty on salt; tho’ they found no other objection, but that it would oppress the poor people, who lived mostly on salt meat and salt fish. It did not occur to them, that such a tax might hurt their manufactures, by raising the price of labour. A tax of two shillings on= every hearth, known by the name of hearth-money, was granted to Charles II. his heirs and successors, for ever. It was abrogated by an act of William and Mary, anno 1688, on the following preamble, “That it is not only a great oppression upon the poorer sort, but a badge of slavery upon the whole people, exposing every man’s house to be entered into and searched at pleasure, by persons unknown to him.” Had the harm done by such a tax to our manufactures been at that time understood, it would have been urged as the capital reason against it. Our late improvements in commercial politics have unfolded an important doctrine, That taxes are seldom indifferent to the public good; that frequently they are more oppressive to the people, than beneficial to the sovereign; and, on the other hand, that they may be so contrived, as to rival bounties in promoting industry, manufactures, and commerce. These different effects of taxes, have rendered the subject not a little intricate.
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 sovereign, and to him only, is undoubted. But it has been doubted, whether even King and parliament, who pos-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 supported without great charge; and ’tis fit every one who enjoys his share of protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it. But still it must be with his own consent, i.e. the consent of the majority, 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 authority, and without such consent of the people, he thereby invades the fundamental law of property, and subverts the end of government. For what property have I in that which another may by right take when he pleases to himself?” 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-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 vassals and tenants, who have no vote in electing 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, should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of the government.” 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, misled by the respectable authority of Locke, boldly maintain, that a British parliament cannot legally tax the 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 necessity of a parliament for imposing taxes, where every individual is either personally present, or by a representative of his own election. The aid accordingly given to a British sovereign, is not a tribute, but a free and voluntary 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.2 Had not Britain seasonably interposed, they would have been swallowed up by France, and become 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 transgresses 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 some note (a) ; who maintains, “That the food and raiment furnished to the society by husbandmen and manufacturers, 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.
Different Sorts of Taxes, with their Advantages 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 the 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 seldom the interest of a landholder to be in debt; and with respect to the public, the measure not only promotes the circulation of property, but is favourable to creditors, by procuring them payment. A capitation-tax goes upon an erroneous principle, as if all men were of equal ability. What prompts it is, that many men, rich in bonds and other moveables that can easily be hid from public inspection, cannot be reached otherwise than by a capitation-tax. But as, by the very supposition, such men cannot be distinguished from the mass of the people, that mode of taxing, miserably unequal, is rarely practised among enlightened nations. Russia labours under a capitation-tax.3 Some years ago, a capitation-tax was imposed in Denmark, obliging even day-labourers to pay for their wives and children. Upon the same absurd plan, a tax was imposed on marriage. One would be tempted to think, that population was intended to be discouraged. The Danish ministry have been sensible of the impropriety of such taxes; for a tax imposed on those who obtain titles of honour from the crown, is applied for relieving husbandmen of their capitation-tax. But a tax of this kind lies open to many other objections. It cannot fail to raise the price of labour, a poisonous effect in a country of industry; for the labourer will relieve himself of the tax, by heightening his wages: more prudent it would be to lay the tax directly on the employer, which would remove the pretext for heightening wages. The taxing of day-labourers, whether by capitation or in any other manner, has beside an effect contrary to what is intended: instead of increasing the public revenue, it virtually lessens it, by raising the pay of soldiers, sailors, and of every workman employed by government.
Taxes upon goods are of two kinds, viz. upon things consumable, and upon things not consumable. I begin with the latter. The land-tax in Britain, paid by the proprietor according to an invariable rule, and levied with very little expence, is of all taxes the most just, and the most effectual. The proprietor, knowing beforehand the sum he is subjected to, prepares accordingly: and as each proprietor contributes in proportion to his estate, the tax makes no variation in their relative opulence. The only improvement it is susceptible of, is the Athenian regulation, of exempting small estates that are no more than sufficient to afford bread to the frugal proprietor. In France, the land-tax seems to have been established on a very false foundation, viz. That the clergy perform their duty to the state by praying and instructing, that the noblesse fight for the state; and consequently, that the only duty left to the farmer, is to defray the charges of government. This argument would hold, if the clergy were not paid for praying, nor the noblesse for fighting. Such a load upon the poorest members of the state, is an absurdity in politics. And to render it still more absurd, the tax on the farmer is not imposed by an invariable rule: every one is taxed in proportion to his apparent circumstances, which in effect is to tax industry. Nor is this all. Under pretext of preventing famine, the exporting of corn, even from province to province, is frequently interrupted; by which it happens, that the corn of a plentiful year is destroyed by insects, and in a year of scarcity is engrossed by merchants. Suppose a plan were desiderated for discouraging agriculture, here is one actually put in execution, the success of which is infallible. “Were it related,” observes a French writer, “in some foreign history, that there is a country extremely fertile, in a fine climate, enjoying navigable rivers, with every advantage for the commerce of corn; and yet that the product is not sufficient for the inhabitants: would not one conclude the people to be stupid and barbarous? And yet this is the case of France.” He adds the true reason, which is, the discouragement husbandry lies under by oppressive taxes. We have Diodorus Siculus for our authority, that the husbandman was greatly respected in Hindostan. Among other nations, says he, the land during war lies untilled; but in Hindostan, husbandmen are sacred, and no soldier ventures to lay a hand on them. They are considered as servants of the public, who cannot be dispensed with.
It is a gross error to maintain, that a tax on land is the same with a tax on the product of land. The former, which is the English mode, is no discouragement to industry and improvements: on the contrary, the higher the value of land is raised, the less will the tax be in proportion. The latter, which is the French mode, is a great discouragement to industry and improvements; because the more a man improves, the deeper he is taxed. The tenth part of the product of land, is the only tax that is paid in China. This tax, of the same nature with the tithe paid among us to the clergy, yields to the British mode of taxing the land itself, and not its product; but is less exceptionable than the land-tax in France, because it is not arbitrary. The Chinese tax, paid in kind, is stored in magazines, and sold from time to time for maintaining the magistrates and the army, the surplus being remitted to the treasury. In case of famine, it is sold to the poor people at a moderate price. In Tonquin, there is a land-tax, which, like that in France, is laid upon the peasants, exempting people of condition, and the literati in particular. Many grounds that bear not corn, contribute hay for the king’s elephants and cavalry: which the poor peasants are obliged to carry to the capital, even from the greatest distance; a regulation no less injudicious than slavish.
The window-tax, the coach-tax, and the plate-tax, come under the present head, being taxes upon things not consumable. In Holland horses are taxed; and there is a tax on domestic servants, which deserves well to be imitated. Vanity in Britain, and love of show, have multiplied domestics, far beyond necessity, and even beyond convenience. A number of idlers collected in a luxurious family, become vitious and debauched; and many useful hands are withdrawn from husbandry and manufactures. In order that the tax may reach none but the vain and splendid, those who have but one servant pay nothing: two domestics subject the master to five shillings for each, three to ten shillings for each, four to twenty shillings, five to forty shillings, and so on in a geometrical progression. In Denmark, a farmer is taxed for every plough he uses. If the tax be intended for discouraging extensive farms, it is a happy contrivance, agreeable to sound policy; for small farms increase the number of temperate and robust people, fit for every sort of labour.
Next of taxes upon things consumable. The taxes that appear the least oppressive, because disguised, are what are laid on our manufactures: the tax is advanced by the manufacturer, and drawn from the pur-chaser as part of the price. In Rome, a tax was laid upon every man who purchased a slave. It is reported by some authors, that the tax was remitted by the Emperor Nero; and yet no alteration was made, but to oblige the vender to advance the tax. Hear Tacitus on that subject (a) . “Vectigal quintae et vicesimae venalium mancipiorum remissum, specie magis quam vi; quia cum venditor pendere juberetur, in partem pretii emptoribus accrescebat.”* Thus, with respect to our taxes on soap, shoes, candles, and other things consumable, the purchaser thinks he is only paying the price, and never dreams that he is paying a tax. To support the illusion, the duty ought to be moderate: to impose a tax twenty times the value of the commodity, as is done in France with respect to salt, raises more disgust in the people as an attempt to deceive them, than when laid on without disguise. Such exorbitant taxes, which are paid with the utmost reluctance, cannot be made effectual but by severe penalties, equal to what are inflicted on the most atrocious criminals; which, at the same time, has a bad effect with respect to morals, as it blends great and small crimes together, and tends to lessen the horror one naturally conceives at the former.
Such taxes are attended with another signal advantage: they bear a proportion to the ability of the contributors, the opulent being commonly the greatest consumers. The taxes on coaches and on plate are paid by men of fortune, without loading the industrious poor; and, on that account, are excellent; being imposed, however, without disguise, they are paid with more reluctance by the rich, than taxes on consumption are by the poor.
I add one other advantage of taxes on consumption. They are finely contrived to connect the interest of the sovereign with that of his subjects; for his profit arises from their prosperity.
Such are the advantages of a tax on consumption; but it must not be praised, as attended with no inconvenience. The retailer, under pretext of the tax, raises the price higher than barely to indemnify himself; by which means the tax is commonly doubled on the consumer. The inconvenience, however, is but temporary. “Such extortion,” says Davenant, “cannot last long; for every commodity in common use finds in the market its true value and price.”
There is another inconvenience much more distressing, because it admits not a remedy, and because it affects the state itself. Taxes on consumption, being commonly laid on things of the greatest use, raise a great sum to the public, without much burdening individuals; the duty on coal, for example, on candle, on leather, on soap, on salt, on malt, and on malt-liquor. These duties, however, carry in their bosom a slow poison, by raising the price of labour and of manufactures. De Wit observes, that the Dutch taxes upon consumption have raised the price of their broad cloth forty per cent.; and our manufactures, by the same means, are raised at least thirty per cent. Britain has long laboured under this chronical distemper; which, by excluding her from foreign markets, will not only put an end to her own manufactures, but will open a wide door to the foreign, as smuggling cannot be prevented where commodities imported are much cheaper than our own. The Dutch taxes on consumption are exceedingly high; and yet necessary, not only for defraying the expence of government, but for guarding their frontier, and, above all, for keeping out the sea! The industry, however, and frugality of the people, enable them to bear that heavy burden without murmuring. But other European nations have now acquired a share of the immense commerce formerly carried on by the Dutch alone. Their trade, accordingly, is on the decline; and, when it sinks a little lower, the heavy taxes will undoubtedly depopulate their country.4
Nor ought it to be overlooked, that taxes on consumption are not equally proper in every case. They are proper in a populous country, like Holland; because the expence of collecting is but a trifle, compared with the sums collected. But, in a country thinly peopled, such taxes are improper; because the expence of collecting makes too great a proportion of the sums collected: in the highlands of Scotland, the excise on ale and spirits defrays not the expence of levying; the people are burdened, and the government is not supported. I suspect that the window-tax in Scotland lies open to the same objection.5
A lottery is a sort of tax different from any that have been mentioned. It is a tax, of all, the most agreeable, being entirely voluntary. An appetite for gaming, inherent even in savages, prompts multitudes to venture their money in hopes of a high prize; though they cannot altogether hide from themselves the inequality of the play. But it is well, that the selfish passions of men can be made subservient to the public good. Lotteries, however, produce one unhappy effect. They blunt the edge of industry, by directing the attention to a more compendious mode of gain. At the same time, the money acquired by a lottery, seldom turns to account; for what comes without trouble, goes commonly without thought.
Manner of levying Taxes.
To avoid the rapacity of farmers, a mild government will, in most cases, prefer management; i.e. it will levy taxes by officers appointed for that purpose. Montesquieu (a) has handled that point with his usual sprightly elegance.
Importation-duties are commonly laid upon the importer before the cargo is landed, leaving him to add the duty to the price of the goods; and the facility of levying, is the motive for preferring that mode. But, is it not hard that the importer should be obliged to advance a great sum in name of duty, before drawing a shilling by the sale of his goods? It is not only hard, but grossly unjust; for, if the goods perish without being sold, the duty is lost to the importer: he has no claim against the public for restitution. This has more the air of despotism, than of a free government. Would it not be more equitable, that the goods should be lodged in a public warehouse, under custody of revenue-officers, the importer paying the duty as goods are sold? According to the present mode, the duty remains with the collector three years, in order to be repaid to the importer, if the goods be exported within that time: but, by the mode proposed, the duty would be paid to the treasury as goods are sold, which might be within a month from the time of importation, perhaps a week; and the treasury would profit, as well as the fair trader. There are public warehouses adjoining to the customhouse of Bourdeaux, where the sugars of the French colonies are deposited, till the importer finds a market; and he pays the duty gradually as sales are made. It rejoices me, that the same mode is adopted in this island with respect to some foreign articles necessary in our trade with Africa: the duty is not demanded, till the goods be shipped for that continent. It is also adopted with respect to foreign salt, and with respect to rum imported from our sugar-colonies.
Beside the equity of what is here proposed, which relieves the importer from advance of money, and from risk, many other advantages would be derived from it. In the first place, the merchant, having no occasion to reserve any portion of his capital for answering the duty, would be enabled to commence trade with a small stock, or to increase his trade, if his stock be large: trade would flourish, and the public revenue would increase in proportion. Secondly, It would lessen smuggling: many who commence trade with upright intention, are tempted to smuggle for want of ready money to pay the duty. Thirdly, This manner of levying the duty would not only lessen the number of officers, but remove every reason for claiming discount on pretext of leakage, samples, and the drying or shrinking of goods. In the present manner of levying, that discount must be left to the discretion of the officer: a private understanding is thus opened between him and the merchant, hurtful to the revenue, and destructive to morals. Fourthly, The merchant would be enabled to lower his prices, and be forced to lower them, by having many ri-vals; which at the same time would give access to heighten importation-duties, without raising the price of foreign commodities, above what it is at present. But the capital advantage of all would be, to render, in effect, every port in Britain a free port, enabling English merchants, many of whom have great capitals, to outstrip foreigners in what is termed a commerce of speculation. This island is well situated for such commerce; and, were our ports free, the productions of all climates would be stored up in them, ready for exportation, when a market offers; an excellent plan for increasing our shipping, and for producing boundless wealth.
Rules to be observed in Taxing.
The different objects of taxes, and the intricacy thereby occasioned, require general rules, not only for directing the legislature in imposing them, but for ena-bling others to judge what are beneficial, and what hurtful.
The first rule I shall suggest is, That, wherever there is an opportunity of smuggling, taxes ought to be moderate; for smuggling can never effectually be restrained, where the cheapness of imported goods is in effect an insurance against the risk; in which view, Swift humorously observes, that two and two do not always make four. A duty of 15 per cent. upon printed linen imported into France, encourages smuggling: a lower duty would produce a greater sum to the public, and be more beneficial to the French manufacturer. Bone-lace imported into France is charged with a duty of 20 per cent. in order to favour that manufacture at home: but in vain; for bone-lace is easily smuggled, and the price is little higher than before. The high duty on succus liquoritiae6 imported into Britain, being L. 7: 2: 6 per hundred weight, was a great encouragement for smuggling; for which reason it is reduced to 30 shillings per hundred weight (a) .
Smuggling of tea, which draws great sums from Britain, is much encouraged by its high price at home. As far as I can judge, it would be profitable, both to the public, and to individuals, to lay aside the importationduty, and to substitute in its stead a duty on the consumer. Freedom of importation would enable the East India company to sell so cheap, as effectually to banish smuggling; and the low price of tea would enable the consumer to pay a pretty smart duty, without being much out of pocket. The following mode is proposed, as a hint merely that may lead to improvements. Let every man who uses tea be subjected to a moderate tax, proportioned to his mode of living. Absolute precision cannot be expected in proportioning the tax on families; but gross inequality may easily be prevented. For instance, let the mode of living be determined by the equipage that is kept. A coach or chaise with two horses shall subject a family to a yearly tax of L. 10; heightening the tax in proportion to the number of horses and carriages; two servants in livery, without a carriage, to a tax of 40 s.; every other family paying 20 s. Every family where tea is used must be entered in the collector’s books, with its mode of living, under a heavy penalty; which would regulate the coach-tax, as well as that on tea. Such a tax, little expensive in levying, would undoubtedly be effectual: a master of a family is imprudent indeed, if he put it in the power of the vender, of a malicious neighbour, or of a disgusted servant, to subject him to a heavy penalty. This tax, at the same time, would be the least disagreeable of any that is levied without disguise; being in effect a voluntary tax, as the mode of living is voluntary. Nor would it be difficult to temper the tax, so as to afford a greater sum to the public than it receives at present from the importation-duty, and yet to cost our people no more for tea than they pay at present, considering the high price of the commodity.*
To favour our own cambric manufacture, the importation of it is prohibited. The unhappy circumstance is, that fine cambric is easily smuggled: the price is great, and the bulk small. Would it not be more politic, to admit importation under a duty so moderate as not to encourage smuggling. The duty applied for promoting our own cambric-manufacture, would in time so improve it, as to put us above the hazard of rivalship, with respect at least to our own consumption. It is pleasant to trace the progressive effects of such a plan. The importation-duties would at first be considerable; and yet no higher than necessary for nursing an infant manufacture. As the manufacture improves, more and more of it would be consumed at home; and the duty would fall in proportion. But then this small duty would be sufficient to encourage a manufacture, now approaching to perfection.7
High duties on importation are immoral, as well as impolitic; for, is it not unjustifiable in a legislature, first to tempt, and then to punish for yielding to the temptation.
As an Appendix to the rule for preventing smuggling, I add, that a tax upon a fashion, which can be laid aside at pleasure, can little be depended on. In the year 1767, a duty was laid on chip-hats, worn at that time by women of fashion. They were instantly laid aside, and the tax produced nothing.
A second rule is, That taxes expensive in the levying ought to be avoided; being heavy on the people, without a proportional benefit to the revenue. Our land-tax is admirable: it affords a great sum, levied with very little expence. The duties on coaches, and on gold and silver-plate, are similar; and so would be the tax on tea above proposed. The taxes that are the most hurtful to trade and manufactures, such as the duties on soap, candle, leather, are expensive in levying.8
A third rule is, To avoid arbitrary taxes. They are disgustful to all, not excepting those who are favourably treated; because self-partiality seldom permits a man to think that justice is done him. A tax laid on persons, in proportion to their trade, or their prudence, must be arbitrary, even where strict justice is intended; because it depends on vague opinion or conjecture: every man thinks himself injured; and the sum levied does not balance the discontent it occasions. The tax laid on the French farmer in proportion to his substance, is an intolerable grievance, and a great engine of oppression; if the farmer exert any activity in meliorating his land, he is sure to be doubly taxed. Hamburgh affords the only instance of a tax on trade and riches, that is willingly paid, and that consequently is levied without oppression. Every merchant puts privately into the public chest the sum that, in his own opinion, he ought to contribute; a singular example of integrity in a great trading town, for there is no suspicion of wrong in that tacit contribution. But this state is not yet corrupted by luxury.
Because many vices that poison a nation, arise from inequality of fortune, I propose it as a fourth rule, to remedy that inequality as much as possible, by relieving the poor, and burdening the rich. Heavy taxes are lightly born by men of overgrown estates. Those proprietors especially, who wound the public by converting much land from profit to pleasure, ought not to be spared. Would it not contribute greatly to the public good, that a tax of L. 50 should be laid on every house that has 50 windows; L. 150 on houses of 100 windows; and L. 400 on houses of 200 windows? By the same principle, every deer-park of 200 acres ought to pay L. 50; of 500 acres L. 200; and of 1000 acres L. 600. Fifty acres of pleasure-ground to pay L. 30; 100 such acres L. 80; 150 acres L. 200; and 200 acres L. 300. Such a tax would have a collateral good effect: it would probably move high-minded men to leave out more ground for maintaining the poor, than they are commonly inclined to do.
A fifth rule of capital importance, as it regards the interest of the state in general, is, That every tax which tends to impoverish the nation ought to be rejected with indignation. Such taxes contradict the very nature of government, which is to protect, not to oppress. And, supposing the interest of the governing power to be only regarded, a state is not measured by the extent of its territory, but by what the subjects are able to pay annually without end. A sovereign, however regardless of his duty as a father of his people, will regard that rule for his own sake: a nation impoverished by oppressive taxes will reduce the sovereign at last to the same poverty; for he cannot levy what they cannot pay.
Whether taxes imposed on common necessaries, which fall heavy upon the labouring poor, be of the kind now mentioned, deserves the most serious deliberation. Where they tend to promote industry, they are highly salutary: where they deprive us of foreign markets, by raising the price of labour and of manufactures, they are highly noxious. In some cases, industry may be promoted by taxes, without raising the price of labour and of manufactures. Tobolski in Siberia is a populous town, the price of provisions is extremely low, and the people on that account are extremely idle. While they are masters of a farthing, they work none: when they are pinched with hunger, they gain in a day what maintains them a week: they never think of to-morrow, nor of providing against want. A tax there upon necessaries would probably excite some degree of industry. Such a tax, renewed from time to time, and augmented gradually, would promote industry more and more, so as to squeeze out of that lazy people three, four, or even five days labour weekly, without raising their wages, or the price of their work. But beware of a general rule. The effect would be very different in Britain, where moderate labour without much relaxation is requisite for living comfortably: in every such case, a permanent tax upon necessaries fails not in time to raise the price of labour. It is true, that, in a single year of scarcity, there is commonly more labour than in plentiful years. But, suppose scarcity to continue many years successively, or suppose a permanent tax on necessaries, wages must rise till the labourer find comfortable living; if the employer obstinately stand out, the labourer will in despair abandon the work altogether, and commence beggar; or will retire to a country less burdened with taxes. Hence a salutary doctrine, That, where expence of living equals, or nearly equals, what is gained by bodily labour, moderate taxes renewed from time to time after considerable intervals, will promote industry, without raising the price of labour; but that permanent taxes will unavoidably raise the price of labour, and of manufactures. In Holland, the high price of provisions and of labour, occasioned by permanent taxes, have excluded from the foreign market every one of their manufactures that can be supplied by other nations. Heavy taxes have annihilated their once flourishing manufactures of wool, of silk, of gold and silver, and many others. The prices of labour and of manufactures have in England been immoderately raised by the same means.
To prevent a total downfall of our manufactures, several political writers hold, that the labouring poor ought to be disburdened of all taxes. The royal tithe proposed for France, instead of all other taxes, published in the name of Mareschal Vaubhan, or such a tax laid upon land in England, early imposed, might have produced wonders. But the expedient would now come too late, at least in England: such profligacy have the poor-rates produced among the lower ranks, that to relieve them from taxes, would probably make them work less, but assuredly would not make them work cheaper. It is vain therefore to think of a remedy against idleness and high wages, while the poor-rates subsist in their present form. Davenant pronounces, that the English poor-rates will in time be the bane of their manufactures. He computes, that the persons receiving alms in England amounted to one million and two hundred thousand; the half of whom at least would have continued to work, had they not relied on parish-charity. But of this more at large in a separate sketch.9
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 so 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.10 To make landholders embrace the tax, may it not be thought sufficient, that, unless for some 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 scruple 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 the quantity they make for their own use. Figure a poor widow, burdened with five or six 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 upright originally, poverty and anxiety about her infants, will tempt her to conceal the truth, and to deny upon oath—a sad lesson 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 salt-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 presumed to consume. 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 suspected, 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, and loses all sense of honour. Thus custom-house oaths have become a proverb, as meriting no regard; and corruption creeping on, will become universal. 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 so 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 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 ineffectual.
Taxes examined with respect to their effects.11
No other political subject is of greater 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. Fourth, Taxes that are hurtful to manufactures and commerce, without increasing the public revenue. Fifth, Taxes that are hurtful to manufactures and commerce; and also lessen the public revenue. I proceed to instances of each kind, drawn chiefly from British taxes.
Our land-tax is an illustrious instance of the first kind: it produces a revenue to the public, levied with very little expence: and it hurts no mortal; for a landholder who pays for having himself and his estate protected, cannot be said to be hurt. The duty on coaches is of the same kind. Both taxes, at the same time, are agreeable to sound principles. Men ought to contribute to the public revenue, as far as they are benefited by being protected: a rich man requires protection for his possessions, as well as for his person, and therefore ought to contribute largely: a poor man requires protection for his person only, and therefore ought to contribute little.
A tax on foreign luxuries is an instance of the second kind. It increases the public revenue: and it greatly benefits individuals: not only by restraining the consumption of foreign luxuries, but by en-couraging our own manufactures. Britain enjoys a monopoly of coal exported to Holland; and the duty on exportation is agreeable to sound policy, being paid by the Dutch. This duty is another instance of the second kind: it raises a considerable revenue to the public; and it enables us to cope with the Dutch in every manufacture that employs coal, such as dying, distilling, works of glass and of iron. And these manufactures in Britain, by the dearness of labour, are entitled to some aid. A tax on horses, to prevent their increase, would be a tax of the same kind. The incredible number of horses used in coaches and other wheel-carriages, has raised the price of labour, by doubling the price of oat-meal, the food of the labouring poor in many parts of Britain. The price of wheat is also raised by the same means; because the vast quantity of land employed in producing oats, lessens the quantity for wheat. I would not exempt even plough-horses from the tax; because in every view it is more advantageous to use oxen.* So little regard is paid to these considerations, that a coach, whether drawn by two horses or by six, pays the same duty.
As to the third kind, our forefathers seem to have had no notion of taxes but for increasing the public revenue, without once thinking of the hurt that may be done to individuals. In the reign of Edward VI. a poll-tax was laid on sheep. And so late as the reign of William III. marriage was taxed.12 I am grieved to observe, that even to this day we have many taxes detrimental to the state, as being more oppressive upon the people than gainful to the public revenue. Multiplied taxes on the necessaries of life, candle, soap, leather, ale, salt, &c. raise the price of labour, and consequently of manufactures. If they shall have the effect to deprive us of foreign markets, which we have reason to dread, depopulation and poverty must ensue. The salt-tax in particular is eminently detrimental. With respect to the other taxes mentioned, the rich bear the greatest burden, being the greatest consumers; but the share they pay of the salt-tax is very little, because they reject salt provisions. The salt-tax is still more absurd in another respect, salt being a choice manure for land. One would be amazed to hear of a law prohibiting the use of lime as a manure: he would be still more amazed to hear of the prohibition being extended to salt, which is a manure much superior, and yet a heavy tax on salt, which renders it too dear for a manure, surprises no man. But the mental eye resembles that of the body: it seldom perceives but what is directly before it: consequences lie far out of sight. Many thousand quarters of good wheat have been annually with-held from Britain by the salt-tax. What the treasury has gained, will not compensate the fiftieth part of that loss. The absurdity of with-holding from us a manure so profitable, has at last been discovered; and remedied in part, by permitting English foul salt to be used for manure, on paying four-pence of duty per bushel (a) . Why was not Scotland permitted to taste of that bounty? Our candidates, it would appear, are more solicitous of a seat in parliament, than of serving their country when they have obtained that honour. What pretext would there have been even for murmuring, had every one of them been rejected with indignation, in the choice of representatives for a new parliament?13
The window-tax is more detrimental to the people, than advantageous to the revenue. In the first place, it promotes large farms in order to save houses and windows; whereas small farms tend to multiply a hardy and frugal race, useful for every purpose. In the next place, it is a discouragement to manufactures, by taxing the houses in which they are carried on. Manufacturers, in order to relieve themselves as much as possible from the tax, make a side of their house but one window; and there are instances, where in three stories there are but three windows. But what chiefly raises my aversion to that tax, is that it burdens the poor more than the rich: a house in a paultry village that affords not five pounds of yearly rent, may have a greater number of windows than one in London rented at fifty. The plate-tax is not indeed hurtful to manufactures and commerce: but it is hurtful to the common interest; because plate converted into money may be the means of saving the nation at a crisis, and therefore ought to be encouraged, instead of being loaded with a tax. On pictures imported into Britain, a duty is laid in proportion to the size. Was there no intelligent person at hand, to inform our legislature, that the only means to rouse a genius for painting, is to give our youth ready access to good pictures? Till these be multiplied in Britain, we never shall have the reputation of producing a good painter. So far indeed it is lucky, that the most valuable pictures are not loaded with a greater duty than the most paultry. Fish, both salt and fresh, brought to Paris, pay a duty of 48 per cent. by an arbitrary estimation of the value. This tax is an irreparable injury to France, by discouraging the multiplication of seamen. It is beneficial indeed in one view, as it tends to check the growing population of that great city.
Without waiting to rummage the British taxes for instances of the fourth kind, I shall present my reader with a foreign instance. In the Austrian Netherlands, there are inexhaustible mines of coal, the exportation of which would make a considerable article of commerce, were it not absolutely barred by an exorbitant duty. This absurd duty is a great injury to proprietors of coal, without yielding a farthing to the revenue. The Dutch, many years ago, offered to confine themselves to that country for coal, on condition of being relieved from the duty; which would have brought down the price below that of British coal. Is it not wonderful, that the proposal was rejected? But ministers seldom regard what is beneficial to the nation, unless it produce an immediate benefit to their sovereign or to themselves. The coal-mines in the Austrian Netherlands being thus shut up, and the art of working them lost, the British enjoy the monopoly of exporting coal to Holland. And it is likely to be a very beneficial monopoly. The Dutch turf is wearing out. The woods are cut down every where near the sea; and the expence of carrying wood for fewel from a distance, turns greater and greater every day.14
The duty on coal water-born is an instance of the fifth kind. A great obstruction it is to many useful manufactures that require coal; and indeed to manufactures in general, by increasing the expence of coal, an essential article in a cold country. Nay, one would imagine, that it has been intended to check population; as poor wretches benummed with cold, have little of the carnal appetite. It has not even the merit of adding much to the public revenue; for, laying aside London, it produces but a mere trifle. But the peculiarity of this tax, which entitles it to a conspicuous place in the fifth class, is, that it is not less detrimental to the public revenue, than to individuals. No sedentary art nor occupation, can succeed in a cold climate without plenty of fewel. One may at the first glance distinguish the coal-countries from the rest of England, by the industry of the inhabitants, and by plenty of manufacturing towns and villages. Where there is scarcity of fewel, some hours are lost every morning; because people cannot work till the place be sufficiently warmed, which is especially the case in manufactures that require a soft and delicate finger. Now, in many parts of Britain that might be provided with coal by water, the labouring poor are deprived of that comfort by the tax. Had cheap firing encouraged these people to prosecute arts and manufactures, it is more than probable, that at this day they would be contributing to the public revenue by other duties, much greater sums than are drawn from them by the duty on coal. At the same time, if coal must pay a duty, why not at the pit, where it is cheapest? Is it not an egregious blunder, to lay a great duty on those who pay a high price for coal, and no duty on those who have it cheap? If there must be a coal-duty, let water-born coal at any rate be exempted; not only because even without duty it comes dear to the consumer, but also for the encouragement of seamen. For the honour of Britain this duty ought to be expunged from our statute-book, never again to show its face. Great reason indeed there is for continuing the duty on coal consumed in London; because every artifice should be practised, to prevent the increase of a capital, that is already too large for this or for any other kingdom. Towns are unhealthy in proportion to their size; and a great town, like London, is a greater enemy to population than war or famine.
Taxes for advancing Industry and Commerce.15
Of all sciences, that of politics is the most intricate; and its progress toward maturity is slow in proportion. In the present section, taxes on exportation of native commodities take the lead; and nothing can set in a stronger light the gross ignorance of former ages, than a maxim universally adopted, That to tax exportation, or to prohibit it altogether, is the best means for having plenty at home. In Scotland, we were not satisfied with prohibiting the exportation of corn, of fish, and of horses: the prohibition was extended to manufactures, linen cloth, candle, butter, cheese, barked hides, shoes (a) .*
Duties on exportation are in great favour, from a notion that they are paid by foreigners. This holds sometimes, as in the above mentioned case of coal exported to Holland: but it fails in every case where the foreign market can be supplied by others; for, whatever be the duty, the merchant must regulate his price by the market. And, even supposing the market-price at present to be sufficient for the duty, with a reasonable profit to the exporter; those who pay no duty will strain every nerve of rivalship, till they cut us out by low prices. The duty on French wine exported from France, is in effect a bounty to the wines of neighbouring countries. The duty is unskilfully imposed, being the same upon all wines exported, without regard to flavour or strength; which bars the commerce of small wines, tho’ they far exceed the strong in quantity. A moderate duty on exportation, such as small wines can bear, would add a greater sum to the revenue, and also be more beneficial to commerce. To improve the commerce of wine in France, the exportation ought to be free, or at most charged with a moderate duty ad valorem. In Spain an excessive duty is laid upon the plant barrile when exported; from an opinion, that it will not grow in any other country. It is not considered, that this tax, by lessening the demand, is a discouragement to its culture. A moderate duty would raise more money to the public, would employ more hands, and would make that plant a permanent article of commerce. The excessive duty has set invention at work, for some material in place of that plant. If such a material shall be discovered, the Spanish ministry will be convinced of a salutary maxim, That it is not always safe to interrupt by high duties the free course of commerce. Formerly in Britain, the exportation of manufactured copper was prohibited. That blunder in commercial politics was corrected by a statute in the reign of King William, permitting such copper to be exported, on paying a duty of four shillings the hundred weight. The exportation ought to have been declared free; which was done by a statute of Queen Anne. But, as the heat of improvement tends naturally to excess, this statute permits even unwrought copper, a raw material, to be exported. This probably was done to favour copper-mines: but did it not also favour foreign copper-manufactures? Goods and merchandise of the product or manufacture of Great Britain, may be exported duty-free (a) . A few years ago, the East India Company procured an act of parliament, prohibiting the exportation of cannon to the East Indies; which was very short sighted: the Dutch and Danes purchase cannon here, of which they make a profitable trade by exporting them to the East Indies. A cannon is purchased in Scotland for about L. 14 per ton, and sold to the Nabobs of Hindostan for between L. 50 and L. 70 per ton. And the only effect of the act of parliament, is to cut the British out of that profitable branch of commerce.16 Allum, lead, and some other commodities specified in the statute, are excepted; and a duty formerly paid on exportation is continued, for encouraging such of our own manufactures as employ any of the articles specified. In Ireland, to this day, goods exported are loaded with a high duty, without even distinguishing made work from raw materials; corn, for example, fish, hops, butter, horned cattle, wrought iron, leather and every thing made of it, &c. &c. And, that nothing may escape, all goods exported that are not contained in the book of rates, pay five per cent. ad valorem.
When Sully entered on the administra-tion of the French finances, corn in France was at an exorbitant price, occasioned by neglect of husbandry during the civil war. That sagacious minister discovered the secret of re-establishing agriculture, and of reducing the price of corn, which is, to allow a free exportation. So rapid was the success of that bold but politic measure, that in a few years France became the granary of Europe; and, what at present may appear wonderful, we find in the English records, anno 1621, bitter complaints of the French underselling them in their own markets. Colbert, who, fortunately for us, had imbibed the common error, renewed the ancient prohibition of exporting corn, hoping to have it cheap at home for his manufacturers. But he was in a gross mistake; for that prohibition has been the chief cause of many famines in France since that time. The corn-trade in France, by that means, lay long under great discouragements; and the French ministry continued long blind to the interest of their country. At last, edicts were issued, authorising the commerce of corn to be absolutely free, whether sold within the kingdom or exported. The generality, however, continued blind. In the year 1768, the badness of the harvest having occasioned a famine, the distresses of the people were excessive, and their complaints universal. Overlooking altogether the bad harvest, they attributed their misery to the new law. It was in vain urged, that freedom in the corn-trade encourages acriculture: the popular opinion was adopted, even by most of the parliaments: so difficult it is to eradicate established prejudices. In Turky, about thirty years ago, a grand vizir permitted corn to be exported more freely than had been done formerly, a bushel of wheat being sold at that time under seventeen pence. Every nation flocked to Turky for corn; and, in particular, no fewer than three hundred French vessels, from twenty to two hundred tons, entered Smyrna bay in one day. The Janissaries and populace took the alarm, fearing that all the corn would be exported, and that a famine would ensue. In Constantinople they grew mutinous, and were not appeased till the vizir was strangled, and his body thrown out to them. His successor, cautious of splitting on the same rock, prohibited exportation absolutely. In that country, rent is paid in proportion to the product; and the farmers, who saw no demand, neglected tillage. In less than three years, the bushel of wheat rose to six shillings; and the distresses of the people became intolerable. To this day, the fate of the good visir is lamented.
We have improved upon Sully’s discovery, by a bounty on corn exported, which has answered our most sanguine expectations. A great increase of gold and silver subsequent to the said bounty, which has raised the price of many other commodities, must have also raised that of corn, had not a still greater increase of corn, occasioned by the bounty, reduced its price even below what it was formerly; and, by that means, our manufactures have profited by the bounty, no less than our husbandry. The bounty is still more important in another respect: our wheat can be afforded in the French markets cheaper than their own; by which agriculture in France is in a languishing state. And it is in our power, during a war, to dash all the French schemes for conquest, by depriving them of bread.* This bounty, therefore, is our palladium, which we ought religiously to guard, if we would avoid being a province of France. Some sage politicians have begun of late to mutter against it, as feeding our rival manufacturers cheaper than our own; which is doubtful, as the expence of exportation commonly equals the bounty. But, supposing it true, will the evil be remedied by withdrawing the bounty? On the contrary, it will discourage manufacturers, by raising the price of wheat at home. It will beside encourage French husbandry, so as in all probability to reduce the price of their wheat below what we afford it to them. In France, labour is cheaper than in England, the people are more frugal, they possess a better soil and climate: what have we to balance these signal advantages but our bounty? and were that bounty withdrawn, I should not be surprised to see French corn poured in upon us, at a lower price than it can be furnished at home; the very evil that was felt during Sully’s administration.*
The exportation of British manufactures to our American colonies, ought to meet with such encouragement as to prevent them from rivalling us: it would be a gross blunder to encourage their manufactures, by imposing a duty on what we export to them. We ought rather to give a bounty on exportation; which, by underselling them in their own markets, would quash every attempt to rivalship.
As the duty on foreign linen imported into Britain is drawn back when exported to America, our legislature gave a bounty on our coarse linen exported to that country, which enables us to cope with the Germans in the American markets. The staining or printing linen cloth has of late become a considerable article in the ma-nufactures of Britain: and there is no sort of linen more proper for that manufacture than our own. The duty of foreign linen is drawn back when exported to America, whether plain or stamped: and, as we lose the bounty on our coarse linen when stamped, none but foreign linen is employed in the stamping manufacture. This is an oversight, such as our legislature is guilty of sometimes.†
It is not always true policy to discourage the exportation of our own rude materials: liberty of exportation gives an encouragement to produce them in greater plenty at home; which consequently low-ers the price to our manufacturers. Upon that principle, the exporting corn is permitted, and in Britain even encouraged with a bounty. But, where exportation of a rude material will not increase its quantity, the prohibition is good policy. For example, the exporting of rags for paper may be prohibited; because liberty of exporting will not occasion one yard more of linen cloth to be consumed.
Lyons is the city of Europe where the greatest quantity of silk stuffs is made: it is at the same time the greatest staple of raw silk; the silk of Italy, of Spain, of the Levant, and of the south of France, being there collected. The exportation of raw silk is prohibited in France, with a view to lessen its price at home, and to obstruct the silk manufacture among foreigners. The first is a gross error; the prohibition of exportation producing scarcity, not plenty: and, with respect to the other view, it seems to have been overlooked, that the commerce of the silks of Italy, of Spain, and of the Levant, is open to all trading nations. This prohibition is indeed so injudicious, that, without any benefit to France, it has done irreparable mischief to the city of Lyons: while the commerce of raw silk, both buying and selling, was monopolized by the merchants of that city, they had it in their power to regulate the price; but to compel foreigners to go to the fountain-head, not only raises the price by concurrence of purchasers, but deprives Lyons of a lucrative monopoly. The same blunder is repeated with respect to raw silk spun and dyed. In Lyons, silk is prepared for the loom with more art than any where else; and, to secure the silk manufacture, the exportation of spun silk is prohibited; which must rouse foreigners to bestow their utmost attention upon improving the spinning and dressing of silk: and who knows whether reiterated trials by persons of genius may not, in England, for example, bring these branches of the manufacture to greater perfection than they are even in Lyons?
Whether we have not committed a blunder of the same kind in prohibiting exportation of our wool, is a very serious question, which I proceed to examine. A spirit for husbandry, and for every sort of improvement, is in France turning more and more general. In several provinces there are societies, who have command of public money for promoting agriculture; and about no other article are these societies more solicitous, than about improving their wool. A book lately published in Sweden, and translated into French, has inspired them with sanguine hopes of success; as it contains an account of the Swedish wool being greatly improved in quality, as well as in quantity, by importing Spanish and English sheep for breed. Now, as France is an extensive country, situated between Spain and England, two excellent wool countries, it would be strange, if there should not be found a single corner in all France that can produce good wool. Britain may be justly apprehensive of these attempts; for, if France can cope with us under the disadvantage of procuring our wool by smuggling, how far will they exceed us with good wool of their own! The woollen cloth of England has always been esteemed its capital manufacture; and patriotism calls on every one to prevent, if possible, the loss of that valuable branch. Till something better be discovered, I venture to propose what at first may be thought a strange measure; and that is, to permit the exportation of our wool upon a moderate duty, such as will raise the price to the French, but not such as to encourage smuggling. The opportunity of procuring wool in the neighbourhood at a moderate price, joined with several unsuccessful attempts to improve their own wool, would soon make the French abandon thoughts of that improvement.
Experience has unfolded the advantages of liberty to export corn: that liberty has greatly encouraged agriculture, and, by increasing the quantity of corn, has made it even cheaper at home than formerly. Have we not reason to expect a similar consequence, from the same measure, with respect to wool? A new vent for that commodity would improve the breed of our sheep, increase their number, meliorate the land by their dung, and probably bring down the price of our wool at home. It would be proper indeed to prohibit the exportation of wool, as of corn, when the price rises above a certain sum. This measure would give us the command of that valuable commodity: it would secure plenty to ourselves, and distress our rivals, at critical times, when the commodity is scarce.
There is one reason that should influence our legislature to permit the exportation of wool, even supposing the foregoing arguments to be inconclusive: very long experience may teach us, if we can be taught by experience, that vain are our endeavours to prevent wool from being exported: it holds true with respect to all prohibitions, that smuggling will always prevail, where the profit rises above the risk. Why not then make a virtue of necessity, by permitting exportation under a duty? The sum yearly expended for preventing the exportation of wool is above L. 20,000. The fourth part of that sum would be sufficient to make effectual a moderate duty.17 Let the remainder, with the duty, be applied as a premium for exporting our woollen manufactures: such a premium would make them flourish more than ever. Were that measure adopted, the liberty of exporting wool would prove a singular blessing to England.
I close this branch with a commercial lesson, to which every other consideration ought to yield. The trade of a nation depends, for the most part, on very delicate circumstances, and requires to be carefully nursed. Foreigners, in particular, ought to be flattered and encouraged, that they may prefer us before others. Nor ought we ever to rely entirely on our natural advantages; for it is not easy to foresee what may occur to overbalance them. As this reflection is no less obvious than weighty, facts will be more effectual than argument for making a deep impression. Before the time of the famous Colbert, Holland was the chief market for French manufactures. That minister, in order to monopolize every article of commerce, laid a high duty on Dutch goods brought into France. The Dutch, resenting this measure, prohibited totally some French manufactures, and laid a high duty on others; which had the effect to encourage these manufactures at home. The revocation of the edict of Nantz, drove a vast number of French manufacturers into Holland; and perfected various manufactures formerly brought from France. In a word, this measure intended by Colbert to turn the balance of trade entirely on the side of his country, had the effect of turning it more for the Dutch than formerly.18 The Swiss, some years ago, imported all their wines from the King of Sardinia’s dominions. The King laid a high duty on these wines, knowing that the Swiss had not ready access to any other wine-country. He did not foresee, that this high duty was equal to a premium for cultivating the vine at home. They succeeded; and now are provided with wine of their own growth. The city of Lyons, by making silver-thread in perfection, had maintained a monopoly of that article against foreigners, as well as natives. But a high duty on its exportation, in order to monopolize also the manufacture of silver-lace, will probably excite foreigners to improve their own silver-thread and silver-lace; and France will be deprived of both monopolies, by the very means employed for securing both. English goods, purchased by Spaniards for the American market, pay to the King of Spain on exportation a duty equal to their value. This impolitic measure opens a wide door to smuggling; as English goods can be furnished 50 per cent. cheaper from Jamaica. The Spanish go-vernor of Mexico joins under-hand in the smuggling; which is commonly carried on in the following manner. The governor, to whom early notice is given, gives notice to others by a proclamation, that a foreign ship, with English goods on board, every article being specified, is hovering on the coast; and prohibiting, under severe penalties, any person to be a purchaser, that public proclamation has the desired effect: all flock to the shore, and purchase in perfect tranquility.
Beside heavy duties, commerce with foreigners has been distressed by many unwary regulations. The herring-fishery, which is now an article of immense commerce, was ingrossed originally by the Scots. But, grasping at all advantages, the royal boroughs of Scotland, in the reign of the second James, prohibited their fishermen to sell herrings at sea to foreigners; ordering, that they should be first landed, in order that they themselves might be first provided. Such was the policy of those times. But behold the consequence. The Netherlanders and people of the Hanse towns, being prohibited to purchase as formerly, became fishers themselves, and cut the Scots out of that profitable branch of trade. The tar-company of Sweden, taking it for granted that the English could not be otherwise supplied, refused to let them have any pitch or tar, even for ready money, unless permitted to be imported into England in Swedish bottoms; and consequently in such quantities only as the company should be pleased to furnish. This hardship moved the parliament to give a bounty for pitch and tar made in our own colonies. And, if we be not already, we shall soon be altogether independent of Sweden. The Dutch, excited by the profitable trade of Portugal with the East Indies, attempted a northeast passage to China; and that proving abortive, they set on foot a trade with Lisbon for East-India commodities. Portugal was at that time subject to the King of Spain; and the Dutch, though at war with Spain, did not doubt of their being well received in Portugal, with which kingdom they had no cause of quarrel. But the King of Spain, overlooking not only the law of nations, but even his own interest as King of Portugal, confiscated at short-hand the Dutch ships and their car-goes, in the harbour of Lisbon. That unjust and impolitic treatment provoked the Dutch to attempt an East-India trade, which probably they would not otherwise have thought of; and they were so successful, as to supplant the Portuguese in every quarter. Thus the King of Spain, by a gross error in policy, exalted his enemies to be a powerful maritime state. Had he encouraged the Dutch to trade with Lisbon, other nations must have resorted to the same market. Portugal would have been raised to such a height of maritime power as to be afraid of no rival: the Dutch would not have thought of coping with it, nor would any other nation.
We proceed to foreign commodities. The measures laid down for regulating their importation, have different views. One is, to keep down a rival power; in which view, it is prudent to prohibit importation from one country, and to encourage it from another. It is judicious in the British legislature to load French wines with a higher duty than those of Portugal; and in France it would be a proper measure to prefer the beef of Holstein, or of Russia, before that of Ireland; and the tobacco of the Ukraine or of the Palatinate, before that of Virginia. But such measures of government ought to be sparingly exercised, for fear of retaliation.
There is no cause more cogent for regulating importation, than an unfavourable balance, by permitting French goods to be imported free of duty, the balance against England was computed to be a million Sterling yearly. In the year 1678, that importation was regulated; which, with a prohibition of wearing East-India manufactures, did in twenty years turn the balance of trade in favour of England.
Most of the British regulations concerning goods imported, are contrived for promoting our own manufactures, or those of our Colonies. A statute, 3° Edward IV. cap. 4. entitled, “Certain merchandises not lawful to be brought ready wrought into the kingdom,” contains a large list of such merchandises; indicating the good sense of the English in an early period, intent on promoting their own manufactures. To favour a new manufacture of our own, it is proper to lay a duty on the same manufacture imported. To encourage the art of throwing silk, the duty on raw silk imported is reduced, and that on thrown silk is heightened. But such a measure ought to be taken with precaution, lest it recoil against ourselves. The Swedes, some years ago, intent on raising manufactures at home, prohibited at once foreign manufactures, without due preparation. Smuggling ensued; for people must import what they cannot find at home; and the home manufactures were not benefited. But the consequences were still more severe. Foreign manufactures were formerly purchased with their copper, iron, timber, pitch, tar, &c.: but now, as foreigners cannot procure these commodities but with ready money, they resort to Russia and Norway, where commodities of the same kind are procured by barter. The Swedish government, perceiving their error, permit several foreign manufactures to be imported as formerly. But it is now too late; for the trade flows into another channel: and at present, the Swedish copper and iron works are far from flourishing as they once did. In the year 1768, an ordinance was issued by the court of Spain, prohibiting printed or painted linen and cotton to be imported; intended for encouraging a manufacture of printed cottons projected in Catalonia and Arragon. The Spanish ministry have been ever singularly unlucky in their commercial regulations. It is easy to foresee, that such a prohibition will have no effect, but to raise the price on the subjects of Spain; for the prohibited goods will be smuggled, discouraging as much as ever the intended manufacture. The prudent measure would have been, to lay a duty upon printed cottons and linens imported, so small as not to encourage smuggling; and to apply that duty for nursing the infant manufacture. A foreign manufacture ought never to be totally prohibited, till that at home be in such plenty, as nearly to supply the wants of the natives. During ignorance of political principles, a new manufacture was commonly encouraged with an exclusive privilege for a certain number of years. Thus in Scotland, an exclusive privilege of exporting woollen and linen manufactures, was given to some private societies (a) . Such a monopoly is ruinous to a nation; and frequently to the manufacture itself (b) . I know no monopoly that in sound policy can be justified, except that given to authors of books for fourteen years by an act of Queen Anne.* Exemption from duty, premiums to the best workmen, a bounty on exportation, joined with a duty on goods of the same kind imported, and at last a total prohibition, are the proper encouragements to a new manufacture.
The importation of raw materials ought to be encouraged in every manufacturing country, permitting only a moderate duty for encouraging our own rude materials of the same kind. By a French edict 1654, for encouraging ship-building, ship-timber imported pays no duty. But perhaps a moderate duty would have been better, in order to encourage such timber of the growth of France. Deal timber accordingly, and other timber, imported into Britain from any part of Europe, Ireland excepted, pays a moderate duty. And oak-bark imported pays a duty, which is an encouragement to propagate oak at home. The importation of lean cattle from Ireland, which in effect are raw materials, is, by a statute of Charles II. declared a public nuisance. What gross ignorance! Is it not evident, that, to feed cattle, is more profitable than to breed them? The chief promoter of that notable statute was Sir John Knight, famous, or rather infamous, for an insolent speech in King William’s reign against naturalizing foreign Protestants, and proposing to kick out of the kingdom those already settled. Experience hath made evident the advantage of importing lean cattle into England; witness the vast quantities imported yearly from Scotland. Diamonds, pearls, and jewels of every kind, paid formerly, upon importation, a duty of ten per cent. ad valorem; which, by act 6° George II. cap. 7. was taken off, upon the following preamble, “That London is now become a great mart for diamonds and other precious stones, from whence most foreign countries are supplied; that great numbers of rough diamonds are sent here to be cut and polished; and that a free importation would increase the trade.”
Sorry I am to observe, that several of our duties on importation are far from being conformable to the foregoing rule; many raw materials necessary for our manufactures being loaded with a duty on importation, and some with a heavy duty. Barilla, for example, is a raw material used in the glass-manufacture: the exportation from Spain is loaded with a very high duty: and to raise the price still higher, we add a duty on importation; without having the pretext of encouraging a raw material of our own growth, for barilla grows not in this island. Hair is a raw material employed in several manufactures; and yet every kind of it, human hair, horse hair, goat’s hair, &c. pays a duty on importation; which consequently raises the price of our own hair, as well as of what is imported. Nor has this duty, more than the former, the pretext of being an encouragement to our own product; for surely there will not on that account be reared one child more, or foal, or kid. The same objection lies against the duty on foreign kelp, which is very high. Rancid oil of olives, fit for soap and woollen manufactures, pays upon importation a high duty: were it free of duty, we should be able to serve ourselves with Castile soap of home manufacture; and likewise our colonies, which are partly supplied by the French. Each of the following raw materials ought in sound policy to be free of duty on importation; and yet they are loaded with a duty, some with a high duty; pot-ashes, elephant’s teeth, raw-silk from the East Indies, lamp-black, bristles dressed or undressed, horns of beeves. Undressed skins, though a rude material, pay a duty on importation; and French kid-skins are honoured above others with a high duty: to reject a great benefit to ourselves rather than afford a small benefit to a rival nation, savours more of peevishness than of prudence.
For encouraging our colonies, coffee is permitted to be imported from the plantations free of duty, while other coffee pays sixpence per pound. The heavy duty on whale-bone and whale-oil imported, which was laid on for encouraging our own whale-fishing, is taken off with respect to the importation from our American colonies (a) . This may put an end to our own whale-fishery: but it will enable the Americans to cope with the Dutch; and who knows whether they may not at last prevail? For encouraging the culture of hemp and flax in America, there is a bounty given upon what is imported into Britain. One would imagine, that our legislature intended to enable the colonies to rival us in a staple manufacture, contrary to the fundamental principle of colonization. But we did not see so far: we only foresaw a benefit to Britain, in being supplied with hemp and flax from our colonies, rather than from Russia and the Low Countries. But, even abstracting from rivalship, was it not obvious, that a bounty for encouraging the culture of hemp and flax at home, would be more successful, than for encouraging the culture in America, where the price of labour is excessively high, not to talk of the freight?*
The encouragement given to foreign linen-yarn, by taking off the duty on importation, is a measure that greatly concerns Britain; and how far salutary, shall be strictly examined, after stating some preliminary observations. The first is, That our own commodities will never draw a greater price in a market, than imported commodities of the same goodness. Therefore, the price of imported linen, must regulate the price of home-made linen. The next is, That though the duty on importation is paid by the merchant at the first instance, he relieves himself of it, by raising the price on the purchaser; which of course raises the price of the same sort of goods made at home; and accordingly a duty on importation is in effect a bounty to our own manufacturers. A third observation is, That the market-price of our linen-cloth ought to be divided between the spinner and the weaver, in such proportion as to afford bread to both. If the yarn be too high, the weaver is undone: if too low, the spinner is undone. This was not attended to, when, for encouraging our spinners, a duty of three pence was laid on every pound of imported linen-yarn; which had the effect to raise the price of our own yarn beyond what the weaver could afford. This mystery being unvailed, the duty was first lowered to two pence, and then to a penny: our spinners had tolerable bread, and our weavers were not oppressed with paying too high a price for yarn.
Some patriotic gentlemen, who had more zeal than knowledge, finding the linen-manufacture benefited by the several reductions of the duty, rashly concluded, that it would be still more benefited by a total abolition of the duty. The penny accordingly was taken off (a) , and linen yarn was permitted to be imported duty free. Had matters continued as at the date of the act, this impolitic measure would have left us not a single spinner by profession; because it would have reduced the price of our yarn below what could afford bread to them. Lucky it has been for our linen-manufacture, that the German war,19 which soon followed, suspended all their manufactures, and spinning in particular; which proved to us a favourable opportunity for diffusing widely the art of spinning, and for making our spin-ners more and more dextrous. And yet, now that the war is at an end, it is far from being certain, that our yarn can be afforded as cheap as what is imported from Silesia. We have good authority for asserting, that the English spinners have suffered by that statute: from the books of many parishes it appears, that soon after the statute, a number of women, who had lived by spinning, became a burden upon the parish. One thing is evident, that as spinning is the occupation of females who cannot otherwise be so usefully employed, and as more hands are required for spinning than for weaving, the former is the more valuable branch of the manufacture. Very little attention however seems to have been given to that branch, in passing the act under consideration. Why was it not inquired into, whether the intended reduction of the price of yarn, would leave bread to the British spinner? The result of that inquiry would have been fatal to the intended act; for it would have been clearly seen, that the Scotch spinner could not make bread by her work, far less the English. Other particulars ought also to have been suggested to the legislature; that flax-spinning is of all occupations the fittest for women of a certain class, confined within small houses; that a flax-wheel requires less space than a wheel for wool; and that the toughness of British flax makes it excel for sail-cloth, dowlas, ticking, and sheeting. The British spinner might, in a British statute, have expected the cast of the scale, had it been but a halfpenny per pound on importation.
At the same time, it is a national reproach that there should be any inconsistency in our commercial regulations, when the wisest heads of the nation are employed about them. Flax rough or undressed, being a rude material, is imported duty-free, but dressed flax pays a high duty; both of them calculated for encouraging our own manufacturers. Behold now a glaring inconsistency: though dressed flax, for the reason given, pays a high duty; yet when by additional labour it is converted into yarn, it pays no duty. Further, foreign yarn is not only made welcome duty-free, but even receives a bounty when converted into linen, and exported to our plantations. What absurdities are here! Have we no reason to be afraid, that such indulgence to foreign yarn will deprive us of foreign rough flax? The difference of bulk and freight will determine the Germans to send us nothing but their yarn, and equally determine our importers to commission that commodity only.
Goods imported, if subjected to a duty, are generally of the best kind; because the duty bears a less proportion to such than to meaner sorts. The best French wines are imported into Britain, where the duty is higher than in any other country. For that reason, the best linen-yarn was imported while the duty subsisted; but now the German yarn is sorted into different kinds, of which the worst is reserved for the English market.
Regulations concerning the exportation of commodities formerly imported, come next in order. And for encouraging such exportation, one method practised with success, is, to restore to the merchant the whole or part of the duty paid at importation; which is termed a drawback. This in particular is done with respect to tobacco the product of our own colonies; which by that means can be afforded to foreigners at two pence halfpenny per pound, when the price at home is eight pence halfpenny. By this regulation, luxury is repressed at home, and at the same time our colonies are encouraged. But by an omission in the act of parliament, a drawback is only given for raw tobacco; which bars the exportation of snuff or manufactured tobacco, as foreigners can undersell us five-and-thirty per cent. Tobacco being an article of luxury, it was well judged to lay a heavier duty on what is consumed at home, than on what is exported. Upon the same principle, the duty that is paid on the importation of coffee and cocoa from our American plantations, is wholly drawn back when exported (a) . But as China earthen ware is not entitled to any encouragement from us, and as it is an article of luxury, it gets no drawback even when exported to America (a) . The exporter of rice from Britain, first imported from America, is entitled to draw back but half the duty paid on importation. Rice imported duty-free might rival our wheat-crop. But the whole duty ought to be drawn back on exportation: it ought to be afforded to our neighbours at the lowest rate, partly to rival their wheat-crop, and partly to encourage our rice-colonies.
Tobacco is an article of luxury; and it is well ordered, that it should come dearer to us than to foreigners. But every wise administration will take the opposite side, with respect to articles that concern our manufactures. Quicksilver pays upon importation a duty of about 8 d. per pound; 7 d. of which is drawn back upon exportation. The intention of the drawback was to encourage the commerce of quicksilver; without adverting, that to af-ford quicksilver to foreign manufacturers cheaper than to our own, is a gross blunder in commercial politics. Again, when quicksilver is manufactured into vermilion or sublimate, no drawback is allowed; which effectually bars their exportation: we ought to be ashamed of such a regulation. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, dyers were prohibited to use logwood, which was ordered to be openly burnt. But the English dyers having acquired the art of fixing colours made of logwood, it was permitted to be imported (b) , every ton paying on importation L. 5; L. 4 of which was to be drawn back upon exportation. That law, made in the days of ignorance, was intended to encourage the commerce of logwood; and had that effect: but the blunder of discouraging our own manufactures, by furnishing logwood cheaper to our rivals, was overlooked. Both articles were put upon a better footing (c) , giving a greater encouragement to the commerce of logwood, by allowing it to be imported duty-free; and by giving an advantage to our own manufactures, by laying a duty of 40 s. upon every hundred weight exported. Lastly, Still more to encourage the commerce of logwood (d) , the duty upon exportation is discontinued. It will have the effect proposed: but will not that benefit be more than balanced by the encouragement it gives to foreign manufactures? By the late peace,20 we have obtained the monopoly of gum-senega; and proper measures have been taken for turning it to the best account: the exportation from Africa is confined to Great Britain; and the duty on importation is only six pence per hundred weight: but the duty on exportation from Britain is thirty shillings per hundred weight (a) ; which, with freight, commission, and insurance, makes it come dear to foreigners. Formerly, every beaver’s skin paid upon importation seven pence of duty; and the exporter received a drawback of four pence; as if it had been the purpose of the legislature, to make our own people pay more for that useful commodity than foreigners. Upon obtaining a monopoly of beaver-skins by the late peace, that absurd regulation was altered: a penny per skin of duty is laid on importation, and seven pence on exportation (b) . By that means beaver-skins are cheaper here than in any other country of Europe. A similar regulation is established with respect to gum-arabic. A hundred weight pays on importation six pence, and on exportation L. 1, 10 s. (c) . As the foregoing articles are used in various manufactures, their cheapness in Britain, by means of these regulations, will probably balance the high price of labour, so as to keep open to us the foreign market.
James I. of England issued a proclamation, prohibiting the exportation of gold and silver whether in coin or plate, of goldsmith’s work, or of bullion. Not to mention the unconstitutional step of an English King usurping the legislative power, it was a glaring absurdity to prohibit manufactured work from being exported. Gold and silver, coined or uncoined, are to this day prohibited to be exported from France; a ridiculous prohibition: a merchant will never willingly export gold and silver; but if the balance be against him, the exportation is unavoidable. The only effect of the prohibition is, to swell the merchant’s debt; for he must bribe a smuggler to undertake the exportation. It is still more absurd that in Spain, which has the command of more silver mines than any other nation, silver is prohibited to be exported under the pain of death. Necessity forces it to be exported; and the absurdity of the prohibition prevails to make it be exported even in open day.21
A French author remarks, that in no country are commercial regulations better contrived than in Britain; and instances the following particulars. 1st, Foreign commodities, such as may rival their own, are prohibited, or burdened with duties. 2d, Their manufactures are encouraged by a free exportation. 3d, Raw materials which cannot be produced at home, cochineal, for example, indigo, &c. are imported free of duty. 4th, Raw materials of their own growth, such as wool, fuller’s earth, &c. are prohibited to be exported. 5th, Every commodity has a free course through the kingdom, without duty. And lastly, Duties paid on importation, are repaid on exportation. This remark is for the most part well founded: and yet the facts above set forth will not permit us to say, that the English commercial laws have as yet arrived at perfection.
Having thus gone through the several articles that enter into the present sketch, I shall close with some general reflections. The management of the finances is a most important branch of government; and no less delicate than important. Taxes may be so contrived as to promote in a high degree the prosperity of a state; and unless well contrived, they may do much mischief. The latter, by rendering the sovereign odious and the people miserable, effectually eradicate patriotism: no other cause is more fruitful of rebellion; and no other cause reduces a country to be a more easy prey to an invader. To that cause were the Mahometans chiefly indebted for their conquest of the Greek empire. The people were glad to change their master; because, instead of multiplied, intricate, and vexatious duties, they found themselves subjected to a simple tribute, easily collected, and easily paid. Had the art of oppressive taxes been known to the Romans, when the utmost perfidy and cruelty were practised against the Carthaginians, to make them abandon their city, the sober method of high duties on exportation and importation- would have been chosen. This method, beside gratifying Roman avarice, would infallibly have ruined Carthage.22
From the union of the different Spanish kingdoms under one monarch, there was reason to expect an exertion of spirit, similar to that of the Romans when peace was restored under Augustus. Spain was at that period the most potent kingdom in Europe, or perhaps in the world; and yet, instead of flourishing in that advantageous condition, it was by oppressive taxes reduced to poverty and depopulation. The political history of that kingdom with respect to its finances, ought to be kept in perpetual remembrance; that kings, and their ministers, may shun the destructive rock upon which Spain hath been wrecked. The cortes of Spain had once as extensive powers as ever were enjoyed by an English parliament; but at the time of the union their power being sunk to a shadow, the king and his ministers governed without much control. Britain cannot be too thankful to Providence for her parliament. From the history of every modern European nation, an instructive lesson may be gathered, that the three estates, or in our language a parliament, are the only proper check to the ignorance and rapacity of ministers. The fertility of the Spanish soil is well known. Notwithstanding frequent droughts to which it is liable, it would produce greatly with diligent culture; and in fact, during the time of the Roman domination, produced corn sufficient for its numerous inhabitants, and a great surplus, which was annually exported to Italy. During the domination of the Moors, Arabian authors agree, that Spain was extremely populous. An author of that nation, who wrote in the tenth century, reports, that in his time there were in Spain 80 capital cities, 300 of the second and third orders, beside villages so frequent, that one could not go a mile without meeting one or more of them. In Cordova alone, the capital of the Moorish empire, he reckons 200,000 houses,* 600 mosques, and 900 public baths. In the eleventh century, another author mentions no fewer than 12,000 villages in the plain of Seville. High must have been the perfection of agriculture in Spain, when it could feed such multitudes. What was the extent of their internal commerce, is not recorded; but all authors agree, that their foreign commerce was immense. Beside many articles of smaller value, they exported raw silk, oil, sugar, a sort of cochineal, quicksilver, iron wrought and unwrought, manufactures of silk, of wool, &c. The annual revenue of Abdoulrahman III. one of the Spanish califs, was in money 12,045,000 dinares, above five millions Sterling, beside large quantities of corn, wine, oil, and other fruits. That prince’s revenue must indeed have been immense, to supply the sums expended by him. Beside the annual charges of government, fleets, and armies, he laid out great sums on his private amusements. Though engaged continually in war, he had money to spare for building a new town three miles from Cordova, named Zehra after his favourite mistress. In that town he erected a magnificent palace, sufficiently capacious for his whole seraglio of 6300 persons. There were in it 1400 columns of African and Spanish marble, 19 of Italian marble, and 140 of the finest kind, a present from the Greek Emperor. In the middle of the great saloon, were many images of birds and beasts in pure gold adorned with precious stones, pouring water into a large marble bason. That prince must have had immense stables for horses, when he entertained for his constant guard no fewer than 12,000 horsemen, having sabres and belts enriched with gold. Upon the city of Zehra alone, including the palace and gardens, were expended annually 300,000 dinares, which make above L. 100,000 Sterling; and it required twenty-five years to complete these works.*
The great fertility of the soil, the industry of the Moors, and their advantage-ous situation for trade, carried on the prosperity of Spain down to the time that they were subdued by Ferdinand of Aragon. Of this we have undoubted evidence, from the condition of Spain in the days of Charles V. and of his son Philip, being esteemed at that period the richest country in the universe. We have the authority of Ustariz, that the town of Seville, in the period mentioned, contained 60,000 silk looms. During the sixteenth century, the woollen cloth of Segovia was esteemed the finest in Europe; and that of Catalonia long maintained its preference in the Levant, in Italy, and in the adjacent islands. In a memorial addressed to the second Philip, Louis Valle de la Cerda reports, that in the fair of Medina he had negotiated bills of exchange to the extent of one hundred and fifty-five millions of crowns; and in Spain at that time there were several other fairs, no less frequented.
The expulsion of the Moors deprived Spain of six or seven hundred thousand frugal and industrious inhabitants; a wound that touched its vitals, but not mortal: tender care, with proper remedies, would have restored Spain to its former vigour. But unhappily for that kingdom, its political physicians were not skilled in the method of cure: instead of applying healing medicines, they enflamed the disease, and rendered it incurable. The ministry, instigated by the clergy, had prevailed on the King to banish the Moors. Dreading loss of favour if the King’s revenues should fall, they were forced in self-defence to heighten the taxes upon the remaining inhabitants. And what could be expected from that fatal measure, but utter ruin; when the poor Christians, who were too proud to be industrious, had scarce been able to crawl under the load of former taxes?
But a matter that affords a lesson so instructive, merits a more particular detail. The extensive plantations of sugar in the kingdom of Granada, were, upon the oc-casion mentioned, deeply taxed, so as that the duty amounted to 36 per cent. of the value. This branch of husbandry, which could not fail to languish under such oppression, was in a deep consumption when the first American sugars were imported into Europe, and was totally extinguished by the lower price of these sugars. Spain once enjoyed a most extensive commerce of spirits manufactured at home, perhaps more extensive than France does at present. But two causes concurred to ruin that manufacture; first, oppressive taxes; and next, a prohibition to the manufacturer, of vending his spirits to any but to the farmers of the revenue. Could more effectual means be invented to destroy the manufacture, root and branch? Spanish salt is superior in quality to that of Portugal, and still more to that of France: when refined in Holland, it produces 10 per cent. more than the former, and 20 per cent. more than the latter; and the making of salt, requires in Spain less labour than in Portugal or in France. Thus Spanish salt may be afforded the cheapest, as requiring less labour; and yet may draw the highest price, as superior in quality: notwithstand-ing which shining advantages, scarce any salt is exported from Spain; and no wonder, for an exorbitant duty makes it come dearer to the purchaser than any other salt. A more moderate duty would bring more profit to the public; beside easing the labouring poor, and employing them in the manufacture. The superior quality of Spanish raw silk, makes it in great request; but as the duty upon it exceeds 60 per cent. it can find no vent in a foreign market: nor is there almost any demand for it at home, as its high price has reduced the silk-manufacture in Spain to the lowest ebb. But the greatest oppression of all, as it affects every sort of manufacture, is the famous tax, known by the name of alcavala, upon every thing bought and sold, which was laid on in the fifteenth century by a cortes or parliament. It was limited expressly to eight years; and yet was kept up, contrary to law, merely by the King’s authority. This monstrous tax, originally 10 per cent. ad valorem, was by the two Philips, III. and IV. augmented to 14 per cent. sufficient of itself to annihilate every branch of internal commerce, by the encouragement it gives to smuggling.* The difficulty of recovering payment of such oppressive taxes, heightened the brutality of the farmers; which hastened the downfal of the manufactures: poverty and distress banished workmen that could find bread elsewhere; and reduced the rest to beggary. The poor husbandmen sunk under the weight of taxes: and, as if this had not been sufficient to ruin agriculture totally, the Spanish ministry superadded an absolute prohibition of exporting corn. The most amazing article of all, is a practice that has subsisted more than three centuries, of setting a price on corn; which ruins the farmer when the price is low, and yet refuses him the relief of a high price. That agriculture in Spain should be in a deep consumption, is far from being a wonder: it is rather a wonder that it has not long ago died of that disease. Formerly there was plenty of corn for twenty millions of inhabitants, with a surplus for the great city of Rome; and yet at present, and for very many years back, there has not been corn for seven millions, its present inhabitants. Their only resource for procuring even the necessaries of life, were the treasures of the new world, which could not last for ever; and Spain became so miserably poor, that Philip IV. was necessitated to give a currency to his copper coin, almost equal to that of silver. Thus in Spain, the downfal of husbandry, arts, and commerce, was not occasioned by expulsion of the Moors, and far less by discovery of a new world,* of which the gold and silver were favourable to husbandry at least; but by exorbitant taxes, a voracious monster, which, after swallowing up the whole riches of the kingdom, has left nothing for itself to feed on. The following picture is drawn by a writer of that nation, who may be depended on for veracity as well as knowledge (a) . “Poverty and distress dispeople a country, by banishing all thoughts of marriage. They even destroy sucking children; for what nourishment can a woman afford to her infant, who herself is reduced to bread and water, and is overwhelmed with labour and despair? A greater proportion accordingly die here in infancy, than where the labouring poor are more at ease; and of those who escape by strength of constitution, the scarcity of cloathing and of nourishment makes them commonly short-lived.”
So blind however are the Spaniards in the administration of their finances, that the present ministry are following out the same measures in America, that have brought their native country to the brink of ruin. Cochineal, cocoa, sugar, &c. imported into Spain duty-free, would be a vast fund of commerce with other nations: but a heavy duty on importation is an absolute bar to that commerce, by forcing the other European nations to provide themselves elsewhere. Spanish oil exported to America would be a great article of commerce, were it not barred by a heavy duty on exportation, equal almost to a prohibition: and the Spanish Americans, for want of oil, are reduced to use fat and butter, very improper for a hot climate. The prohibition of planting vines in Mexico, and the excessive duty on the importation of Spanish wines into that country, have introduced a spirit drawn from the sugar-cane; which, being more destructive than a pestilence, is prohibited under severe penalties. The prohibition however has no effect, but to give the governors of the provinces a monopoly of these spirits, which, under their protection, are sold publicly.*23
But this subject seems to be inexhaustible. The silver and gold mines in the Spanish West Indies are, by improper taxes, rendered less profitable, both to the King and to the proprietors, than they ought to be. The King’s share is the fifth part of the silver that the mines produce, and the tenth part of the gold. There is, beside, a duty of eighty piasters upon every quintal of mercury employed in the mines. These heavy exactions have occasioned all mines to be given up but of the richest sort. The inhabitants pay 33 per cent. on the goods imported to them from Spain, and they are subjected beside to the alcavala, which is 14 per cent. of every thing bought and sold within the country. The most provoking tax of all is what is termed la cruciade, being a sum paid for indulgence to eat eggs, butter, and cheese, during Lent, which is yielded by the Pope to the King of Spain. The government, it is true, obliges no person to take out such an indulgence: but the priests refuse every religious consolation to those who do not purchase; and there is not perhaps a single person in Spanish America who is bold enough to stand out against such compulsion.
There is recorded in history, another example of destructive taxes similar to that now mentioned. Augustus, on his conquest of Egypt, having brought to Rome the treasure of its kings, gold and silver overflowed in Italy; the bulk of which found its way to Constantinople, when it became the seat of empire. By these means, Italy was sadly impoverished: the whole ground had been covered with gardens and villas, now deserted; and there was neither corn nor manufactures to exchange for money. Gold and silver became as rare in Italy as they had been of old; and yet the same taxes that had been paid with ease during plenty of money, were rigidly exacted, which ruined all. The duchy of Ferrara, in a narrower compass, affords a later example of the same kind. It was one of the richest and most populous districts in Italy, when governed by its own princes; but at present, under the Papal despotism, it is reduced to poverty and depopulation. There may be seen extensive meadows without a hand to cut down the grass, or a beast to eat it. The water-passages are not kept open: the stagnating waters are putrid, and infect the air with a poisonous steam. In a word, that duchy is approaching to the unwholesome state of the Compagna di Roma, and soon like it will become uninhabitable. Well may it be said, that oppressive taxation is a monster, which, after devouring every other thing, devours itself at last. Bologna surrendered to the Pope upon terms, reserving many of its most valuable privileges. Bologna continues a rich and populous city; and by moderate taxes the Pope draws from it ten times the sum that can be squeezed out of Ferrara by all the engines of oppression.24
end of the Second Volume.
HISTORY OF MAN.
by the last additions
of the author.
in four volumes.
printed for a. strahan and t. cadell, london;
and for william creech, edinburgh.
[1. ]In 1st edition: “6th, Examination of British taxes. 7th, Regulations for advancing industry and commerce” [1:456].
[(a) ]Chap. 11. § 140.
[2. ]Kames is presumably referring to the Seven Years’ War, which ended in 1763.
[(a) ]L’ami des hommes [[i.e., Mirabeau.]]
[3. ]“Russia labours under a capitation-tax”: added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Annal. lib. 13.
[* ]“The tax of a twenty fifth upon slaves to be sold was remitted more in appearance than in reality; because when the seller was ordered to pay it, he laid it upon the price to the buyer.”
[4. ]“The Dutch taxes . . . depopulate their country”: added in 2nd edition.
[5. ]“I suspect that . . . the same objection”: added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]L’Esprit des loix, liv. 13. ch. 19.
[6. ]Licorice juice; still used for the treatment of ulcers.
[(a) ]7th Geo. III. cap. 47.
[* ]In Holland, a person is prohibited from drinking tea without license, for which he pays a yearly sum. [[Note added in 3rd edition.]]
[7. ]Paragraph added in 2nd edition.
[8. ]Paragraph added in 3rd edition.
[9. ]See book II, sketch X (“Public Police with respect to the Poor”).
[10. ]“The sums contributed . . . so great profit”: added in 2nd edition.
[11. ]In 1st edition: “Examination of British Taxes.”
[* ]They are preferable for husbandry in several respects. They are cheaper than horses: their food, their harness, their shoes, the attendance on them, much less expensive; and their dung much better for land. Horses are more subject to diseases; and when diseased or old are totally useless: a stock for a farm must be renewed at least every ten years; whereas a stock of oxen may be kept entire forever without any new expence, as they will always draw a full price when fatted for food. Nor is a horse more docile than an ox: a couple of oxen in a plough require not a driver more than a couple of horses. The Dutch at the Cape of Good Hope plough with oxen; and exercise them early to a quick pace, so as to equal horses both in the plough and in the waggon. The people of Malabar use no other animal for the plough nor for burdens. About Pondicherry no beasts of burden are to be seen but oxen. The Greeks and Romans anciently used no beasts in the plough but oxen. The vast increase of horses of late years for luxury as well as for draught, makes a great consumption of oats. If in husbandry oxen only were used, which require no oats, many thousand acres would be saved for wheat and barley. But the advantages of oxen would not be confined to the farmer. Beef would be much cheaper to the manufacturer, by the vast addition of fat oxen sent to market; and the price of leather and tallow would fall; a national benefit, as every one uses shoes and candles.
[12. ]“our forefathers seem . . . marriage was taxed”: added in 3rd edition.
[(a) ]8° Geo. III. cap. 25.
[13. ]“What pretext would . . . a new parliament”: added in 2nd edition.
[14. ]“And it is . . . greater every day”: added in 2nd edition.
[15. ]In 1st edition: “Regulations for advancing Industry and Commerce.”
[(a) ]Act 59. parl. 1573.
[* ]Oil was the only commodity that by the laws of Solon was permitted to be exported from Africa. The figs of that country, which are delicious, came to be produced in such plenty, that there was not consumpt for them at home; and yet the law prohibiting exportation was not abrogated. Sycophant denotes a person who informs against the exporter of figs: but the prohibition appearing absurd, sycophant became a term of reproach.
[(a) ]George I. cap. 14. act 8.
[16. ]“A few years . . . branch of commerce”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]Between the years 1715 and 1755, there was of wheat exported from England to France twenty-one millions of septiers, estimated at two hundred millions of livres. The bounty for exporting corn has sometimes amounted to L. 150,000 for a single year. But this sum is not all lost to the revenue; for frequently our corn is exchanged with goods that pay a high duty on importation.
[* ]Public granaries, which rest on a principle contrary to that of exportation, are hurtful in a fertile and extensive country like Britain, being a discouragement to agriculture; but are beneficial in great towns, which have no corn of their own. Swisserland could not exist without granaries. [[Note added in 3rd edition.]]
[† ]Early in the year 1774, an application was made to parliament for supporting the linen manufacture, at that time in a declining state; praying in particular that stamped linen should be comprehended under the bounty for coarse linen exported to America: in order that his Majesty’s loyal subjects might have the same favour that is bestowed on foreigners. From an ill-grounded jealousy, that this application might be of some prejudice to the English woolen manufactures, the bill, in a peevish fit, was rejected by the House of Commons. With respect, at least, to the prayer concerning stamped linen, I may boldly affirm, that it was doing wrong, without even a pretext. There is nothing perfect of human invention. Where the legislature consists of a single person, arbitrary and oppressive measures always prevail; where it consists of a great number, passion and prejudice cannot always be prevented. [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[17. ]“The sum yearly . . . a moderate duty”: added in 3rd edition.
[18. ]“Before the time . . . Dutch than formerly”: added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Act 42. parl. 1661.
[(b) ]See Elemens du Commerce [[by Forbonnais, tom. 1. p. 334.]]
[* ]That act is judiciously contrived, not only for the benefit of authors, but for that of learning in general. It encourages men of genius to write, and multiplies books, both of instruction and amusement; which, by concurrence of many editors, after the monopoly is at an end, are sold at the cheapest rate. Many well disposed persons complain, that the exclusive privilege bestowed by the statute upon authors, is too short, and that it ought to be perpetual. Nay, it is asserted, that authors have a perpetual privilege at common law; and it was so determined lately in the court of king’s bench. Nothing more frequently happens, than by grasping at the shadow, to lose the substance; for I have no difficulty to maintain, that a perpetual monopoly of books would prove more destructive to learning, and even to authors, than a second irruption of Goths and vandals. It is the nature of a monopoly to raise the price of commodities; and by a perpetual monopoly in the commerce of books, the price of good books would be raised far beyond the reach of most readers; they would be sold like pictures of the great masters. The works of Shakespeare, for example, or of Milton, would be seen in very few libraries. In short, the only purchasers of good books would be a few learned men, such as have money to spare, and a few rich men, who buy out of vanity, as they buy a diamond, or a fine coat. Fashions at the same time are variable; and books, even the most splendid, would wear out of fashion with men of opulence, and be despised as antiquated furniture. And, with respect to men of taste, their number is so small, as not to afford encouragement even for the most frugal edition. Thus booksellers, by grasping too much, would put an end to their trade altogether. At the same time, our present authors and booksellers would not be much benefited by such a monopoly. Not many books have so long a run as fourteen years; and the success of a book on the first publication is so uncertain, that a bookseller will give little more for a perpetuity, than for the temporary privilege of the statute. This was foreseen by the legislature; and the privilege was wisely confined to fourteen years, equally beneficial to the public and to authors.
[(a) ]4° Geo. III. Cap. 29.
[* ]Between the mother-country and her colonies the following rule ought to be sacred, That with respect to commodities wanted, each of them should prefer the other before all other nations. Britain should take from her colonies whatever they can furnish for her use; and they should take from Britain whatever she can furnish for their use. In a word, every thing regarding commerce ought to be reciprocal, and equal between them. To bar a colony from access to the fountain head for commodities that cannot be furnished by the mother-country but at second hand, is oppression: it is so far degrading the colonists from being free subjects to be slaves. What right, for example, has Britain to prohibit her colonies from purchasing tea or porcelane at Canton, if they can procure it cheaper there than in London? It is equally oppressive to bar them from resorting to the best markets with their own product. No connection between two nations can be so intimate, as to excuse such a restraint. Our legislature, however, have acted like a stepmother to her American colonies, by prohibiting them to have any commerce but with Britain only. They must first land in Britain all their commodities, even what are not intended to be sold there; and they must take from Britain, not only its own product, but every foreign commodity that is wanted. This regulation is not only unjust but impolitic; as by it the interest of a whole nation is sacrificed to that of a few London merchants. Our legislature have of late so far opened their eyes, as to give a partial relief. Some articles are permitted to be carried directly to the place of destination, without being first entered in Britain, wheat, for example, rice, &c. The Dutch deal more liberally with their colonists in Guiana. They are bound, indeed, to carry their sugar, coffee, cotton, and cocoa, to the mother-country, where there is a ready market for such commodities; but they are permitted to carry their other products, such as rum, melasses, timber, where they can find the best market; and, in return, to import without duty whatever they want. [[“The Dutch deal . . . whatever they want”: added in 3rd edition.]]
[(a) ]29° George II.
[19. ]The Seven Years’ War (1756–63).
[(a) ]7° George III cap. 46.
[(b) ]Act 13. and 14. Cha. II. cap. 11.§ 26. 27.
[(c) ]Act 8° George I. cap. 14.
[(d) ]7° George III. cap. 47.
[20. ]The Treaty of Paris (1763).
[(a) ]5° George III. cap. 37.
[(b) ]4° George III. cap. 9.
[(c) ]5° George III. cap. 37.
[21. ]“It is still . . . in open day”: added in 3rd edition.
[22. ]In the 1st edition the next paragraph begins: “But such taxes require not the aid of external force to subdue a nation: they alone will reduce it to the most contemptible weakness” [1:511].
[* ]Dwelling houses at that time were not so large, nor so expensive, as they came to be in later times.
[* ]A present made to Abdoulrahman by Abdoulmelik, when chosen prime vizir, is a specimen of the riches of Spain at that period. 1st, 408 pounds of virgin gold. 2d, The value of 420,000 sequins in silver ingots. 3d, 400 pounds of the wood of aloes, one piece of which weighed 180 pounds. 4th, 500 ounces of ambergrease, of which there was one piece that weighed 100 ounces. 5th, 300 ounces of the finest camphire. 6th, 300 pieces of gold-stuff, such as were prohibited to be worn but by the Caliph himself. 7th, A quantity of fine fur. 8th, Horse furniture of gold and silk, Bagdad fabric, for 48 horses. 9th, 4000 pounds of raw silk. 10th, 30 pieces Persian tapestry of surprising beauty. 11th, Complete armour for 800 war-horses. 12th, 1000 bucklers, and 100,000 arrows. 13th, Fifteen Arabian horses, with most sumptuous furniture; and a hundred other Arabian horses for the King’s attendants. 14th, Twenty mules, with suitable furniture. 15th, Forty young men, and twenty young women, complete beauties, all of them dressed in superb habits.
[* ]The following passage is from Ustariz, ch. 96. “After mature consideration of the duties imposed upon commodities, I have not discovered in France, England, or Holland, any duty laid upon the home-sale of their own manufactures, whether the first or any subsequent sale. As Spain alone groans under the burden of 14 per cent. imposed not only on the first sale of every parcel, but on each sale, I am jealous that this strange tax is the chief cause of the ruin of our manufactures.” As to the ruinous consequences of this tax, see Bernardo de Ulloa upon the manufactures and commerce of Spain, part 2. ch. 3. ch. 13. And yet so blind was Philip II. of Spain, as to impose the alcavala upon the Netherlands, a country flourishing in commerce both internal and external. It must have given a violent shock to their manufactures.
[* ]Ustariz, in his Theory and Practice of Commerce, proves, from evident facts, that the depopulation of Spain is not occasioned by the West Indies. From Castile few go to America, and yet Castile is the worst peopled country in Spain. The northern provinces, Gallicia, Asturia, Biscay, &c. send more people to Mexico and Peru than all the other provinces; and yet of all are the most populous. He ascribes the depopulation of Spain to the ruin of the manufactures by oppressive taxes; and asserts, that the West Indies tend rather to people Spain: many return home laden with riches; and of those who do not return, many remit money to their relations, which enables them to marry, and to rear children.
[(a) ]Don Gieronimo de Ustariz.
[* ]It gives me pleasure to find, for the sake of my fellow-creatures, that the Spanish ministry begin to perceive the fatal consequences of these impolitic measures. In the year 1765, the trade to the islands Cuba, Hispaniola, Porto Rico, Margarita, and Trinidad, was laid open to merchants in every province of Spain, who were released from the oppressive duties on goods exported to America, by paying only six per cent. on commodities sent from Spain. It is probable that the beneficial effects of this measure may open the eyes of the Spanish ministry to further improvements. The power of the Spanish inquisitors is reduced within moderate bounds. May we not indulge the hope, that Spain will again become both a learned and commercial country? [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[23. ]The 1st edition adds: “a commerce no less shameful than destructive” [1:518].
[24. ]“The duchy of . . . engines of oppression”: added in 2nd edition.