Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter ix: Of the Revenue - An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor
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chapter ix: Of the Revenue - Robert Molesworth, An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor 
An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor, Edited and with an Introduction by Justin Champion (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Of the Revenue
The Revenue of the King of Denmark arises from three Heads: First, The Taxes and Impositions of his own Subjects: Secondly, Customs paid by Foreigners: Thirdly, Rents of his own Estate, Crown Lands, and Confiscations. Each of these shall be treated of apart.
The Taxes paid by his own Subjects, are in some Cases fixed, and constant, in others arbitrary. When I distinguish between these two, it is not meant that the King’s Power is limited in any wise; but only that he chooses, in some Taxes, to follow Rules and Measures established by himself, in all others he varies often. Of the first sort are, First, The Customs, or Toll, for Import and Export: Secondly, The Excise, commonly called the Consumption; which is upon Tobacco, Wine, Salt, Grain, etc., and all Eatables and Drinkables brought into any Town of the King of Denmark’s Dominions to be spent. These are the great Taxes, and the last is severe enough. There are besides, of this kind, smaller Taxes; as that 3 dly upon Marriages, where every couple Marrying, pay so much for the Licence, according to their quality; this is pretty high, and comes in some Cases to a good number of Rix Dollars for a Licence. 4 thly, A Tax for marked Paper, whereon all Bonds, and Contracts, Copies of Judicial Proceedings, Grants, Passports, etc. must be written, otherwise they are invalid. And this is an uneasie Tax; there being of this kind of Paper, which amounts to several Rix Dollars a Sheet. Fifthly, Taxes for Brewing, Grinding, and other things, which shall be hereafter spoken of. But these, and such like, are certain; that is to say, every one knows how much he is to pay, according to an Ordnance at present in force; which however may be altered as the King pleases.
Of the second sort are Impositions upon Land; which is reckoned, not by Acres, but Farms; viz. so much for every proportion of Land that will bear the sowing of a Tun of hard Corn. Wheat and Rye are called hard Corn, and according to the Fertility of the Land, Seasonableness of the Year, Ability of the Landlord, each Farm is taxed higher or lower; but seldom too low.
Secondly, Poll-money, which is sometimes raised twice in a year, and is imposed according to the Substance of the Person taxed; which is guessed at, not fixed, as in other places, where all of a Rank pay equally.
Thirdly, Fortification-Tax, or Money raised for, or upon pretence of making Fortifications for the Defence of the Kingdom, etc.
Fourthly, Marriage-Tax, when a Daughter of Denmark is to be disposed of; whose Portion commonly is but 100,000 Crowns: but under this Name, occasion is taken to raise more.
Fifthly, Trade-money, wherein every Trades man is taxed for the liberty of exercising his Trade, according to the Gain which it is computed he makes by it: and he is moreover obliged to quarter Soldiers.
Sixthly, Ground-Rent for all Houses in Copenhagen, or any other Towns in Denmark; which are taxed by the King, when he pleases, according to the goodness of the House, the ability of the Possessor, or the greatness of the Sum he intends to levy at that time.
In Holstein and Sleswick the Lands are taxed by Ploughs; each Plough paying so much a Month.
To begin with those of the first sort, whereof the Rates are known and fixed; it would be convenient, in speaking of the Customs and Excise, to transcribe the whole Book of Rates, but I fear to be too tedious; however not to be wanting in any thing material, and to give a taste, whereby to guess at the rest; and measure Hercules by his Foot, some Particulars shall be set down, whereof to make a right Judgment, a due regard must be had always, not only to the Plenty and Scarcity of Money in a Country, but also to the goodness of a Commodity. For instance, when I speak of a fat Ox, it must not be imagined that we mean such as are usual in our English Markets; but rather such as we see come from Wales or Scotland. And so of other things in the Consumption Tax. And a Rix Dollar, considering the scarcity of Money, ought to be computed to go further than three crowns with us.
A Rix Dollar is something short of an English Crown in value; a Stiver is more than an English Penny. 48 Stivers make a Rix Dollar. One Lispound is the same with that we call a Stone. One Ship-pound is 20 Lispound. A Danish Ell is a third less than an English, or thereabouts.
There are publick Mills appointed and farmed to certain persons by the King, where all the Inhabitants of Copenhagen are bound to grind upon a Penalty, and to pay the Sums above-mentioned for grinding: it being not permitted to any private Person or Brewer to grind his own Mault, nor Baker his own Bread-corn.
I need say no more of the Tax for Marriage Licences, or that for the use of mark’d Paper in Bonds and Contracts, than has been already mention’d.
Those of the second sort, viz. Land-Tax, House-Tax, Poll-Money, and Fortification-Money, which are sometimes laid high, and sometimes low, can have no settled estimate made of them; however, I shall endeavour to compute them in the summing up the total of the Revenue, according to what they have yielded of late years, which was pretty high; and according to the utmost they can bear at present, or may probably for the future.
Some years ago, since the last War with Sweden, the King caused a Valuation and a Register to be made of all the Houses in the Cities and Burroughs within his Dominions, as likewise an admeasurement of all Lands in the Country, that he might the better proportion the Taxes he should have occasion to levy. These are now applotted and raised according to the very utmost of the Peoples Abilities; neither do I believe that in case of a War or other exigency, they could possibly bear a greater burden; for in the Country the Gentleman and Peasant are in a manner ruined; in the Cities and Burroughs, Houses pay yearly for Ground-Tax four per Cent. of the whole value that the Ground is rated at, if it were to be purchased; and this is estimated by Commissioners appointed for that purpose, according to the quantity of the Ground, or the conveniency of the Station: moreover, for every hundred Rix Dollars which the Ground of any House is rated at, the Inhabitants are obliged to quarter one Soldier. Thus a Rhenish-Wine Vintner at Copenhagen, and he none of the richest, has the Ground of his House valued at 900 Rix Dollars, he consequently pays 36 Rix Dollars yearly for Ground-tax, and quarters nine Soldiers upon the account of his House, and three more upon the account of his Trade. The like proportion is observ’d towards all others, with respect to their Houses and Trades.
Here is commonly one Poll-Tax at least every year; or if it chance to miss one year, it is usually doubled the next. The lowest Assessment is according to the following proportion, viz. a Burger esteemed worth eight or ten thousand Rix Dollars, pays for himself four Rix Dollars, for his Wife four Rix Dollars, for every Child two Rix Dollars, for every Servant one Rix Dollar, for every Horse one Rix Dollar. An ordinary Alehouse-keeper pays for himself one Rix Dollar, for his Wife one Rix Dollar, for every Child 24 Stivers, for every Servant 16 Stivers.
About two years ago there was a Poll-Tax higher than ordinary; and at that time this proportion was observed: One of the Farmers of the Customs paid for himself 24 Rix Dollars, for his Wife 16 Rix Dollars, for her Maid two Rix Dollars, for every other Servant one Rix Dollar. A Burger esteemed worth six or eight thousand Rix Dollars paid for himself six Rix Dollars, for his Wife four Rix Dollars, for every Child two Rix Dollars, for every Servant one Rix Dollar; and thus did others according to their several Abilities.
The Fortification Schatt is a Tax with a witness: in that which was levied in the Year 1691, these were the Rules for payment. All the King’s Servants paid 20 per Cent. of their yearly Salaries. All the Officers of the Army, beginning with Captains, and so upwards, 30 per Cent. of their Pay. (These used to be freed from former Taxes of this kind.) The Nobility and Gentry paid in proportion to their Rank and Estate. The highest, as Count Guldenlieu, etc., from seven hundred to one thousand Rix Dollars each. Burgers were taxed according to their supposed Abilities; the richer sort from one hundred to four hundred Rix Dollars, each; the middle sort of Merchants worth six or eight thousand Rix Dollars paid forty Rix Dollars; an Apothecary sixty eight Rix Dollars; a Vintner fifty five Rix Dollars; ordinary Burgers eight or ten Rix Dollars each: the poorer sort one or two Rix Dollars, and so forth. This sort of Tax has been accounted equal with another called the Kriegs Sture, imposed at the beginning of the War; and that amounted to near seven hundred thousand Rix Dollars in all. But ’tis most certain, the People are not now able to pay it as they were then, and consequently it will not be so much by a great deal.
When the King’s only Daughter was about to be married to the present Elector of Saxony, a Marriage-Tax was intended, and had certainly been levied in case the Marriage had gone forward: but the one, as well as the other, is now no more spoken of, though no Kingdom in Europe can boast of a more deserving Princess.
I suppose by this time an English Reader has taken a Surfeit of this Account of Taxes which the Subjects of Denmark do pay; but it ought to be a great Satisfaction to him to reflect, that through the Happiness of our Constitution, and the Prudence and Valour of our King, the People of this Nation, though enjoying ten times more natural and acquired Advantages than the Danes, which causes more than ten times their affluence; do not for all that pay towards the carrying on the most necessary and just War, the third part in proportion to what the King of Denmark’s Subjects do in time of a profound Peace: Pax servientibus gravior est quam liberis bellum.21
The second Head from whence proceeds a considerable Branch of this King’s Revenue, is the Customs or Toll paid by Foreigners. These pay something more for imported Goods than the Natives and Burgers, and more Anchorage-money in the Ports. The Danes, from their own Ports to their own Ports, paying four Stivers per Last; from Foreign Ports ten Stivers per Last, whereas Foreign Ships pay twelve Stivers. But that which is most considerable to the King, is the Toll paid by all Strangers (except the Swedes) that pass the Sound; and the Customs of Norway.
I have in another place given an ample Account of the Original and Progress of this Toll, together with the Copy of a Letter which makes a Computation of the present Revenue arising from thence; so that I shall not need to repeat what I formerly said; only in general, that it is much fallen from what it was in the time of the last War, when all that passed paid; it came then to about 143,000 Rix Dollars yearly. In the Years 1690, and 1691, it amounted not to much more than 65000 Rix Dollars, at which rate we may judge it likely to continue. This belongs to the King’s Privy Purse, and comes not under the Management of the Treasurer.
The Revenues of Norway arise chiefly from the Tenths of Timber and Tar, of Fish and Oil, and the Customs of the same; which being bought and exported by Foreign Merchants, the Sums that come from thence into the King’s Coffers are principally owing to them. It is true, there are Silver Mines, and Iron, and one of Copper, but these are of small value. The Excise, and the other Taxes of the Natives, are the same with those of Denmark; which these of Norway are better enabled to pay, because of their Foreign Trade; although this also is considerably diminished since their late Quarrel with the Dutch; who thereupon gave over their Traffick with them, and transferred it for some time to Sweden. These Differences have indeed been since adjusted, but it is a hard matter to reduce Trade thoroughly into the former Channel, when once it has taken another course. The Danes are of opinion, that neither the English nor Dutch can possibly want the Norway Trade for their Naval Stores: but if a right use were made of our Plantations in the West-Indies, they may chance to find themselves mistaken.
It may not be amiss to mention in this place, though it be something foreign to the Matter in hand; that just before the present War with France, the Trading Ships belonging to all the King of Denmark’s Dominions, were computed to amount to about four hundred, besides little Barks that bring Wood, etc. because the number of them had been lessened almost two thirds within thirty years. But at present, since the Trade of Europe has been in a manner carried on by the Neutral Princes, it cannot otherwise be, but that the number must be considerably increased within these four years; though as yet it comes not up to what it formerly did. To conclude with Norway, which is divided into the Southern and Northern Provinces. The whole Revenue from the first of these amounts yearly to between five and six hundred thousand Rix Dollars; and from the last to between two and three hundred thousand Rix Dollars; and so the Total may be communibus annis22 800,000 Rix Dollars.
The exactest Computation that I have known made of the English, Dutch and French Trades to these Parts in Times of Peace, ran thus: Of English there passed the Sound yearly, from two hundred Vessels to three hundred; of Dutch from one thousand to eleven hundred; of French from ten to twelve; and the like proportion to Norway. By which it is easily judged, that the Friendship and Trade of France ought to come in no competition with that of England and Holland; since the King of Denmark owes so large a share of his best Revenue to these last, and so little to the other.
The third and least considerable Branch of the Revenue arises from the Rents of the Crown Lands, and confiscated Estates. The latter are in the King’s hands, either upon account of forfeiture for Treason, and other Crimes, or by reason of Debt and Non-payment of Taxes; and it is to be supposed these will encrease every day in proportion to the Poverty of the Country; since, as I formerly said, many would be glad, rather to surrender their Estates to the King, than pay the Taxes imposed on them.
But notwithstanding this Addition of Lands, the King is so far from being the richer, that he is the poorer for it: for upon the King’s becoming possessor of any Man’s Estate, immediately the great pains and care ceases which was formerly taken to improve it, and make it yield as much as it could; and it becomes almost desolate, either through the negligence or little encouragement of the Tenants: generally it turns to Forrest, and contributes to his Diversion, though little to his Purse; and the Houses run to decay. So do the Royal Palaces, whereof there are a great many on the Crown Lands, few of them, except Fredericksburg, being in a Condition to be dwelt in. For which reason it is a hard matter to make a just Calculation what yearly Revenue these afford: and that which they do yield goes for the most part among the Courtiers, who have the Government of the King’s Houses, the Supervisorships of his Parks, Forests, and Farms, with the Services of his Boors, and Tenants. So that I believe we should rather over, than under reckon them, if we compute the clear yearly profit of these to amount to 200,000 Rix Dollars.
I endeavoured to know from an exact and understanding Person there, how much the running Cash of those Kingdoms might probably be: Whose Answer was in these Words: It is very difficult to make any rational Computation of the running Cash of these Kingdoms; but certainly it is but very little, and not near the hundredth part of that of England: for excepting a very few, none have any Cash by them; the Trading People, through whose hands it runs, being generally Men of no Substance, but indebted over Head and Ears to their Creditors at Amsterdam and Hamburg, it comes no sooner in, but it ispaid out. Moreover, the Cash of the Nation runs yearly out, by what the Officers of the Army, who are Foreigners, can clear; for all that they transport to other Countries: likewise by what divers of the Ministers of State can scrape together; since it is observed, that few or none of them purchase any Lands, but place their Money in the Banks of Amsterdam and Hamburg . Furthermore, by what the over-balance of Trade carries away; for this Country consumes more of Foreign Commodities, than its own Product can countervail. And all this makes me believe, that there is but an inconsiderable running Cash here; and very much of that which runs among the People is Brass-money, which is not worth any ones while to Export: Besides, the very Silver Coin has a great mixture of Brass in it.
From the whole I conclude, that there is a moral Impossibility all these Taxes and Impositions should continue. The weight of them is already so great, that the Natives have reason rather to wish for, than defend their Country from an Invader; because they have little or no Property to lose, and may probably thereby mend their Condition, when there is scarce a possibility of making it worse. There seems to be a great sense of this in the Court, and therefore an Army composed of Foreigners is depended on. Here follow the Particulars of the Revenue.
It must be observed, that the Poll-Tax, and the Fortification-Tax, are never both raised the same year; so that there must be deducted out of that Sum about 400,000 Rix Dollars in lieu of one of those Taxes; and then the Sum total of the whole Revenue of the King of Denmark will amount every year to about two Millions two hundred twenty two thousand Rix Dollars.
[21. ]The 1694 edition claims this as a citation of Tacitus, Annals, bk. 10, chap. 16. The 1738 edition corrects the author to Livy but not the title (which is Ab urbe condita, bk. 10.16). “They sued for peace because they could no longer endure war, they had taken to war again because enduring peace as slaves was worse than fighting war as free men.”
[22. ]“Total for the year.”