Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XXIV. - The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland
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CHAP. XXIV. - Pieter de la Court, The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland 
The True Interest and Political Maxims of the Republic of Holland (London: John Campbell, Esq, 1746).
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What professions of the inhabitants of Holland, ought to be more or less burdened with taxes, or favoured by the politick magistrate.
But if Holland by a formermisgovernment, must be burdened with a yearly payment of 15 millions of guilders;BUT some will perhaps object against what I have affirmed, that during the time of the late monarchical government in these provinces, and the remainders of it, as also when we waged an offensive war, and seemed to leave our navigation as a prey to the Dunkirkers, Holland was burdened by money taken up at interest, and other taxes to the sum of fifteen millions yearly; therefore to rid ourselves of so great a burden under a free government, it was necessary to levy money of the inhabitants by several ways and means.Then no wonder if some hurtful ways of raising money have been used, and still be continued. And secondly it may be objected, that when easy or indifferent levies will not raise money enough for securing the country, and navigation against any sudden attempt, then we must find out other ways and methods which at present would be hurtful, but if continued any considerable time, would be mischievous to the state, yea ruin it. And therefore we in Holland have very prudentially practised all those and no other means and ways of raising money, but such as are now used by the state.
It will be fit to lay down same method in such cases of taxings.But tho’ the first objection be true, yet we may doubt whether the second be so. Therefore I find it good to examine here what ways or expedients are fit to be used to procure money in such an exigence, that so the reader himself may more exactly judge whether, and when the magistrates of Holland, have in this particular taken care of the welfare of the land in general, or have been neglective of it: and having expressed the same in as few words as may be, I shall afterwards, because of the general concernment of the thing, consider more fully whether all estates of the inhabitants of this country can be equally favoured; and in case they cannot, which of them ought more or less to be cherished and conniv’d at.
Under this head we ought first to raise money by way of impost.Namely, seeing all people do naturally endeavour to discharge and free themselves of burdens, tho’ even by burdening of others, or when that cannot be fully obtained, then will they seek to ease themselves of that burden by procuring partners to bear it: every one will then immediately judge that we should charge those of foreign nations that frequent Holland, who are no members of our political body, which we call the state, with all imaginable taxes, and by all means to ease our own inhabitants, as being true members of our own body. But seeing we have shewn you before, that Holland cannot subsist without commerce and merchandize with foreigners, we might by so doing take such methods as would prevent them from coming into Holland, to our great prejudice; and therefore we ought to be very wary and cautious about it, especially considering, that an extraordinary charge upon those strangers would not much ease us: so that consequently there is no other way, but to bear so great a burden with as many helpers as we can procure.All wares that are consumed at home. And it cannot be denied but we shall procure more supporters, if we charge all goods with some impost that are usually worn or consumed by the people as they are men and women.
And seeing those imposts which are most freely and spontaneously paid, are least offensive and irksom; we should therefore observe this order, viz. first, and most, to charge such goods as tend to ease, pleasure and ornament: and then such as no man can be without, as meat, drink, housing, firing and light, seeing strangers hereby will pay alike with the inhabitants, and none will be favoured or exempted.
And also all inhabitants of Holland.And seeing by all these means the said sum of fifteen millions cannot be levied, we should then afterwards in taxing the people, so charge them, as that all may bear their parts equally, none excepted. But since this is not practicable, but by taxing all peoples estates to make men pay alike without distinction, or by a blindfold poll; both which means of raising money being so unequal, and full of hardship, do ever cause great distaste among the people: we ought therefore to proceed to the charging of some particular sort of inhabitants, who bring in no profit to the country, but on the contrary live upon the other inhabitants.
But especially such as have any publick imployments and business of profit in Holland, excluding others.And among them are first all inhabitants, who from or on behalf of the state, or cities, open countries, drainers of water, makers of dykes, have any benefit of power, honour or reward, more than other inhabitants. For seeing they may refuse such offices, dignities and employments, to escape those taxes, and that we need not give them but to such inhabitants as are qualified for, and petition to have them; no inhabitant therefore to evade such taxes, will need to abandon the country, nor have any reason to complain of a burden which he annually loadeth himself with: and yet by this expedient much money may be raised for the common good, without burdening any of the other inhabitants the more.
And after them all inhabitants that live upon other inhabitants.Next to them should follow such inhabitants as are teachers, artists, and their instruments, for so much as they are imployed about matters of ease, pleasure, ornament, &c. that are made use of in this country. And after these former, all masters and journeymen of such trades who live by our own inhabitants only; such as bakers, brewers, sellers of wine and fish, butchers, taylors, shoemakers, carpenters, masons, smiths, and glasiers, &c. But in such a case it were needful, for the keeping of our provision, and to suffer strangers to live upon us as little as is possible, to charge all their goods or manufactures imported into Holland for consumption, so high, that our own may go better off than those that are foreign.
And next them those that live upon our lands or fund.Next would follow some charge or tax to be laid upon such inhabitants as live upon our own lands; such as are our husbandmen, grasiers and inland-fishers, for they will hardly forsake us because of our taxing them, seeing they may always be eased in better times.
And since all these means of raising money will burden none but such as are inhabitants in this country, and while they find their maintenance amongst us; it is evident that all the said ways for raising of money will excite the commonalty to ingenuity, diligence and frugality, and then they will be easily borne.
As also all immoveable Holland goods.But in case all these expedients will not raise money sufficient, we may then charge either ordinarily or extraordinarily all immoveable goods, lands and houses, with yearly taxes, or by impositions upon alienations and inheritances of them; wherein nevertheless there be those difficulties, that those taxes will not be paid with any freedom, but wholly by compulsion: and that the said immoveable goods being for that end to be valued, that valuation cannot be made without partiality, and these burdens will be then very unequally born. Besides, that by the accidental unfruitfulness of the lands, and standing empty of their houses, the owners and tenants of them wanting a great part of their yearly rent on which they depend for the maintenance of their families, they must necessarily suffer these two unavoidable inconveniencies. But seeing all owners of immoveable estates who dwell out of the land must also help to bear these burdens, without any prejudice to the estates of our common inhabitants; and the owners of land that dwell in the country, are so tied to Holland by their immoveable estates, that they cannot but with great difficulty remove their habitation to other countries: this means therefore of raising money, may be used without hurting the state.
By taxes on all moveable and immoveable goods jointly.Finally, in an extreme necessity of money, there may be impos’d a general tax on all the moveable and immoveable estates of the inhabitants, whereby they may pay the thousandth, two hundredth, and one hundredth penny: I say, in an unusual great necessity, because by these taxes there would fall a greater hardship upon the common inhabitants, and damage to the state, than could fall by any other expedient of this nature; for foreigners would bear nothing of this, but our inhabitants only. And seeing the assessors are wholly ignorant of mens personal estates, and what the inhabitants do owe, or is owing to them; and if they did know the value of them, yet could they not tax them so equally as may be done in the case of immoveable goods: we may therefore easily see, what by favour and hatred, and by ignorance of the assessors, especially in the trading province of Holland, where riches are very transitory and uncertain; that there must be an intolerable inequality in bearing this tax.Which notwithstanding is a very hard and unequal tax. Those that would honestly declare their estates might lighten the tax; but the fraudulent will unavoidably make it heavier. Besides, many inhabitants possessing neither immoveable estates nor merchandize, but living here on the interest of their money, to elude these heavy burdens, may remove to some neighbouring country, to the greater prejudice of this state than if any other of the forementioned inhabitants should forsake us; for such people frequently drawing their revenues from other parts, and spending them here, they gain not by our inhabitants, but they gain by them. Nevertheless, seeing such persons as live on their rents, are in respect of the other inhabitants but few in number, and do not set many people at work for a livelihood, therefore the said tax may and can be raised without any remarkable prejudice to the state.
We ought to be cautious of weakning the four pillars of our state, viz. manufactures, fisheries, traffick, and freightships.And it is more especially to be observed, that if by reason of all these taxes many inhabitants should forsake Holland, and settle in other countries, yet they, or other such persons, when the tax after a while should be released, might easily be drawn to return to Holland, or others would succeed them out of our own country, so long as our manufacturies, fisheries, traffick, and freight-ships remain and flourish amongst us: seeing they are the four main pillars by which the welfare of the commonalty is supported, and on which the prosperity of all others depends, tho’ they earn not their living immediately by them. This will not be denied, if we rightly apprehend, that many people are brought into our country that are strangers, or were formerly inhabitants, teachers, artists, consumptioners, tradesmen, and such as live on their rents, because there are many people here that live, or have lived by manufactures, fisheries, traffick, and freight-ships, and do all of them afford work, or a livelihood for the other inhabitants before-mentioned. But that on the other side the manufacturers, merchants, fishers, and owners of ships let to freight, will not return from foreign lands to these parts, or be invited hither because there are, or have been in Holland many teachers, artists, consumptioners, tradesmen, and men that live on their rents, seeing these do set to work or employ the foresaid people, and have their greatest profit from foreign parts, at least not from these last mentioned people that are natives.
But nevertheless upon an urgent necessity thereunto pressing, we should charge them least.But supposing the general necessity of levying money to be so great, that we could not raise enough by all the fore-mentioned taxes, or could not find out any expedient to raise the same but what were prejudicial; so that to defend the commonwealth, or preserve our body politick against some formidable enemy, we should be so put to it, as to tax the above-mentioned pillars of the land, and be pinch’d in our chiefest means of livelihood for a short time, in hope that such urgent and pressing necessities will soon have an end, and that then those taxes will be taken off; and doing thus, we may both secure our country and our estates: let us then see what order we are to take in pursuit of this method. And in the first place to express myself clearly, by the words manufacturers and fishers, I understand all such as live by any trade in or about fishing, making, transporting, and selling of our Holland manufacturies and fisheries. And by the word traders, I mean all such merchants that sell nothing by retail; but such as trade solely, whether at home or abroad, in all or any commodities, except Holland manufacturies and fisheries, and such as depend on them. And by the word owners of ships, I understand no other owners than such as set ships to sea, either for our own service, or for other merchants upon freight.
And now to come to the matter in hand, we ought well to consider, that we must lay the least tax upon that means of subsistance which most concerns us, and which we are apt soonest to lose, and being lost is not easily retrieved, and which might besides draw away with it other trades or means of subsistance.The manufactures. So that seeing in Holland there are six hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants who are maintained by manufactures, and such as depend on them, and those manufactures are not certainly fixed to us, since we cannot furnish ourselves with the unwrought materials of them from our own country, but from other parts; yea the greater part of them being easily carried by land, may be made, carried, and sold in foreign upland countries. And if this should happen, our merchants and owners of freight-ships would be oblig’d to remove and betake themselves, either to them, or to the countries and sea-harbours next to them; and if we should once lose those manufactures, and that our merchants and owners of ships should go over to another country which affords those materials for the making of them, they would probably never return to us. Wherefore it appears that we must charge them little or nothing, and the rather, seeing our manufactures are already charged with imposts on the consumption, much more than our fisheries, traffick, and freight-ships.
The fisheries more.And seeing our fisheries, by the propinquity of the coasts, where haddock, cod, herring, and whale are taken, are more fixed to us, and always will be so than to most other countries; and that by our over-taxing them, we have neglected and disregarded them, they may possibly return to us again if we ease their charge, considering our convenient situation; whereby it appears that we ought to tax them sooner, and more than our manufactures: nevertheless seeing there are four hundred and fifty thousand people employed in the fisheries; and the loss of the said fisheries to our merchants and owners of ships, would give them occasion to remove into those countries where the said fisheries might be establish’d: It appears therefore that we ought not inconsiderately to charge our fisheries too much.
Traffick yet more.But forasmuch as it cannot be apprehended, that while Holland preserves her manufactures and fisheries, she should lose all her traffick in foreign manufactures, fisheries, and other merchandize; and that this traffick does not at most maintain above one hundred and fifty thousand people in Holland: it therefore again appears, that we ought sooner, and more to charge those trafficks than our manufacturies and fisheries. Yet seeing those trafficks being removed into other countries, our owners of ships might first send their ships thither, and many of themselves follow after: it likewise appears, that we ought to charge that traffick less than the owners of ships.
And seeing the owners of freight-ships inhabiting these provinces do receive incomparably more advantage from our inland manufactures, and our own fisheries and trade, than any foreign owners of ships can do; yea, for as much as there be no supporters of the countries prosperity, but what are servants to our manufacturies, fisheries, and traders: it is not therefore imaginable that we can lose them so long as we can preserve our manufactures, fisheries, and traffick; so that the said ships may be charged sooner, and more than manufactures, fisheries, and trafficks.And the part-owning of shipping most of all. Yet since those ships lie for freight in foreign countries, and there raise money from strangers, they may in some measure be esteemed a support of our prosperity; and since there may possibly be fifty thousand people maintained that way, and that by their being charged too much our own manufactures, fisheries, and traffick, for which we are most concerned, might in some measure come to suffer at long run: we ought not therefore to proceed inconsiderately to the charging of them. Tho’ we should lose our freight-ships, yet we should not therefore lose our manufactures, fisheries, and traffick; but on the contrary, by their means, and by lessening the taxes at any time, the freight-ships would easily be induced to return to Holland.As appears by many reasons. We know that heretofore in Flanders, Brabant, and Holland, many inhabitants were maintained by manufactures, fisheries, and traffick, when the Easterlings were the only carriers and mariners by sea: as also that the said owners of freight ships were for the most part gradually compelled by our manufactures, fisheries, and traffick, to forsake those Easterlings, and to settle in Holland. And we still find every day, not only that our owners of freight-ships are serviceable to the manufacturers, fishers, and traders of other countries; and to that end send their ships from one harbour to another, to transport their goods at a price agreed on; but also that there are always strangers here, who for the sake of our manufactures, fisheries, and traffick, by reason of some freedom and privileges they have above us, either in their own countries, or in their voyage, do come and enter their ships for freight amongst ours.
And as these four pillars of the country’s prosperity may be more or less charged;So that it being now shewn at large what estates of our common inhabitants ought most or least to be charged with imposts, in order to levy fifteen millions of guilders yearly, we may from the same reasons in some measure calculate upon all occasions which of the inhabitants ought to be most or least favoured by the magistracy, and consequently I should finish this chapter: but seeing the welfare of the inhabitants most certainly depends on the good maxims of the rulers in that matter, I shall enlarge somewhat more upon it.
So in all events the rulers ought to favour them proportionably.Altho’ civil rulers are very well termed fathers, and the subjects their children, yet herein is the difference, that parents do indulge and take equal care of their children to their utmost power, or at least ought not to favour one to the prejudice of another, and in no case to ruin one child to provide for others, tho’ better children: and that contrariwise the politick governors making up with the generality one body politick, which we call the State, must shew more or less favour, yea hurt and ruin, to some who are more or less profitable, or pernicious to the state. As for instance, those that commit theft and murder, &c. who are punished with death or otherwise, for the good of the rest, and to deter them from committing the like evils.
Namely, first the things themselves before their dependencies.From which it follows; first, that all inhabitants, none excepted, ought to be favoured more than strangers, as much as is proper. Yet so, that none be favoured, who by any imployment can earn their living by others their fellow-subjects, to the prejudice of those by whom they procure their bread: because in such a case it would be foolish, that those who depend upon any thing should be favoured to the prejudice and ruin of that very thing whereon they depend. And besides, it is necessary, that we always remember to favour most, and consequently preserve in Holland such inhabitants, who can with more ease than others get their livings in other countries, and transport themselves thither.
2ly. The foreign before the inland traders.Secondly, it follows by the said maxims, that all inhabitants who seek their profit and livelihood from other countries, ought more to be favoured than those who in this country live on their fellow-inhabitants.
3ly. The masters ever before the servants.Thirdly, it follows from hence, that such inhabitants, who by their gains acquired by foreign countries contribute most to the subsistence of the inhabitants, and consequently of the state, ought most to be favoured; but with this caution, that the master should be more favoured than the servant; and our merchants who traffick in our own manufactures, and fisheries in foreign countries, above all others who are employed about the making or taking of the same. All which being well considered, it unanswerably appears, that the politick rulers of Holland ought least of all to favour strangers with any power or privilege, and consequently more and more to favour the inhabiting mechanicks, masters, journey-men, teachers, artists, consumers of any goods in the land, husbandmen, grasiers, inland-fishers, such as live on theit estates, owners of ships, merchants, fishermen, and finally almost all such inhabitants who are employed about manufactures spent in foreign parts.
And altho’ some may object, that the said advantages and disadvantages cannot be procur’d or avoided, unless, as abovesaid, the high and subordinate government consists of so many rulers and magistrates, that none of them could benefit himself to the prejudice of the community:Especially to erect colleges of persons according to the proportion, that are interested for themselves. yet it is very well known, that any violent change in the welfare of the common inhabitants of Holland, would at least much sooner ruin the best and most useful subjects, than improve them. And consequently, it ought to satisfy the lovers of their country, if the rulers and magistrates take so much care that the subordinate colleges of polity, treasury and justice, about the manufacturies, fisheries, trade and owning of ships, be so formed, that such persons as are employed therein, be most interested in the prosperity of manufactures, fisheries, traffick and freight-ships, and consequently least in any other way of subsistence; because otherwise every one will, to the prejudice of others, tho’ they ought more to be tendered as more profitable, draw the water to his own mill, and lay his burden on another man’s shoulders.About manufactures. So that there ought to be among the directors that are the superintendents, or have the oversight of manufactures, at least, as I conceive, four for foreign consumption, two to oversee the making of such manufactures, one over the inland-consumption, and one over the service depending on those manufactures. As for example, among the directors for the woolen cloth-trade, there ought to be four merchants dealing in cloth, two clothiers, one draper, one dyer or cloth-worker, &c.Fisheries. Likewise among the directors concerning our foreign fisheries, there ought to be in proportion at least four merchants that trade in those commodities, two over the setting out of the vessels and causing the fish to be taken, one over the inland-consumption thereof, and one over the fishing itself.Especially a college or merchant-court for trade. And if the rulers of these lands, or any cities thereof in particular, were inclined for preservation and increase of traffick in general, to erect a common council with authority to make statutes and laws relating thereunto; then such a council ought to be form’d after this proportion, viz. of twenty four merchants dealing in Holland manufacturies, sixteen merchants in Holland fisheries, six merchants in other commodities which belong not to our manufacturies and fisheries, and at most but two owners of ships, because such owners and the masters of ships in that quality are for the most part servants to the others, and depend on them, and without them are of small consideration.Else private interest will be sought against the common good: And if among the judges or commissioners set over the making of manufactures, fisheries, assurances, maritime affairs, &c. there should be some interested persons, it is evident, that in all such colleges the same proportion ought to be observ’d, that in case partiality should take place among the judges, the loser should at least have this comfort in his misfortune, that his loss would tend to the benefit of the community, in advancing manufacturies, fisheries, traffick and freight-ships: whereas otherwise the trouble of seeing himself divested of his livelihood and goods, by undue orders, and unjust sentences, and all to the loss and detriment of the commonwealth, would be intolerable.
As appears by the directors of the Levant trade, who are genenerally concern’d in ships let to freight.And that this may appear not to be spoken at random, let us please to remember that Roelof Martinson Vygeboom of Horne, a ship-master, or the owner of the ship called the Emperor Octavianus having in the year 1663, suffered his vessel laden by the Turkish emperor’s subjects, to be taken for a prey by some ships of war belonging to Malta, Leghorn and Venice, for which they paid him a very great freight;See the judicial and political considerations of the Turkish avenie, printed 1663. the said emperor of Turky required of Livinus Warnerus our resident at Constantinople satisfaction for the same: he by his faintheartedness, treachery or covetousness, made a promise within three months and fifteen days, to pay the Turks seventy eight thousand four hundred and forty-five lyon dollars for satisfaction; and that the said sum might the sooner be obtain’d, the said resident commanded, and thereupon the consul ordered, that not only all Holland ships set out to freight should be seized in all the havens of the Levant, which hath some glimpse of equity in it, but also all the goods of the innocent Holland merchants, who were constrained to pay that money for their redemption. It is easily imagined that this happened, because the resident and consul knew that the directors of the Levant trade living in Holland, were mostly concerned in the ships let out to freight that use the Levant, that it would have been very ill taken by them, and that they might have sat on the skirts of the resident and consul, if their ships had been seized for that reason.Who have favoured these freight ships more than the Holland manufactures and traffick; We afterwards saw the strength of this particular interest clearer in Holland: for these merchants who were unjustly forced to lay down this money, and being to be discharged, the said directors, who give their advice to the states-general in many cases, laid down in this particular no expedient, nor any think like it, whereby to procure this money to the least loss of the land, or charging themselves or other owners or masters of the Levant ships; no, nor to charge themselves together with the merchants; but on the contrary, have totally freed the said owners and masters of the same, and to the greater prejudice of the country, yea, and the spoil of our manufactures, charged one per cent. upon all goods outward and inward, not excepting Holland cloth, raw silks, and yarn, making together two per cent. So that the states following their advice, traffick and manufacture will be for so much imprudently charged to perpetuity, since the said oppressive tax will hardly ever be releas’d.Bringing the charge of the resident and consuls avenies, &c. on all our manufactures and traffick. And if we add hereunto, that all other traffick of the common inhabitants of the provinces, that is not under the tuition or care of such directors, being driven into countries where our consuls reside, the masters and owners of each ship going or coming in, must pay to the consul a certain fee for his consulage. But that the said directors of the Levant trade, for as much as they are owners of ships, have cast that burden from off their own shoulders, and laid it upon our own merchants, yea on our manufactures and all manner of Levant wares, without distinction of clothes, grogram yarn, raw silk, &c. going or coming to or from the Levant, to the benefit of the resident at Constantinople, and the consuls that reside in those havens on the behalf of this state, charging them with 1 ½ per cent. being together going and coming three per cent. which upon so rich a trade makes up a princely revenue, and royal maintenance.And that by cutting too large thongs out of others leather; And altho’ the said residents and consuls take their reward of the Holland Levant merchants, and having no other business to dispatch but the concerns of their traffick and navigation, ought to have remembred, that they being only clothed with a character of the state,Whereby the residents and consuls carry it as if they were lords over the Levant merchants. the better to effect the same, and for no other end, unless for order and decency, are really and indeed but ministers of the Levant merchants, and so must continue, seeing they have at the port of Constantinople in effect not any the least business of state to negotiate, as peace, war, alliances, assistance, &c. between the respective states. Nevertheless this shadow of their monarchical administration, and assuming an authority, and taking example by the ministers of monarchs, who likewise reside there:Which mismanagement may soon ruin the Levant trade. adding hereunto, that this too great income for citizens of a free commonwealth, hath all along raised in them a monarchical pride, and besides occasions oft-times other heavy taxes, and continual quarrels against the said Holland merchants, who are not willing nor able to endure so chargeable and oppressive a power, which will destroy our important Levant trade in a short time.
Let none object, that all that money is not exacted to the rigour, nor comes into the residents and consuls purse; for they enjoy most of it, and the factors charge the their principals with it, insomuch that this considerable Levant trade, and our manufactures depending upon it, by this prejudicial management of those chargeable residents and consuls, and by five per Cent. unnecessarily charged, and without any reason to favour and clear the owners and masters of ships, tho’ they cause more troubles in those parts than the merchants themselves, and also in other respects are subject to them, and consequently have more occasion of our residents and consuls advice than our traders, and are the cause of their much greater charge.
So that you may see by what I have said, that if the courts of justice relating to the fisheries, manufactures, traffick, insurances, and maritime affairs, are no better ordered according to the maxims of Holland’s prosperity, whereof I know none as yet:So that we may expect the like inconveniences from all other ill reformed colleges. Then certainly our manufactures, fisheries, and traffick in this country, being too little favoured, and too much opprest; and that all concerned therein having any difference with their labourers, servants, messengers, letter-carriers, ship-masters, or owners of ships, they have great reason ever to comply with them, or to fear a mischievous verdict or sentence, tho’ their cause be good. For since we cannot bereave judges of their human nature, we ought in such cases to expect that they will take more care for themselves, or their friends, than for the publick good.
And thus by degrees I am come down to matters of justice about traffick, whereof I purpose to speak more at large.