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and above all, let it be remembered by both parties, and indeed by controversialists on all subjects, that every speculative error which boasts a multitude of advocates, has its golden as well as its dark side; that there is always some truth connected with it, the exclusive attention to which has misled the understanding, some moral beauty which has given it charms for the heart. Let it be remembered that no assailant of an error can reasonably hope to be listened to by its advocates, who has not proved to them that he has seen the disputed subject in the same point of view, and is capable of contemplating it with the same feelings as themselves; for why should we abandon a cause at the persuasions of one who is ignorant of the reasons which have attached us to it? Let it be remembered, that to write, however ably, merely to convince those who are already convinced, displays but the courage of a boaster; and in any subject to rail against the evil before we have inquired for the good, and to exasperate the passions of those who think with us, by caricaturing the opinions and blackening the motives of our antagonists, is to make the understanding the pander of the passions; and even though we should have defended the right cause, to gain for ourselves ultimately from the good and wise no other praise than the supreme Judge awarded to the friends of Job for their partial and uncharitable defence of his justice: My wrath is kindled against you, for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right.*
*Job xlii. 7.-Ed.
ON THE VULGAR ERRORS RESPECTING TAXES AND
Ὅπερ γὰρ οἱ τὰς ἐγχέλεις θηρώμενοι πέπονθας
Αἱροῦσι· καὶ σὺ λαμβάνεις, ἢν τὴν πόλιν ταράττης.*
It is with you as with those that are hunting for eels. While the pond is clear and settled, they take nothing; but if they stir up the mud high and low, then they bring up the fish:-and you succeed only as far as you can set the state in tumult and confusion.
In a passage in the last essay, I referred to the second part of the "Rights of Man," in which Paine assures his readers that their poverty is the consequence of taxation: that taxes are rendered necessary only by wars and state corruption; that war and corruption are entirely owing to monarchy and aristocracy; that by a revolution and a brotherly alliance with the French republic, our land and sea forces, our revenue officers, and three fourths of our pensioners, placemen, and other functionaries, would be rendered superfluous; and that a small part of the expenses thus saved, would suffice for the maintenance of the poor, the infirm, and the aged, throughout the kingdom. Would to God that this infamous mode of misleading and flattering the lower classes were confined to the writings of Thomas Paine! But how often do we hear, even from the mouths of our parliamentary advocates for popularity, the taxes stated as so much money actually lost to the people; and a nation in debt represented as the same both in kind and consequences, as an individual tradesman on the brink of bankruptcy! It is scarcely possible, that these men should be themselves deceived; that they should be so ignorant of history as not to know that the freest nations, being at the same time * Aristoph. Equites, v. 864, &c.—Ed.
commercial, have been at all times the most heavily taxed: or so void of common sense as not to see that there is no analogy in the case of a tradesman and his creditors, to a nation indebted to itself. Surely, a much fairer instance would be that of a husband and wife playing cards at the same table against each other, where what the one loses the other gains. Taxes may be indeed, and often are, injurious to a country: at no time, however, from their amount merely, but from the time or injudicious mode in which they are raised. A great statesman, lately deceased, in one of his anti-ministerial harangues against some proposed impost, said, the nation has been already bled in every vein, and is faint with loss of blood.' This blood, however, was circulating in the mean time through the whole body of the state, and what was received into one chamber of the heart was instantly sent out again at the other portal. Had he wanted a metaphor to convey the possible injuries of taxation, he might have found one less opposite to the fact, in the known disease of aneurism, or relaxation of the coats of particular vessels, by a disproportionate accumulation of blood in them, which sometimes occurs when the circulation has been suddenly and violently changed, and causes helplessness, or even mortal stagnation, though the total quantity of blood remains the same in the system at large.
But a fuller and fairer symbol of taxation, both in its possible good and evil effects, is to be found in the evaporation of waters from the surface of the planet. The sun may draw up the moisture from the river, the morass, and the ocean, to be given back in genial showers to the garden, the pasture, and the corn-field; but it may likewise force away the moisture from the fields of tillage, to drop it on the stagnant pool, the saturated swamp, or the unprofitable sand-waste. The gardens in the south of Europe supply, perhaps, a not less apt illustration of a system of finance judiciously conducted, where the tanks or reservoirs would represent the capital of a nation, and the hundred rills hourly varying their channels and directions under the gardener's spade, give a pleasing image of the dispersion of that capital through the whole population, by the joint effect of taxation and trade. For taxation itself is a part of commerce, and the government may be fairly considered as a great manufacturing house, carrying on in different places, by means of its partners and over
seers, the trades of the ship-builder, the clothier, the iron-founder, and the like.
There are so many real evils, so many just causes of complaint in the constitution and administration of governments, our own not excepted, that it becomes the imperious duty of every wellwisher of his country, to prevent, as much as in him lies, the feelings and efforts of his compatriots from losing themselves on a wrong scent. Whether a system of taxation is injurious or beneficial on the whole, is to be known, not by the amount of the sum taken from each individual, but by that which remains behind. A war will doubtless cause a stagnation of certain branches of trade, and severe temporary distress in the places where those branches are carried on; but are not the same effects produced in time of peace by prohibitory edicts and commercial regulations of foreign powers, or by new rivals with superior advantages in other countries, or in different parts of the same? Bristol has, doubtless, been injured by the rapid prosperity of Liverpool and its superior spirit of enterprise; and the vast machines of Lancashire have overwhelmed and rendered hopeless the domestic industry of females in the cottages and small farm-houses of Westmoreland and Cumberland. But if peace has its stagnation as well as war, does not war create or re-enliven numerous branches of industry as well as peace? Is it not a fact, that not only our own military and naval forces, but even a part of those of our enemy are armed and clothed by British manufacturers? It can not be doubted, that the whole of our immense military force is better and more expensively clothed, and both these and our sailors better fed than the same persons would be in their individual capacities: and this forms one of the real expenses of war. Not, I say, that so much more money is raised, but that so much more of the means of comfortable existence are consumed, than would otherwise have been. But does not this, like all other luxury, act as a stimulus on the producing classes, and this in the most useful manner, and on the most important branches of production, on the tiller, on the grazier, the clothier and the maker of arms? Had it been otherwise, is it possible that the receipts from the property tax should have increased, instead of decreased, notwithstanding all the rage of our enemy?
Surely, never from the beginning of the world was such a trib
ute of admiration paid by one power to another, as Buonaparte within the last few years has paid to the British empire. With all the natural and artificial powers of almost the whole of continental Europe, with all the fences and obstacles of all public and private morality broken down before him, with a mighty empire of fifty millions of men, nearly two thirds of whom speak the same language, and are as it were fused together by the intensest nationality; with this mighty and swarming empire, organized in all its parts of war, and forming one huge camp, and himself combining in his own person the two-fold power of monarch and commander-in-chief;—with all these advantages, with all these stupendous instruments and inexhaustible resources of offence, this mighty being finds himself imprisoned by the enemy whom he most hates, and would fain despise, insulted by every wave that breaks upon his shores, and condemned to behold his vast flotillas as worthless and idle as the sea-weed that rots around their keels! After years of haughty menace and expensive preparations for the invasion of an island, the trees and buildings of which are visible from the roofs of his naval store-houses, he is at length compelled to make open confession, that he possesses one mean only of ruining Great Britain. And what is it? The ruin of his own enslaved subjects. To undermine the resources of one enemy, he reduces the continent of Europe to the wretched state in which it was before the wide diffusions of trade and commerce, deprives its inhabitants of comforts and advantages to which they and their fathers had been for more than a century habituated, and thus destroys, as far as his power extends, a principal source of civilization, the origin of a middle class throughout Christendom, and with it the true balance of society, the parent of international law, the foster-nurse of general -humanity, and, to sum up all in one, the main principle of attraction and repulsion, by which the nations were rapidly, though insensibly, drawn together into one system, and by which alone they could combine the manifold blessings of distinct character and national independence, with the needful stimulation and general influences of intercommunity, and be virtually united, without being crushed together by conquest, in order to waste away under the tabes and slow putrefaction of a universal monarchy. This boasted pacificator of the world, this earthly