« 이전계속 »
the Union—we mean during a succession of ages—will, in a great measure, depend on its adoption.
Secondly. Preparatory to the introduction of this system of taxation, as well as for salutary republican purposes in general, we think that a political catechism ought to be drawn up, for the use of our citizens; in which the nature of the social compact, the necessity of a government for the well-being of all, the reciprocal relations between it and the people, and their mutual rights and duties, should be developed in a clear, plain, forcible and popular manner. We think there is nothing in these matters, that could not be rendered perfectly intelligible, even to ordinary capacity, by a person qualified for the task. It would then be generally understood, that every man ought to pay the Union Tax honestly; why he ought so to pay it, and what advantages he obtains in return. A sufficient number of copies of this catechism should be delivered to the governor of each state for distribution, and the proper steps taken, to introduce it, gradually but permanently, into schools of every description.
Thirdly. The law ought expressly to declare that this tax, and duties on imported goods, were the only taxes to be laid by the general government; that the Union Tax, and customs were, in future, to be considered as the only regular sources of the revenue of the empire; at least that no revenue was ever intended to be derived from the people, by means of any other contributions direct or indirect.—For the same reason, the postage of letters, which is now a heavy, and perhaps an injurious charge, ought to be reduced to what is merely necessary for defraying the expenses of the establishment, after the organization of the Union Tax.
Fourthly. The tax ought to be paid by all free males of age, deriving an income, from whatever source, in their own right, or as trustees for others; and by all females of age, deriving an income, in their own right, from real, or personal estate. Females of age, obliged to support themselves by industry, as they are not in a natural and favourable situation, ought to be exempt from the tax. But trustees, managing the estates of orphans, or the property of people residing out of the country, ought to pay it; for no good reason can be assigned why any species of net revenue, derived under the protection of the state, should be intitled to an immunity.
Fifthly. The declaration should be made in the month of February, when the results of the preceding year may be presumed to have been ascertained, and the quantum of contribution for the current year, should be calculated on the net revenue of the year expired.
The net revenue is the gross income of a person, deducting
1. Rent of every description, whether paid for land, houses, or other property.
2. Wages, hire, and insurance, of every description, paid in the prosecution of business.
3. Interest of money borrowed.
4. The value of materials purchased, which constitute no part of permanent stock. This applies chiefly to manufacturers and tradesmen.
These deductions from the gross income, mostly form a part of the net revenue of some other person, which shows the propriety, and, together with a constant view to justice, forms, in equivocal cases, a test of the correctness, of the proceeding. It is obvious, that interest on a man's own capital and stock in trade, ought not to be deducted, because it does not constitute a part of the net revenue of any other person.
From the details just mentioned it also appears, that the tax can hardly be considered as appropriate for a grossly ignorant, and illiterate people, and that it is best calculated for one among whom, the rudiments at least of knowledge, and education, are most generally diffused.
The net revenue, however, is the more easily ascertained, the more simple the pursuit from which it is derived. With a day-labourer, for instance, it will consist merely in the deduction of house-rent, if any he pays, from the amount of wages earned, which amount it will not be difficult to ascertain, as the rate of wages is known, and as he will in general recollect, how many days he has been sick, or out of employ. A small farmer will easily recollect what quantity of produce he has sold, or how much money, on an average, he has taken every week at market; from which proceeds it will only be required to deduct rents, and wages paid to hired hands. Most tradesmen and manufacturers, in this country, even those whose business is not very extensive, are in the habit of keeping regular accounts. Those in a very small way, know at least how much they make by a pair of boots, of shoes, &c. There are very few men indeed, in the United States, so ignorant as not to have a pretty accurate idea how much they clear, as the term is, by their exertions.
The tax will have this further beneficial effect, to cause people to become regular in the management of their business . Vol. III. 2 K
and will be for them an additional stimulus to the acquisition of knowledge.
Sixthly. The collectors of this tax ought to be intelligent, respectable and popular persons. The justices of the peace, on a slight view of the subject, would seem to be the descripC of men, best calculated for the situation. On a judicious.' lection of collectors, and on their judicious conduct, the success of the tax would materially depend. They ought to be well instructed in their business: they should endeavour to render the tax popular, and know how to aid those, who may find some difficulty in forming their calculation.
Every district ought to have its collector general, to whom the collectors in townships, or counties, would be, in the first instance, responsible.
A difficulty might arise from produce unsold, or debts outstanding. If the former has any market price, it may be valued at that. If it has none, or is subject to spoil, it may be left out of the account, and considered as forming part of the revenue of the year following. The outstanding debts may be valued.
In general it may be presumed, that every man in this country, liable to the tax, will be able in the month of February to ascertain, with sufficient accuracy, his good or bad success during the year expired, so as to declare upon oath what sum his net revenue, according to his best knowledge and belief, has not exceeded. It may even be depended upon, that as long as the tax is moderate—which from its great productiveness it may always be—the majority of the people will rather be disposed to overrate, than to underrate their revenue. Conscientiousness will be aided by pride; by the wish not to make a shabby appearance on the collector's book.
The declaration being made, and the amount of the contribution for the year ascertained, it may rest with the person, either to pay it at once, or by degrees, within six months after the declaration. The collectors, in this respect, must study to accommodate the contributors; and give them every facility; but rigorously enforce payment, within the period fixed by law.
Each collector ought to keep a book, alphabetically «• ranged, and ruled, in which the name of every contributor, the sum declared, and the amount of tax paid, should be entered in separate columns. The books should be so contrived as to require being renewed only every five, or ten years.— These revenue books would be, in some measure, records of people's good, or bad success in life, and afford additional excitements to prudence and industry. At elections no person ought to be suffered to vote, whose name was not in the book of the collector.
The business of the first year would, evidently, be the most '. difficult. The tax being once systematized; the declarations , once made, and recorded, people whose pursuits are of a steadily productive character, would not readily declare a less revenue afterwards, thrn they did at first, unless there could be shown a good cause for it. The declarations of one neighbour, one man of the same profession—would prove, in some degree, a check on the declarations of the rest. A number of causes would combine in support of good faith!
The yearly declarations, upon oath, of the amount of individual revenue throughout the empire, would be an invaluable document, in the hands of the general government, and form a more solid basis, than any government has yet been possessed of, on which to found extensive political operations.
After the tax was once organized, and its practicability, and efficiency established by experience, we do not see any good reason why this system, as exclusive of all other taxes except duties on imports, might not be incorporated with the constitution itself. The provision, now contained in this instrument, respecting the apportionment of direct taxes, had evidently for its object, to secure a greater degree of justice in the distribution of the public burthens, which, it was apprehended, might, without this provision, be infringed, owing to the vast difference, in the value and productiveness, of lands in different parts of the Union. The proposed system of taxation is, therefore, congenial with the spirit of our constitution.
Seventhly. We must mention, that in our opinion, a clear and precise Annual Report to the people, giving an account of the state of the Union; of the things actually clone by the government during the year, for the well-being of all; of the measures in a train of execution, and contemplated—should precede the legislative annunciation of the per centage on individual revenue, required in payment of the Union Tax, for the wants of the year ensuing. This Report, if the thing could be accomplished, at an expense not excessive, should be neatly printed, bound, and transmitted to all the collectors, with directions to deliver a copy gratis, to every one generally, when he made his declaration, or to every one, at least, whose declared revenue should not exceed a certain sum. We need not dwell on the tendency of this measure, with regard to government, as well as to the people. The former would sometimes ask themselves—what shall we have to say in the Report?— The latter, particularly the poorer description, would receive something tangible, in return for this contribution; something to be taken home; to be read and talked of;—something to illustrate the Catechism. We have already said, that individual self-love should always have an opportunity of identifying itself with national honour!
Such are our general ideas, concerning this tax, which, however, might be modified in their application. We are perfectly sensible that they have a visionary complexion. Our constitution itself bore that complexion, particularly in Europe, when it was first framed, and promulgated. We have reasoned from immutable principles, the correctness of which cannot be questioned. We have endeavoured to reason clearly. We. are not aware that the plan of taxation suggested is so much at variance with the imperfections of human nature, as to render hopeless, in this country, the attempt to put it in practice, if judiciously made, by a popular administration. We are convinced that the difficulties attending it, though considerable, perhaps, at first, would diminish every yew; and we cannot help being honestly, and deliberately of opinion, that the solidity and future splendor of our federal edifice, would be best secured by the adoption of the proposed system.