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sells. To know then which is the gainer or loser, we must examine how the general balance of trade stands between them. If the 'mporting state takes more of the commodities of its neighbour than it gives in exchange, that will be the loser by the reciprocal augmentation of prices, it will be the gainer if it takes less, and neither will gain or lose if the barter is carried on upon equal terms. The balance of trade, and consequently the gain, or loss, in this respect, will be governed more by the relative industry and frugality of the parties, than by their relative advantages for foreign commerce.
Between separate nations this reasoning will not apply with full force, because a multitude of local and extraneous circumstances may counteraot the principle; but from the intimate connections of these states, the similitude of governments, situations, customs, manners, political and commercial causes will have nearly the same operation in the intercourse between the states, as in that between the different parts of the same state. If this should be controverted, the objection drawn from the hypothesis of the consumer paying the duty must fall at the same time: For as far as this is true it is as much confined in its application to a state within itself as the doctrine of a reciprocal proportion of prices.
General principles in subjects of this nature ought always to be advanced with caution: in an experimental analysis there are found such a number of exceptions as tend to render them very doubtful: and in questions which affect the existence and collective happiness of these states, all nice and abstract distinctions should give way to plainer interests, and to more obvious and simple rules of conduct.
But the objection which has been urged ought to have no weight on another account. Which are the states that have not sufficient advantages for foreign commerce, and that will not in time be their own carriers ? Connecticut and Jersey are the least maritime of the whole; yet the sound which washes the coast of Connecticut, has an easy outlet to the ocean, affords a number of harbours and bays, very commodious for trading vessels. New London may be a receptacle for merchantmon of almost any burthen: and the fine rivers with which the state is intersected, by facilitating the transportation of commodities to and from every part, are extremely favourable both to its domestic and foreign trade.
Jersey, by way of Amboy has a shorter communication with the ocean, than the city of New York. Prince's bay, which may serve as an out port to it, will admit and shelter in winter and summer vessele of any size. Egg-harbour on its southern coast is not to be despised. The Delaware may be made as subservient to its commerce as to that of Pennsylvania, Gloucester, Burlington, and Trenton, being all conveniently situated on that river. The United Provinces with inferior advantages of position to either of these states, have for centuries held the first rank among commercial nations.
The want of large trading c ties has been sometimes objected as an
obstacle to the commerce of these states; hut this is a temporary deficiency that will repair itself with the increase of population and riches. The reason that the states in question have hitherto carried on little foreign trade, is that they have found it equally beneficial to pur. chase the commodities imported by their neighbours. If the imposta on trade should work an inconvenience to them, it will soon cease hy making it their interest to trade abroad.
It is too much characteristic of our national tomper to be ingenious in finding out and magnifying the minutest disadvantages, and to reject measures of evident utility, even of necessity, to avoid trivial and sometimes imaginary evils. We seem not to reflect, that in human society, there is scarcely any plan, however salutary to the whole and to every part, by the share each has in the common prosperity, but in one way, or another, and under particular circumstances, will operate more to the benefit of some parts than of others. Unless we can overcome this narrow disposition and learn to estimate measures by their general tendencies, we shall never be a great or a happy people, if we remain a people at all.
JULY 12, 1781.
Let us see what will be the consequences of not authorizing the Federal Government to regulate the trade of these States. Besides the want of revenue and of power, besides the immediate risk to our independence, the dangers of all the future evils of a precarious Union, besides the deficiency of a wholesome concert, and provident superintendence to advance the general prosperity of trade, the direct consequence will be that the landed interest and the laboring poor, will in the first place fall a sacrifice to the trading interest; and the whole eventually to a bad system of policy, made necessary by the want of such regulating power.
Each State will be afraid to impose duties on its commerce, lest the other States, not doing the same, should enjoy greater advantages than itself, by being able to afford native commodities cheaper abroad, and foreign commodities cheaper at home.
A part of the evils resulting from this would be, a loss to the revenue of those moderate duties, which, without being injurious to commerce, are allowed to be the most agreeable species of taxes to the people. Articles of foreign luxury, while they would contribute nothing to the income of the State, being less dear by an exemptiom from duties, would have a more extensive consumption.
Many branches of trade, hurtful to the common interest, would be continued for want of proper checks and discouragements. As revenues must be found to satisfy the public exigencies in peace and in war, too great a proportion of taxes will fall directly upon land, and upon the necessaries of life—the produce of that land.
The influence of these evils will be to render landed property fluctuating and less valuable—to oppress the poor by raising the prices of necessaries—to injure commerce by encouraging the consumption of foreign luxuries, by increasing the value of labor—by lessening the quantity of home productions, enhancing their prices at foreign markets. of course obstructing their sale, and enabling other nations to supplant us.
Particular caution ought at present to be observed in this country.
not to burthen the soil itself and its productions with heavy impositions, because the quantity of unimproved land will invite the husbandmen to abandon old settlements for new; and the disproportion of our population for some time to come will necessarily make labor dear, to reduce which, and not to increase it, ought to be a capital object of our policy.
Easy duties, therefore, on commerce, especially on imports, ought to lighten the burthens which will unavoidably fall upon land. Though it may be said that, on the principle of a reciprocal influence of prices, whereon the taxes are laid in the first instance, they will in the end be borne by all classes, yet it is of the greatest importance that no one should sink under the immediate
pressure. The great art is to distribute the public burthens well, and not suffer them, either first or last, to fall too heavily on parts of the community; else, distress and disorder must ensue--a shock given to any part of the political machine vibrates through the whole.
As & sufficient revenue could not be raised from trade to answer the public purposes, other articles have been proposed. A moderate land and poll tax being of easy and unexpensive collection, and leaving nothing to discretion, are the simplest and best that could be devised.
It is to be feared, the avarice of many of the landholders will be opposed to a perpetual tax upon land, however moderate. They will ignorantly hope to shift the burthens of the national expense from themselves to others--a disposition as iniquitous as it is fruitless—the public necessities must be satisfied ; this can only be done by the contributions of the whole society. Particular classes are neither able nor will be willing to pay for the protection and security of the others, and where so selfish a spirit discovers itself in any member, the rest of the community will unite to compel it to do its duty.
Indeed, many theorists in political economy have held, that all taxės, wherever they originate, fall upon land, and have therefore been of opinion, that it would be best to draw the whole revenue of the State immediately from that source, to avoid the expense of a more diversified collection, and the accumulations which will be heaped in their several stages, upon the primitive 'sums advanced in those stages which are imposed on our trade. But though it has been demonstrated that this theory has been carried to an extreme, impracticable in fact; yet it is evident, in tracing the matter, that a large part of all taxes, however remotely laid, will, by an insensible circulation come at last to settle upon land-the source of most of the materials employed in commerce.
It appears from a calculation made by the ablest master of political arithmetic, about sixty years ago, that the yearly product of all thò lands in England amounted to £42,000,000 sterling; and the whole annual consumption at that period, of foreign as well as domestic conmodities, did not exceed £49,000,000, and the surplus of the exportation above the importation £2,000,000, on which sums arise all tho revenues iu whatever shape, which go into the treasury.
It is easy to infer from this, how large a part of them must. directly or indirectly, be derived from land.
Nothing can be more mistaken, than the collision ana rivalship which almost always subsist between the landing and trading interests, for the truth is they are so inseparably interwoven that one cannot be injured without injury nor benefited without benefit to the other. Oppress trade, lands sink in value; make it flourish, their value rises ; incumber husbandry, trade declines, encourage agriculture, commerce revives. The progress of this mutual reaction might be easily delineated, but it is too obvious to every man, who turns his thoughts, however superficially, upon the subject, to require it. It is only to be regretted, that it is too often lost sight of, when the seductions of some immediate advantage or exemption tempt us to sacrifice the future to the present.
But perhaps the class is more numerous of those, who, not unwilling to bear their share of public burthens, are yet averse to the idea of perpetuity, as if there ever would arrive a period when the State would cease to want revenues; and taxes become unnecessary. It is of importance to unmask this delusion, and open the eyes of the people to the truth. It is paying too great a tribute to the idol of popularity, to flatter so injurious and so visionary an expectation. The error is too gross to be tolerated any where but in the cottage of the. peasant. Should we meet with it in the Senate House, we must lament the ignorance or despise the hypocrisy on which it is ingrafted. Expense is in the present state of things entailed upon all governments; though, if we continue United, we shall be hereafter less exposed to wars by land than most other countries; yet while we have powerful neighbors on either extremity, and our frontier is embraced by savages, whose alliance they may without difficulty command, we cannot, in prudence, dispense with the usual precautions for our interior security. As a commercial people, maritime power must be a primary object of our attention, and a navy cannot be created or maintained without ample revenues. The nature of our popular institutions requires a numerous magistracy, for whom competent provision must be made, or we may be certain our affairs will always be committed to improper hands, and experience will teach us that no government costs so much as a bad one.
We may preach, till we are tired of the theme, the necessity of disinterestedness in republics, without making a single proselyte. The virtuous declaimer will neither persuade himself nor any other person to be content with a double mess of pottage, instead of a reasonable stipend for his services. We might as soon reconcile ourselves to the Spartan community of goods and wives, to their iron coin, their long beards, or their black broth. There is a total dissimilarity in the circumstances, as well as the manners of society among us, and it is as ridiculous to seek for models in the small ages of Greece and Rome, as it would be to go in quest of them among the Hottentots and Laplanders.
The public, for the different purposes that have been mentioned, must always have large demands upon its constituents, and the only