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Cruelty of our River and Field Sports.
earliest pleasure from the extinction of life, should in his riper years boast of the number and magnitude of his cruelties, and thus by an easy transition pass to the atrocities of war, as a step in advance, or as the climax, of his early achievements.
It is painful to remember how we first exercised our dominion over living nature, by the capture and destruction of the loveliest insects, and how we arrested the industrious bee in its honest labours, and even when in our own service, by robbing it at once of its life and its treasure. By the hazel wand, with its line of cord and its hook of steel, we committed havoc among the minnows, before the spring-gun had introduced us to the more lethal tube which was guilty of the blood of sparrows. Though but a youthful spectator in the scene, we gaze with delight on the varied feats of the angler. We watch him in the stream and in the pool, impaling the writhing worm upon his line-sacrificing one life to take another; and with the bright sun above him, and the dove-like sky around, and rock and woodland demanding his admiration of peaceful nature, he terminates his every act of pleasure by every variety of pain. The life which he has caught is rudely dashed out against the rock, or crushed by his living hand, or allowed to pass away in the slow and fluttering agonies of pain. Thus hardened for the future, our river hero is soon introduced to a still higher sport, and still bloodier gambols. The companion of the licensed fisherman, or of the lawless poacher, he is invited to the romantic drama of the sunning of the water by day, and the burning of it by night, in which the picturesque grandeur of rock and stream, and the sublimity of worlds in the canopy above, form a strange contrast with the work of death below. Frightened by the ruddy blaze, the salmon seeks for shelter beneath the stones and cliffs, or lies stupified beside them, till the river Neptune, with his three-pronged trident, dashes it into the flesh of his glittering prey, and casts it in triumph to the shore.
Harrowing as is the sight itself, and painful as it is in all its details and accessories, we are yet disposed to regard our river sports as more humane in their character, and less cruel in their practice, than those of the gun and the chase. We cannot indeed affirm, as some have done, that ichthyological life is less painfully surrendered than that of the mammalia, though our early cruelties make us indulge in the belief that the amount of suffering is proportional to the magnitude of the sufferer. Yet when we see the salmon stretched on the ground without a wound, and slain without the shedding of blood, our sympathy is immeasurably less than that which is called forth when we scan the stately hart, with its glazed eye and its quivering limb, or the comely roe-deer perforated by the rifle, or torn by the spires a peculiar reverence. In every civilized community cruelty to the animals that serve us is an offence punishable by law; and when law does not interpose its sanction, the natural benevolence of man, small and evanescent though it be, enacts a law of kindness for itself. We would not injure, and still less kill the gay lark, or the minstrel nightingale, that have sweetened our solitary hours with their angelic lay. The noble steed that has carried us safely through our pilgrimage either of peace or of war, acquires a right to our affections which is but seldom withheld. And the faithful watch-dog, whose vigilance has guarded our dwelling, or perchance saved our life, is a household favourite, whose happiness we study with almost parental care.
What then must be the value of human life—what the respect which we owe it—and what the crime of him who takes it away? It is not yet decided by reason, nor by revelation, viewed in its most comprehensive aspect, that man is, under any circumstances, entitled to take the life of his fellow. “ Thou shalt not kill,” stands a law, without exception, in the statute-book of heaven; and the Creator, who made of one blood all the nations of the universe, has nowhere given express permission to the creature to appropriate a single drop of the life-giving unity. The term of existence, then, which God has apportioned to his children, is in his hands alone—aninheritance of inestimable value, which it would be criminal to abridge, even if man were to lie for ever a human fossil amid the wreck of nature. But when the gift of life is a necessary prelude to the boon of immortality, and when this last and greatest gift to man is conditional on the discharge of duties in the first, the duration of that life-the continuance of its period of trial—and the peaceful enjoyment of its serene evening for repentance and preparation, are blessings which He only who gave them can take away. These blessings are forfeited by him who falls by his own hand, and they are rudely extinguished in the man who falls by the hand of another—that bloody hand which no saint above will grasp, and which had better been cut off and cast into the fire. The life thus shortened, the body thus mangled, may have been that of a brother slain by a brother, or a father slain by his son.* It must have been that of a parent, a brother, or a child; and there must have been left behind, a widow, a brother, a sister, or an orphan, to weep over the sanguinary deed, or to shed burning tears lest it was a stroke which should sever them for ever.
* “ While we were at Rendsburg in Schleswig-Holstein," says a recent traveller, “ there was seated at the same table with us at dinner, the brother of the Conimander-in-Chief of the Danish army, who had four sons in the army of SchleswigHolstein. We were informed that even father and sons were arrayed against each other in this war !"
Principles of Taxation.
ART. II. – 1. Taxation and the Funding System. By J. R.
M'CULLOCH. London, 1845. 2. Principles of Political Economy. Book V. By J. S. MILL.
London, 1850. 3. Financial Reform Tracts. Liverpool, 1850-1851. 4. Bulletin des Lois. Nos. 300, 303. Paris, 1851.
The English are noted for never doing more tnan one thing at a time. The national mind does not seem large enough to embrace more than a single interest at once. We attack the enemies of our social wellbeing in succession, and cut them off in detail. We take up public questions seriatim, devoting to each as it arises the whole force of the national will; and resenting as an intruder, or eschewing as a bore, whoever would direct into other, and intrinsically perhaps equally important channels, any portion of the general attention. Upon each grievance to be remedied, and each abuse to be swept away, we concentrate for the moment the whole intensity of our hatred, the whole energy of our zeal: we speak and feel as if it were the sole evil in existence, or, at least, as if all others were utterly insignificant in comparison; and, for the time being, all others are permitted to flourish unchecked and unregarded. This national idiosyncrasy, which is the despair of all whose topics of interest or abhorrence are not those of the present phase of the popular mind, and who find themselves in consequence contemptuously pooh-poohed and set aside, is estimated at its full value by philosophic politicians, who know, not only that it is the means of securing far greater efficiency to the operation of the reforming spirit, than it could hope to attain were it frittered away upon a hundred objects, but that it ensures all questions " becoming kings in their turn," and reaping in due time and order the full benefit of this exclusive and predominating zeal. As one battle after another is fought with antiquated error and injustice, as one victory after another, over the forces of the social enemy, is added to the records of national achievements, the subject is relegated to the past, and buried in oblivion for ever, and the goodly fellowship of our reformers" marches onward to another conquest. Since this career began in Britain we have won the hard-fought fields, first, of religious liberty, then of civil freedom and parliamentary reform, and then of commercial emancipation. Each in its turn occupied the nation for years; each was magnified as the sole and special interest of the day; each occupied for a time an inordinate share of the public mind, utterly disproportionate to its real magnitude;
VOL. XVI. NO, XXXI.
and each in turn, when its day was over and its cause was gained, gave place to a successor as unduly and unreasonably favoured. New candidates for popular attention are now coming on the stage. Besides the various questions of the vast field of Sociology, three topics especially promise to become prominent, Colonial Policy, Law Reform, and the Principles of Taxation. Which of these will take precedence, and engross to itself the undivided political spirit of the country, it is hard to say. It may be that, contrary to our wont, we may be able, to a greater or less extent, to entertain the three topics simultaneously, and that while the public mind is acting upon one of them, it may be ripening for action on another. We propose, even at the risk of finding that our voice is as that of one crying in the wilderness, to call attention to the last of these matters—the Science of Taxation as one of which the interest is pressing, perpetual, and yearly renewed, and which comes home, more closely than either of the others, to the business and bosoms of every individual among us."
Till very recently, the Science of Taxation may be said to have had no existence. That which has performed its functions, and sometimes usurped its name, has been a mere art of extortion. A certain revenue was required, and it was to be got by hook or by crook, in the readiest and easiest way possible. That tax which yielded the most with the least difficulty to the collectors, and the least outcry among the influential part of the community, was ever the favourite. “Plumer la poule sans la faire crier," was the highest aim of the Chancellors of the Exchequer. The certainty of distant evils, the dread of collateral consequences, the chance of killing the goose that laid the golden eggs, were alike disregarded. In earlier times, the coarse and ready expedient of a poll-tax, or a hearth-tax, or the prima facie fair one of a land-tax, was most usually resorted to. In more recent days, as society became more complex, and as commerce and manufactures were developed, more circuitous and silent, but not less unscientific or inequitable modes of transferring the property of the subject into the coffers of the state, came gradually into vogue. Each new branch of industry, as it raised its head, was pounced upon by the quick-sighted detectives of the revenue, and made to pay for license or protection ; each fresh article of taste or consumption brought from foreign countries by our indefatigable merchants, was burdened with a special import-duty; funds were sought and extracted from the most incongruous and opposite sources, from the necessaries of the pauper and the luxuries of the millionaire, from the most healthful and the most noxious indulgences, from the poison that generates a disease, and from the drug that cures it, from
Our Taxation not Scientific but Empirical. 51 salt and from eau-de-Cologne, from tea and from gin, from rhubarb and from tobacco. No principle of private justice or public advantage was laid down or kept in view ; one sole rule seemed to be followed—whatever was squeezable was to be squeezed ;-rem, quocunque modo rem.
This state of things has in a great measure passed away: our Legislature has awakened to the necessity of juster and more judicious impositions. But though immense improvement has been effected in the art of taxation, next to no progress has taken place in the science. We were empirical and tentative in laying on taxes—we continue to be empirical and tentative in taking them off. Statesmen have arisen from time to time who have discovered that such and such a duty was injurious to industry, unproductive to revenue, or was becoming intolerable to the altered feelings of the people; and it has been repealed accordingly. Sudden emergencies have led to the invention of new imposts, which remain as a matter of course till public indignation kicks them off. A deficient revenue is met by a loan, a new tax, or the augmentation of an old one, according to the fancy or ingenuity of the actual Chancellor. A surplus revenue occasions the repeal of some branch of revenue, which is selected for sacrifice, not for its mischievousness, but for its unpopularity. But still no step has been taken towards a systematic decision of the general principles which regulate the imposition or the repeal of taxation. The subject, it is true, has been much discussed in the writings of economists, and is often touched upon in Parliament; but the public at large, which in the end settles all these questions, has not yet arrived at any clear comprehension of the question at issue, or any predominating opinion upon it. Writers of authority and statesmen of ability are ranged on all sides; but it is still a moot point whether taxation ought to be direct or indirect; whether it ought to be levied on all, or only on men of property-on terminable and professional as on perpetual and idle incomes ; whether men should pay in proportion to their income or to their expenditure, in proportion to their means or to their requirements; what, in fact, are the qualities and consequences, by reference to which a tax is to be approved or condemned. We propose to contribute our mite towards the formation of a public opinion on this weighty subject, especially upon that branch of it—the controversy between direct and indirect taxation-on which the chief interest is now felt. Before proceeding to this task, however, we wish to notice one or two fallacies, which have still a strong hold on the popular mind, and one or two principles which have been clearly elicited in the course of our irregular and floundering experiments.
It has long been the custom of English demagogues to repre