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and in a lesser degree. This is decisively demonstrated by the colossal fortunes so frequently made among the commercial classes, contrasted with the declining circumstances or actual insolvency of the landholders by whom they are surrounded. Do these, the merchants and manufacturers, pay the larger proportion of the poor-tax, thus rendered inevitable by the nature of their operations, which are in so high a degree beneficial to themselves ? Quite the reverse: they do not, in proportion to their profits, pay a tenth part of its amount. The poor-rate, as at present levied, is on the rural proprietors an Income, on burgh inhabitants a House tax. The difference is prodigious, and leads to results in practice of the grossest injustice.
A landowner has an estate of £2000 a-year in a parish of which the poor-rate is 1s. in the pound, or £100 a-year on his property. A manufactory is established, or an ironwork set agoing, or a coal-mine opened upon it, from which the fortunate owner derives, in prosperous times, £50,000 a-year of profit. The buildings on it, however, are only valued at £2000 a-year. He pays for his pauper-creating work, yield
. ing him £50,000 a-year, £100 annually, the same sum as the landowner in the same parish pays for his pauper-feeding estate of £2000 a-year. In other words, in proportion to the respective incomes, the landholder, who had no hand in bringing in the poor, and derives little or nothing from their labour, pays just five-and-twenty times as much as the manufacturer who introduced them, and is daily making a colossal fortune by their exertions! And this becomes the more unjust when it is recollected, that under the present system of free trade in corn and easy communication with distant quarters which railways and steamboats afford, the little benefit the neighbouring landholders formerly derived from the presence of such manufacturing crowds, is fast disappearing. But further, the manufacturer or mineowner having got off thus easily during the time of prosperous trade, when he was realising his fortune, stops his works, and discharges his workmen when the adverse season arrives.
The rateable value of the manufactory or the mine has, for the present, almost or wholly disappeared, and the poor starving workmen are handed over to be supported by the landowner.
Persons not practically acquainted with these matters may think this statement is overcharged : on the contrary, it is in some instances within the truth. We know an instance of a company of great iron-masters, whose profits, in prosperous years, average above £100,000 a-year, who pay less poor-rates for the poor they have mainly created, than a landholder in the same parish, of £2000 a-year, who never brought a pauper on its funds in his life. Such is the consequence of the present barbarous system of levying the poor-rate as an income tax on the landlords who are burdened with paupers, and only as a house tax on the manufacturers who create, and profit by them. The first thing to be done towards the introduction of a just system of direct taxation is to lay the maintenance of the poor equally on all classes; the first step towards which is to abolish the present unjust system of making the poorrate only a house tax on the producers of poor in towns, and an income tax on their feeders in the country.
The Land Tax is another burden, exclusively affecting real property, which should either be abolished altogether, or its amount levied equally on all classes. Its amount is not so great as the poor-rate; nevertheless it is considerable, as it produces about £1,172,000 a-year.
The whole ASSESSED Taxes, though not avowedly and exclusively laid on the landed interest, are, practically speaking, and in reality, a burden on them almost entirely; at least they are so much heavier on the landowners than the inhabitants of towns, that the burden is nothing in comparison on urban citizens. Had they been practically felt as a grievance by the urban population, they
, would long since have shared the fate of the house tax and been abolished. They have so long been kept up only because, with a few exceptions, they press almost exclusively upon that passive and supine class of landlords, the natural prey of Chancellors of the Exchequer, whom it seems generally impossible by any exertions, or the advent of any danger how urgent soever, to rouse to any common measure of defence. It no doubt sounds well to say that the assessed taxes are laid chiefly on luxuries, and therefore they are paid equally by all classes which
* Porter's Parl. Tables, xii. 36.
indulge in them. But a closer examination will show that this view is entirely fallacious, and that the subjects actually taxed, though really luxuries. to urban, are necessary aids to rural life. For example, a carriage, a riding
, horse, a coachman, a groom, are really luxuries in town, and their use may be considered as a fair test of affluent, or at least easy circumstances. But in the country they are absolute necessaries. They are indispensable to business, to health, to mutual communication, to society, to existence. What similarity is there between the situation of a merchant with £1000 a-year, living in a comfortable town house, with an omnibus driving past his door every five minutes, a stand of cabs within call, and dining three days in the week at a club where he needs no servants of his own; and a landholder enjoying the same income, living in a country situation, with no neighbour within five miles, and having six miles to ride or drive to the nearest town or railway station where his business is to be transacted, or where a public conveyance can be reached?
Gardeners, park-keepers, foresters, and the like, are generally not the ministers of luxury in the country; they are a necessary part of an establishment which is to turn the land to a profitable use. You might as well tax operatives in mills, or miners in collieries, or mechanics in manufactories, as such servants. Yet they are all swept into the assessed taxes, upon the rude and unfounded presumption that they are, equally with a large establishment of men-servants in towns, an indication of affluent circumstances. The window tax is incomparably more oppressive in country houses than in town ones, from their greater size in general, and being, for the most part, constructed at a period when, before the tax was laid on, no attention was paid to the number of windows. Taking all these circumstances into view, it is not going too far to assert that, on equal fortunes, the assessed taxes are twice as heavy in the country as in towns; and that of £3,312,000 which they produce annually, after deducting the land tax, about £2,500,000 is paid by landowners either in town or country. It is inconceivable—no one a priori could credit it-how few householders in town,
not being landowners, pay any assessed taxes at all or any of such amount as to be really a burden. The total number of houses charged to the window tax in Great Britain is 447,000, and the duty levied on them is £1,613,774, or, at an average, about £3, 10s. a house, while the number of inhabited houses was, in 1841, 3,464,000, or above seven times the number. The total number of persons charged with one man-servant is only 49,320, and of those keeping men-servants at all, 110,849* -facts indicating how
. extremely partial is the operation of these taxes, and how severely they fall on the classes most heavily burdened in other respects, and therefore least able to bear them.
The Highway RATES are another burden exclusively affecting land, although the whole community derive benefit from their use. This burden, exclusive of the sum levied at turnpike gates, in England amounted to £1,169,891 a-year. This charge, heavy as it is, is felt as the more vexatious, that the rate-payers are not at liberty either to limit the use of the road, for which they pay, to themselves, or to allow it to fall into disrepair. An indictment of the road lies at common law, if it becomes unfit for traffic, even at the instance of any party using the road though he does not pay any part of the rate. In other words, the neighbouring landholders are compelled to keep up the roads for the benefit of the public generally, who contribute nothing towards their maintenance. This matter becomes the more serious that, in consequence of the general adoption and immense spread of railways, the traffic on the principal lines of road in England has either in a great degree disappeared, or become inadequate to contributing anything material to the support even of the turnpikes hitherto entirely maintained by them. It is not difficult to foresee that the time is not far distant when nearly the whole of the great roads of England will fall as a burden on the rate-payers ; for these roads cannot be abandoned, or the country off the railway lines would have no communication at all.
And the sums paid by railway companies, how large soever, to landholders, afford no general compensation; for they benefit a few in the close vicinity of the railways only, while the highway rate affects all.
* Porter's Parl. Tables, xii. 37, 42; and xi. 275.
+ Lords' Report on Burdens on Real Property, 1846, p. 6. VOL. III.
The Church Rate is another burden exclusively affecting land, though all classes benefit by it in the comfort and convenience of churches. It amounted in 1839, the last year for which a return was made, to £506,512.* Nothing can be clearer than that this is a burden truly affecting real
a estates. It is entirely different from tithes, which are not, correctly speaking, a burden on land, but a separate estate apart from that of the landlord, which never was his, for which he has given no valuable consideration. But on what principle of justice is the burden of upholding churches exclusively laid on the land, when all classes sit in churches, and enjoy the benefit of their accommodation? The thing is evidently and palpably unjust, and won't bear an argument.
The POLICE, LUNATIC ASYLUM, and BRIDGE RATES constitute another burden on real property to which no other property is subject, which, though not universally introduced, are very oppressive in those counties where their establishment has been found necessary.
Mr Blamire, a very competent witness, estimates these incidental and partial charges at 2s. 1d. an acre.
The land is still liable also to a heavy disbursement on account of the militia, if that national force should be again called out. There has been no return yet laid before parliament of these partial burdens on land, but they cannot be estimated at less than the church rate, or £500,000 a-year.
The STAMP DUTIES, from deeds and instruments, which produce annually £1,646,000 a-year, fall, for the most part, as a burden on real property. This must be evident to every person who considers that real estates in land or houses are the great security on which money is advanced in every part of the country, and the extremely heavy burdens, in the shape of a direct payment to government for the requisite stamps for deeds, is imposed on the transmission and burdening of such property. It is particularly severe, in proportion to the value of the subjects burdened, in the mortgaging or alienating of small freeholds or heritable subjects. It is stated in the Lords' Report on the burdens affecting real property, “The stamp on a conveyance of a certain length, on a sale of real subjects of the value of £50, would cost 12 per cent, or £6, 10s. ; on a £100 sale, 5 per cent ; on a £200 sale, 2 per cent ; * Lords' Report on Burdens on Real Property, 1816, p. 6. + Ibid., p. 7.