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night and day, winter and summer, in foul and fair weather, year after
year, till they drop exhausted, poor, and wretched, into the silent tomb, unless previously slaughtered by their severities. If a poor man gets by muscular labour £60, or the hundredth part of six thousand pounds annually, he has reason, in the present state of social law and custom, to bless God and I trust he does as much as he who possesses ten thousand times as much, and receives annually a hundred times his wages, though wholly idle; or, if in trade, this Dives may be accumulating by it, from those who are ultimately needy, ten hundred times as much, or a great deal more.
Psalm 15.- Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill ?” 'Answer. He that walk. eth uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh truth in his heart. He that putteth not out his money to usury or increase, nor taketh reward against the innocent.
Note,—That usury, in Scripture language, as well as among Romans and Jews, meant the increase of goods or money; the interest, or the reward paid by the user to the
“ Usure usurarum," was interest on interest, increase upon increase, or use upon use. Usare quincunx, was five per cent interest among the Latins. Among the Hebrews, God commanded by Moses, Lev. xxv, 36, &c.
6. Take no usury, or increase, (that is interest or rent) of thy poor brother; thou shalt not give him thy money on usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.” By a statute of Henry VIII, “ no person was permitted to lead any sum of money for any usury or increase, to be received above the sum lent, upon the pain of forfeiting the sum lent and the increase, with fine and imprisonment, at the king's pleasure.” This may help to con . firm the preceding ideas on interest and usury; and that usury formerly, and in Scripture meant interest.
G. N. Bleecker, comptroller of the treasury of New York, mentions in his report of 1816, an oppressive interest to be paid by this city annually, to wit: The interest of 638,000 dollars, and of 167,345 dollars in bonds, which, at six per cent. is 48,230 dollars. Such an interest must produce a very impoverishing tax on common people, while it enriches the free holders, &c. Riches in some always attend equal poverty in others. Hence the distress in England, Ireland, and the world.
If the true title to landed estate be, as I have stated, de. rived 1st, from God's gift, 2d, from occupancy, 3d, from improvement, then it is evident that rents of landed property, bear a close relation to money on interest. If a land claimer is esteemed proprietor of thousands of acres in our unsettled territories, or a great landholder of a number of farms, which he cannot work himself, by what good right does either claim title of such lands? I do not perceive, Ist, that God has given it to him more than to another; 2dly, to one who does not occupy it; or 3d, to one who cannot work it; in prefer. ence to an industrious man who can occupy and use it, and has no farm of his own to improve. To make this destitute and industrious man farm for the opulent one, appears to me extortionate and improper. What any man, however, has expended on any farm or house, or other thing, whose occupancy or improvement he chooses to relinquish, should be valued and paid to the person that relinquishes, by every person who thinks it his interest to occupy and continue to use and improve the farm. Hence we see the propriety of every proprietor and possessor of a house and lot in a town or city, being paid for it when he abandons it, or receiving a moderate sum, annually, till the house and improvement is paid for, but for no longer period of time. The payment of twelve years' rent was once the English price of lands ; then a twenty years' tenant deserves what he has occupied and improved.
Money, goods, and lands, are intended to be used; and they who cannot occupy and use them, should let those hold and improve them who can and desire to. But the avaricious spirit of the world, which craves what justly belongs to others, will be opposed to such principles and practice, and object many plausible difficulties, that I cannot now attend to obviate and remove. . I hope the humane will obviate them.
As far as the banking system is a system of putting out money on interest, it ought to be placed on the same basis. of interests and rents. But as it goes still farther, and issues paper to several times the amount of the specie-stock, it becomes so many times the more unjust. The issue of paper, so as to circulate double the quantity of money that circulated in specie, before the issue of paper, depreciates the value of all monies one half. All persons beside bankers are thereby
materially injured; but bankers are as greatly benefited by doubling and trebling their stock of specie. The loss and gain between the bankers and the rest of the community is reciprocated inversely. What the first gains the latter loses. The more scarce money or goods are, the more valuable they are: and the contrary of the proposition is exactly as true. Before Spain possessed the silver mines of Potosi, money in Europe was scarce and valuable.
In the commencement of the Christian æra, the price of a day's labour was a penny. The silver penny was 10 assez, or 132 mills, 13 of our cents. The widow's mite cast into the treasury was a mill and a half; yet it was all her living. In Alfred's days, A. D. 1000, money was very scarce ; for an ox sold for two shillings and six-pence only. In the time of Henry I, A. D. 1113, the price of an ox was three shillings. In the time of Richard I, it had risen to five shillings. A sheep sold for ten-pence if the wool was fine, and six-pence if not so; but it should be noted that a pound sterling was a troy pound weight of silver. No banks existed at that time ; and specie was scarce. Mines by actually and banks by nom. inally increasing monies, depreciated their value.
DUTIES AND TAXES.
Duties are another method of injuring and oppressing the poorer classes of the human family. Taxes should be proportioned to the estimated worth of every man's property. It is not right to tax the poor as much as the rich ; which is, in effect done, by duties on the necessaries and conveniences of life. The lower grades of society, who use sugars, coffees, teas, cotton, linen and woolen cloths, &c, pay in duties, if they purchase these and similar articles, the same amount of taxes that the opulent pay for the purchase of the same necessaries and conveniences of life. They also pay the same taxes on books, cutlery, hardware, &c. If the farms of per. sons in common circumstances, and their horses, horn-cattle, sheep, &c, are taxed, though the farmer may be greatly in debt, by a recent purchase of them, while a wealthy man, who has his property in bonds, cash, notes, and mortgages, is not taxed; this is sure not a small injustice. A tax of a certain rate per cent ad valorem, a hundred on the actual value, would be just, open, and candid :--but duties, excises, and the
like, appear to be unjust, sly, and underhanded. It is taxing the commonalty without their knowledge. It is one way, among many others, of impoverishing the indigent labourers, who enrich the more informed and wealthy drones of the national hive. In a representative republic, like this, one would have thought that property would always have a proportional taxation.
If all duties, excises, taxes, and civil revenue ultimately fall on the consumer, agreeably to the doctrine of political economists, men are obliged now to pay revenue to government, pot according to their ability and wealth, but according to their consumption of the articles of society. This is unjust ; for the poor must eat, drink, and clothe themselves, or suffer.
Though New York, New Jersey, and other states, divide intestates' property equally, yet Inheritances have usually been more confined to men than women; and to the first son in preference to all the others. They have also been more partial to the opulent, than to needy or worthy people. Justice seems to require a better law and custom than this feudal one.
If property is considered in respect to its origin, it is social and individual: being the result and fruits of social protection, policy, and assistance, or of individual care, wisdom, and industry. The civil united interest of society is one of the great sources of civilization, and of wealth and property. What could an unprotected individual do to acquire, preserve, or retain property, where no social government, civilization, and protection existed ? The answer is not difficult, on com. paring the wandering savage of the wilderness with a civilized and well-regulated nation; and by such a view we may per. ceive that society is the principal origin, and that to social union and wisdom we owe almost every thing; even every thing good or bad that distinguishes the civilized from the most destitute, solitary, degraded, and ignorant savages of any country. If we owe so much to social union, and if our individual all, comes from it, is not our individual all in a measure due to it? does it not belong to it ?-and consequently to its disposal, as soon as death severs any individual of us from social rights and privileges ? That society thus considers this matter is evident from its regulating the properties of
departed souls defunct ; and how and by whom they may be willed and inherited.
The laws of inheritances are very different in different na. tions; as justice, ambition, whim, and selfishness dictated. In China, women inherit nothing. In England, the eldest son inherits the landed estate, in preference to all the other children. But the United States of North America, have disposed of inheritances more justly by a more equal and general partition of the departed soul's estate among his nearest relations; so that wills here are not so requisite as in many other nations.
Children have a natural right to so much of their parent's property, as their services have exceeded the care and expenses of their education and bringing up.
Suppose we were a nation of seven millions of inhabitants, and that each person, (if the whole property in the Union was equally divided,) would be entitled to a dividend worth 1,000 dollars ; and suppose (of the men and women who are adult
, and hold property,) one seventieth of the whole population, or 100,000 die annually, these would leave a property of one hundred millions of dollars and more. As about 100,000 young people might annually arrive to the legal state of inheriting, each of these, would be justly entitled, (according to this statement,) to about one thousand dollars, as their just inheritance. This portion is due to each, as a member of the whole family, of whom God should be the head, as he is the author and donor of every good thing we
If the principle of justice be after this nature, the practice of every people ought to be in conformity to it. Nor is it impossible to do our duties; or man would be excusable, blame. less, and guiltless before his maker. Towns might, in a corporate capacity, regulate the families within it: counties, superintend the concerns of towns; states oversee counties, and congress examine the reports, and see to the order, equity, and happiness of the whole national family.
If, some families by force, fraud, speculation, interest, duties and rents, and inheritances, acquire one or two hundred times this sum, as many as one or two hundred families must be without a pound sterling. No wonder, therefore, that Martin, who conducted an inquiry into the state of mendicity in Lon