Sivut kuvina

is even greater than has been here stated. But that consideration is of vital importance in this question, for if the price of all kinds of rural produce has declined nearly as nine to six by the operation of these monetary changes, the weight of debts and taxes, of course, must have been increased in the same proportion. We are not now to enter into any argument as to the expedience or necessity of that great change in our monetary system : we assume it as a fact, and refer to it only as rendering imperative a revision of the direct taxes bearing so heavily on the great interests whose means of paying them have been thus so seriously abridged.

II. In the second place, and this is a most important circumstance, the burdens which have been mentioned all fall on the landowner, how much soever his property may be charged with mortgages, jointures, or other real burdens. These must all be paid in full by himself alone, how small soever be the fraction of the nominal income of his estate which remains to him after discharging the annual amount of its real burdens. There is no right to deduct poor-rates, land-tax, or other burdens affecting land, from mortgages, or even jointure holders, unless they are expressly declared liable to such, which is very seldom the case. These annual charges must all be paid clear to the creditor, without any deduction, except that of the income-tax, which the debtor is allowed to retain by the Act imposing it. But this consideration is of vital importance to the landholders when the amount of their mortgages and other real burdens is taken into consideration. Their annual amount has been estimated, by very competent judges, at two-thirds of the income derived from land ; although, as there is no general record in England for real burdens, their amount cannot at present be accurately ascertained. But take it, in order to be within the mark, at three-fifths of the real rental as ascertained by the incometax returns, these show, as already stated, an income of £85,000,000 annually derived from land. Take three-fifths, or £51,000,000 of this sum, as absorbed annually by mortgagees and annuitants holding real and preferable securities over land, and there will remain £34,000,000 annually to the holders of land and houses. Now on this £34,000,000 the real burdens above mentioned, amounting to £12,900,000 a-year, are fastened. If to these be added the income-tax paid by the land, amounting, by the incometax returns, to £2,112,000, the clear income derived by landholders from the real property of England, with the direct taxes paid by them, will stand thusClear Income as above

£34,000,000 Deduct direct taxes levied exclusively on

land £12,900,000 Income tax paid by land



[blocks in formation]


Thus it appears that, out of thirty-four millions of clear rental left to the owners of real property in England, above fifteen millions, or nearly a half, is taken from them annually in the shape of direct taxes which they cannot by any possibility avoid ! How long would the commercial or urban industry of England stand direct taxes to the amount of 46 per cent on their clear income? If that had been the state of their finances, we should have had no clamour in 1831 for enlarged representation, or in 1846 for the destruction, to their advantage, of all the protection to other branches of industry. We should have had no AntiCorn-Law League subscriptions of £100,000 to buy up the venal talent in the form of itinerant orators and pamphleteers in the country. We should have had no sudden changes of national policy from a pressure which it was said could not be withstood. In social, not less than military warfare, the longest purse carries the day; and the party which is the heaviest burdened is sure to be in the end overthrown.

III. The abolition of the Corn Laws, partially at present, entirely at the end of two years and a half, by the bill of 1846, not only has made this enormous burden of 46 per cent on their clear income, deductis debitis, a permanent load on the landowners, but it has rendered it a hopeless one, because it has destroyed every means which they previously might have possessed of indemnifying themselves for its weight, by sharing its oppression with other classes. This is a matter of the very highest importance, which will soon make itself felt, though, in consequence of the nearly total failure of the potato crop in the west of Great Britain

and Ireland, it has not yet been so. The usual resource of persons who are burdened with heavy payments to government, is to lay as much as they can of it on others, by enhancing as much as possible the price of their produce. It is in this way that indirect taxes fall in general on the consumer ; and it is on this principle that, in estimating the burdens exclusively affecting land, we have not included the malt duty, because it is in great part at least paid by the consumers of beer or porter. But, of course, if it becomes from any cause impossible for the party burdened, in the first instance, to raise the price of his produce—or if, on the contrary, he is compelled to lower it—the whole tax will fall direct on himself, because he will be without the means of laying it on the purchaser from him.

Now, the abolition of the Corn Laws has done this. In two years and a half the whole grain of Poland and America will be admitted into the English market at the nominal duty of a shilling a quarter. It will be impossible for the farmers and landowners after that to keep up the price of grain of any sort in the British market beyond the prices in Prussia, and with the addition of 5s. a quarter for the cost of transit, and perhaps half as much for the profit of the importer. Wheat, beyond all question, will fall on an average of years to forty shillings a quarter, barley and oats to twenty. This is just as certain as the parallel reduction of average prices of wheat from 878. a quarter to 56s. has been by the money law of 1819. Accordingly, now that the stress is over, and they have no longer an interest to conceal or pervert the truth, the Anti-Corn-Law journals are the first to proclaim this result as certain; and they coolly recommend the English farmers to abandon altogether the cultivation of wheat, which can no longer be expected to pay, and to lay out their lands in pasture grass and the producing of garden stuffs. But amidst this general and now admitted decline in the price of grain, the 46 per cent of direct burdens on land will continue unchanged ; happy if it does not receive a large augmentation. The effect of this will be to augment the weight of the burdens to which they are already subjected on the landholders by at least twenty per cent, and, in addition, to throw upon them the whole malttax, now amounting to £4,500,000 a-year. The moment the British farmer is obliged to lower the price of his barley to the level of the Continental nations, where labour is so much cheaper, and rents comparatively light, the whole malt-tax falls, without deduction or limitation, on British agriculture.

IV. The income-tax, though apparently a burden equally affecting all classes, in reality attaches with much more severity to the landed than to any other class. There is, indeed, an advantage unduly enjoyed by capitalists of all sorts, landed or moneyed, in comparison with annuitants or professional men, which, as will immediately appear, loudly calls for a remedy. But, as compared with the merchant or moneyed man, who derives his income from trade or realised capital in a movable form, the landbolder is, in every direct taxation, exposed to a most serious disadvantage. His income cannot be concealed, and it is returned by others than himself. The farmer or tenant, who has no interest in the matter, returns his landlord's rent. The trader, shopkeeper, or merchant estimates and returns his own income. The possessions of the first, and their annual rental, are universally known, and concealment as to them is impossible or sure of detection ; the gains of the last are entirely secret, and wrapped up, even to the owner, in books or accounts, generally unintelligible—in all cases but those of considerable merchants—to all but the persons who prepare them. Whoever is practically acquainted with human nature will at once perceive the immense effect which this difference must have on the amount of the burden, in appearance the same, as it affects the different classes of society.

And the result of this difference appears in the most decisive manner from the income-tax returns. From them it appears that the contributions from commerce, trades, and professions of all sorts, are not quite half of those obtained from landed property. The amount of the latter is, in round numbers, £2,700,000; of the former, £1,500,000.* But let it be recollected that the £1,541,000 a-year, which in 1845 was paid by “trades and professions,” included, besides the payments of merchants and traders those of the whole class of professional men not traders—as lawyers, attorneys, physicians, &c. At the very lowest computation, their share of this must amount to £341,000 a-year. There remains then £1,200,000 as the contribution of trade and commerce of all kinds from Great Britain, while that from land is £2,681,000 a-year, or considerably more than double. Can it be believed that this is founded on a fair return of incomes by the commercial classes ? Are they prepared to admit that their property and income, and consequent interest and title to sway in the state, is not half of that which is derived from land? Or do they shelter themselves under the comfortable assurance that their real income is incomparably greater, and that they quietly escape with a half or a third of the income-tax which they ought to pay? We leave it to the trading class, and their abettors in the press, to settle this question with the commissioners of income-tax throughout the country. We mention the fact, that trade and commerce do not pay half the income tax that land does, as a reason, among the many others which exist, for a thorough and radical reform of our financial system, so far as direct taxation is concerned.

* Net amount of income-tax for year ending 5th April 1845:


Scotland. Schedule A, Land rents

£2,112,072 £253,976
B, Tenants

292,646 22,961
C, Annuities, funds, &c. 766,066
D, Trades and professions 1,424,017 117,953
E, Offices, pensions, &c. 305,401 8,500



766,066 1,541,970





Whoever considers seriously, and in an impartial spirit, the various particulars which have now been stated, will not only cease to wonder at the frequent, it may almost be said universal

, embarrassment of the landed proprietors, but he will arrive at the conclusion that, if the burdens upon them continue much longer unchanged, they must terminate in their general ruin. We say general ruin, because it will not be universal. The great landowners, the magnates, whether moneyed or territorial, of the land will alone survive the general wreck. They will, by degrees, swallow up all the smaller estates in their neighbourhood ; and it will come to be literally true in Britain what was said by a Roman emperor of Gaul in the decline of the empire, “That the estates of the rich go on continually increasing, and absorbing all lesser estates around them, till they come to the estate of another as rich as themselves." With direct taxes, amounting to 50 or 60 per cent

« EdellinenJatka »