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ceed to the mode by which it is proposed to raise this sum of seven millions.
It has been understood for a considerable time that a great increase of the assessed taxes was in agitation. I shall state the reasons why this branch of the revenue has been chosen as best calculated to combine the advantages, which I have already explained as desirable in the intended plan. The objects to be attained in the mode of executing this scheme are threefold. One great point is, that the plan should be diffused as extensively as possible ; that it should be regulated as fairly and equally as possible, without the necessity of such an investigation of property as the customs, the manners, and the pursuits of the people would render odious and vexatious. That it should exclude those who are least able to contribute or furnish means of relief; that it should distinguish the gradation of classes : that it should admit of those abatements which, in particular instances, it might be prudent to make in the portion of those who might be liable under its general principles. I am aware that no measure can be devised adequately to provide for all these objects in all their details and in every particular instance. No scheme can be practically carried into execution, in any financial arrangement, much more in such a one as the present, with such perfect dispositions as to guard against every possible inconvenience, and to render every individual application unexceptionable. These general principles, however, must be kept in view in every practical plan, and the great question in discussion will be, whether any means of apportioning the extent of the contribution can be found, better calculated to preserve them entire than the provisions which I propose contain. It will at once occur that the taxes, known by the name of assessed, include so many objects different in their nature, so many objects in the present state of society, of real necessity, so many of optional use and of luxury, so diversified by modes and by the state of families, that in general nothing can afford a better test ef expenditure than the way in which these taxes are combined. One great objection, that the poor
who contribute to the assessed taxes yet may be entitled to be exempted from such a contribution as the present, will thus be obviated in a striking manner. Those who contribute to the assessed taxes compose a number of about 7 or 800,000 housekeepers and masters of families, including a population of nearly four millions, on whom the sum will be raised. Who then are those who will be entitled to exemption? Those who already are not included at all, on account of their poverty, or those who, for the same reason, are discharged from payment. Whether this description includes the artificers and labourers who have a fair claim to exemption, there is at least reason to believe, from the best information that can be collected, that 500,000 housekeepers and masters of families, covering a population of · between two and three millions, are so comprehended. Such is the extent of the total exemption.
The next object then is, to consider the effect of the contribution upon those classes on which it would be raised. The assessed taxes, so far as can be ascertained, amount to a sum of about 2,700,0001. This sum as collected is levied on about 7 or 800,000 house. keepers, of whom it is ascertained that 400,000 do not contribute more than 150,0001. This, indeed, is a little increased by the late additions, but in a very small proportion, as these additions chiefly affect those who belong to the superior classes. The proposed additional assessment, then, upon the whole contributors, would amount, on the whole sum of the assessed taxes, to something less than a treble contribution. Why it should be something less than treble, which would be about eight millions, will be explained in the sequel. When we see that 400,000 householders contribute only 150,0001. we shall see how small a part of the additional share will fall upon those who are most entitled to mitigation. In this extensive apportionment, too, we shall discover the modifications which it may be necessary to make, and the means to adapt it to the ability of the contributors. The assessed taxes obviously divide themselves into two classes. Those which in a great measure applied to inhabited houses, consisted of three duties; that which was known by the name of the old duty,
the window duty, and the commutation duty, first imposed last war, and regulated in 1788 : and of the different per cents. since imposed, which may amount to about 1,400,0001. out of two millions and a-half. In this both the high and the low classes were included; but among the latter, 400,000 contributed only 150,000. The other consists of optional consumptions and luxury — the duty on servants, carriages, horses for pleasure, and that class of horses employed in agriculture, the proprietors of whom, in the present state of the country, one of the most opulent classes which it contains, could not be injured by such an addition to the moderate rate which is now paid. It will readily occur that, where there are houses which do not contribute for the optional, or class of luxury, there the inhabitant must be best entitled to favour and mitigation. On these, then, the burden will fall much more lightly than on those, such as ourselves, and those who contribute to both divisions of the assessed taxes. There is another distinction likewise which will increase the facility of applying the relief, which it may be found proper to bestow. The house-tax in the metropolis and other great towns, is more felt by the inferior classes than it is felt by the same class in the country. Persons in the same cir. cumstances of life, who in the country pay only perhaps 21., in towns may pay three or four times that amount. It is the advantage of this plan then, that it will be in the power of the committee to make the contribution bear upon those who are best able to pay, and diminish the burden of those who are best entitled to relief. It forms another characteristic advantage of the plan, that the relief which it may be expedient to give to the poor, will not materially affect the productiveness of the tax. There is reason to believe, from the best estimate that can be formed, that not more than 3 or 400,0001. is raised in all the metropolis. This includes, indeed, all who are entitled to relief, but it likewise includes all those who are best able to pay. If great cities and populous towns contain a great number who, from their poverty, have a claim to exemption, they contain likewise a great proportion of the opulent class, who will be able to contribute in such a manner as to supply what it would be unfair to exact from the inferior class. Thus the two classes together will supply what is required without oppression to the poor, or defalcation of the tax. In this manner, following the gradations of ability, as they are clearly pointed out by the profits of voluntary or luxurious contribution, and the claims to relief, as they are ascertained by the nature of the taxes which individuals already pay, the full amount will be fairly collected, and the burden justly distributed. In this way the first class of contribution will, on the whole, double the amount of what is already paid, though in some cases it may be more than double, in others considerably less. In this way 2,800,000%. may be obtained. Upon that class which comprehends the taxes on servants, pleasure horses, carriages, &c. it is proposed to treble the assessment. In the higher classes, where the quantity of assessed taxes may be considered as a fair criterion of opu. lence, the rate of contribution may in some cases be an addition of three and a half, and even, in the highest class of all, a quadruple of the present tax.
On the second description, there may be obtained about 3,900,0001. at the treble rate. Allowing 500,0001. for the highest class, the produce with the 2,800,0001. for the first class, makes more than 7,000,000l. If it were trebled on the whole, the produce would be more than 8,000,0001. ; but it will now be sufficiently understood, that, from the modifications which it will be expedient to introduce, in many cases, instead of double there will not be one rate, in some not one half-rate, and others still Jess, to be exacted. Thus, from the treble allotment, there will be nearly one million to be divided in modification to alleviate the burdens of those whom it may be wise to exempt. In this manner each class will mutually contribute to the relief of those who are unable to sustain an additional burden, and the 400,000 who now pay so small a proportion will continue to be protected from any severe exaction by the extent which the tax will receive from the more opulent class of contributors.
Thus the advantage of such an arrangement will allow
sufficient latitude of relief where relief should be given without diminishing the productiveness of the tax. It will allow any exemption to those who have no means, not to those who are unwilling to contribute ; of the former there may be many in number, but little in amount ; of the latter, whatever the amount may be, I am sure the numbers will be few. I am sure that there cannot be a large proportion of men in any part of this country who will be unwilling to concur in those measures which are felt so necessary for the public safety, or who can refuse to contribute a part of their property for the preservation of all they possess. In such a cause no man can find the extent of his contribution limited, but by the extent of his ability. In every class where the means exceed the actual necessity; in every case where the power of contribution exceeds the absolute demand, no man can surely be so unmindful of the duties he owes to his country, no man can be so blind to the interests he has to preserve, as not to feel that he makes the most frugal and generous option in contributing to defend the society, of which he forms a component part, and to maintain that station which he occupies. I am aware that I anticipate the wishes of every man who hears me, in thus proposing that the extent of the relief, which the poor will receive, will be defrayed by the rate of contribution varying with the property and the stake which men hold in the country, by attaching upon the same class with our. selves the additional burdens which the poverty of the lower classes will improve. In thus affording a proof of the sincerity of the pledge we have given by our readiness to make the sacrifices which it requires, I feel that I am equally in unison with the general sentiment of the committee, as with the great principles of policy and of justice. Speaking for ourselves, we thus disclaim every little jealousy of the extent of the burden we are called upon to bear. We prove to the world that we are not limited by this or that contribution : we demonstrate that we calculate only the magnitude of the occasion, and consider only whether the effort be equal to the importance of the demand. I trust that the exertion will not be deficient, that the contribution