A B C D E F
G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!


Text on one page: Few Medium Many
If charters were constructed so as to express in direct terms,
"that every inhabitant, who is not a member of a corporation, shall
not exercise the right of voting," such charters would, in the face, be
charters not of rights, but of exclusion. The effect is the same under
the form they now stand; and the only persons on whom they operate are
the persons whom they exclude. Those whose rights are guaranteed, by
not being taken away, exercise no other rights than as members of the
community they are entitled to without a charter; and, therefore, all
charters have no other than an indirect negative operation. They do not
give rights to A, but they make a difference in favour of A by taking
away the right of B, and consequently are instruments of injustice.

But charters and corporations have a more extensive evil effect
than what relates merely to elections. They are sources of endless
contentions in the places where they exist, and they lessen the common
rights of national society. A native of England, under the operation of
these charters and corporations, cannot be said to be an Englishman in
the full sense of the word. He is not free of the nation, in the same
manner that a Frenchman is free of France, and an American of America.
His rights are circumscribed to the town, and, in some cases, to the
parish of his birth; and all other parts, though in his native land, are
to him as a foreign country. To acquire a residence in these, he must
undergo a local naturalisation by purchase, or he is forbidden or
expelled the place. This species of feudality is kept up to aggrandise
the corporations at the ruin of towns; and the effect is visible.

The generality of corporation towns are in a state of solitary decay,
and prevented from further ruin only by some circumstance in their
situation, such as a navigable river, or a plentiful surrounding
country. As population is one of the chief sources of wealth (for
without it land itself has no value), everything which operates to
prevent it must lessen the value of property; and as corporations have
not only this tendency, but directly this effect, they cannot but be
injurious. If any policy were to be followed, instead of that of general
freedom, to every person to settle where he chose (as in France or
America) it would be more consistent to give encouragement to new comers
than to preclude their admission by exacting premiums from them.*[29]

The persons most immediately interested in the abolition of corporations
are the inhabitants of the towns where corporations are established. The
instances of Manchester, Birmingham, and Sheffield show, by contrast,
the injuries which those Gothic institutions are to property and
commerce. A few examples may be found, such as that of London, whose
natural and commercial advantage, owing to its situation on the Thames,
is capable of bearing up against the political evils of a corporation;
but in almost all other cases the fatality is too visible to be doubted
or denied.

Though the whole nation is not so directly affected by the depression of
property in corporation towns as the inhabitants themselves, it partakes
of the consequence. By lessening the value of property, the quantity of
national commerce is curtailed. Every man is a customer in proportion
to his ability; and as all parts of a nation trade with each other,
whatever affects any of the parts must necessarily communicate to the
whole.

As one of the Houses of the English Parliament is, in a great measure,
made up of elections from these corporations; and as it is unnatural
that a pure stream should flow from a foul fountain, its vices are but a
continuation of the vices of its origin. A man of moral honour and good
political principles cannot submit to the mean drudgery and disgraceful
arts, by which such elections are carried. To be a successful candidate,
he must be destitute of the qualities that constitute a just legislator;
and being thus disciplined to corruption by the mode of entering into
Parliament, it is not to be expected that the representative should be
better than the man.

Mr. Burke, in speaking of the English representation, has advanced
as bold a challenge as ever was given in the days of chivalry. "Our
representation," says he, "has been found perfectly adequate to all
the purposes for which a representation of the people can be desired or
devised." "I defy," continues he, "the enemies of our constitution
to show the contrary."--This declaration from a man who has been in
constant opposition to all the measures of parliament the whole of his
political life, a year or two excepted, is most extraordinary; and,
comparing him with himself, admits of no other alternative, than that he
acted against his judgment as a member, or has declared contrary to it
as an author.

But it is not in the representation only that the defects lie, and
therefore I proceed in the next place to the aristocracy.

What is called the House of Peers, is constituted on a ground very
similar to that, against which there is no law in other cases. It
amounts to a combination of persons in one common interest. No better
reason can be given, why a house of legislation should be composed
entirely of men whose occupation consists in letting landed property,
than why it should be composed of those who hire, or of brewers, or
bakers, or any other separate class of men. Mr. Burke calls this house
"the great ground and pillar of security to the landed interest." Let us
examine this idea.

What pillar of security does the landed interest require more than any
other interest in the state, or what right has it to a distinct and
separate representation from the general interest of a nation? The only
use to be made of this power (and which it always has made), is to ward
off taxes from itself, and throw the burthen upon those articles of
consumption by which itself would be least affected.

That this has been the consequence (and will always be the consequence)
of constructing governments on combinations, is evident with respect to
England, from the history of its taxes.

Notwithstanding taxes have increased and multiplied upon every article
of common consumption, the land-tax, which more particularly affects
this "pillar," has diminished. In 1778 the amount of the land-tax was
L1,950,000, which is half-a-million less than it produced almost
a hundred years ago,*[30] notwithstanding the rentals are in many
instances doubled since that period.

Before the coming of the Hanoverians, the taxes were divided in nearly
equal proportions between the land and articles of consumption, the land
bearing rather the largest share: but since that era nearly thirteen
millions annually of new taxes have been thrown upon consumption. The
consequence of which has been a constant increase in the number and
wretchedness of the poor, and in the amount of the poor-rates. Yet here
again the burthen does not fall in equal proportions on the aristocracy
with the rest of the community. Their residences, whether in town or
country, are not mixed with the habitations of the poor. They live apart
from distress, and the expense of relieving it. It is in manufacturing
towns and labouring villages that those burthens press the heaviest; in
many of which it is one class of poor supporting another.

Several of the most heavy and productive taxes are so contrived, as to
give an exemption to this pillar, thus standing in its own defence. The
tax upon beer brewed for sale does not affect the aristocracy, who brew
their own beer free from this duty. It falls only on those who have
not conveniency or ability to brew, and who must purchase it in small
quantities. But what will mankind think of the justice of taxation,
when they know that this tax alone, from which the aristocracy are from
circumstances exempt, is nearly equal to the whole of the land-tax,
being in the year 1788, and it is not less now, L1,666,152, and with its
proportion of the taxes on malt and hops, it exceeds it.--That a single
article, thus partially consumed, and that chiefly by the working part,
should be subject to a tax, equal to that on the whole rental of a
nation, is, perhaps, a fact not to be paralleled in the histories of
revenues.

This is one of the circumstances resulting from a house of legislation,
composed on the ground of a combination of common interest; for whatever
their separate politics as to parties may be, in this they are united.
Whether a combination acts to raise the price of any article for sale,
or rate of wages; or whether it acts to throw taxes from itself upon
another class of the community, the principle and the effect are the
same; and if the one be illegal, it will be difficult to show that the
other ought to exist.

It is no use to say that taxes are first proposed in the House of
Commons; for as the other house has always a negative, it can
always defend itself; and it would be ridiculous to suppose that its
acquiescence in the measures to be proposed were not understood
before hand. Besides which, it has obtained so much influence by
borough-traffic, and so many of its relations and connections are
distributed on both sides the commons, as to give it, besides an
absolute negative in one house, a preponderancy in the other, in all
matters of common concern.

It is difficult to discover what is meant by the landed interest, if
it does not mean a combination of aristocratical landholders, opposing
their own pecuniary interest to that of the farmer, and every branch of
trade, commerce, and manufacture. In all other respects it is the
only interest that needs no partial protection. It enjoys the general
protection of the world. Every individual, high or low, is interested
in the fruits of the earth; men, women, and children, of all ages and
degrees, will turn out to assist the farmer, rather than a harvest
should not be got in; and they will not act thus by any other property.
It is the only one for which the common prayer of mankind is put up,
and the only one that can never fail from the want of means. It is the
interest, not of the policy, but of the existence of man, and when it
ceases, he must cease to be.

No other interest in a nation stands on the same united support.
Commerce, manufactures, arts, sciences, and everything else, compared
with this, are supported but in parts.



Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | 51 | | 52 | | 53 | | 54 | | 55 | | 56 | | 57 | | 58 | | 59 | | 60 | | 61 | | 62 | | 63 | | 64 | | 65 | | 66 | | 67 | | 68 | | 69 | | 70 | | 71 | | 72 | | 73 | | 74 | | 75 | | 76 | | 77 | | 78 | | 79 | | 80 | | 81 | | 82 | | 83 | | 84 | | 85 | | 86 | | 87 | | 88 | | 89 | | 90 | | 91 | | 92 | | 93 | | 94 | | 95 | | 96 | | 97 | | 98 | | 99 | | 100 | | 101 | | 102 | | 103 | | 104 | | 105 | | 106 | | 107 | | 108 | | 109 | | 110 | | 111 | | 112 | | 113 | | 114 | | 115 | | 116 | | 117 | | 118 | | 119 | | 120 | | 121 | | 122 | | 123 | | 124 | | 125 | | 126 | | 127 | | 128 | | 129 | | 130 | | 131 | | 132 | | 133 | | 134 | | 135 | | 136 | | 137 | | 138 | | 139 | | 140 | | 141 | | 142 | | 143 | | 144 | | 145 | | 146 | | 147 | | 148 | | 149 | | 150 | | 151 | | 152 | | 153 | | 154 | | 155 | | 156 | | 157 | | 158 | | 159 | | 160 | | 161 | | 162 | | 163 | | 164 | | 165 | | 166 | | 167 | | 168 | | 169 | | 170 | | 171 | | 172 | | 173 | | 174 | | 175 | | 176 | | 177 | | 178 | | 179 | | 180 | | 181 | | 182 | | 183 | | 184 | | 185 | | 186 | | 187 | | 188 | | 189 | | 190 | | 191 | | 192 | | 193 | | 194 | | 195 | | 196 | | 197 | | 198 | | 199 | | 200 | | 201 | | 202 | | 203 | | 204 | | 205 | | 206 | | 207 | | 208 | | 209 | | 210 | | 211 | | 212 | | 213 | | 214 | | 215 | | 216 | | 217 | | 218 | | 219 | | 220 | | 221 | | 222 | | 223 | | 224 | | 225 | | 226 | | 227 | | 228 | | 229 | | 230 | | 231 | | Next |

N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.