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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. Their prosperity or their decay
has not the same universal influence. When the valleys laugh and sing,
it is not the farmer only, but all creation that rejoice. It is a
prosperity that excludes all envy; and this cannot be said of anything
else.

Why then, does Mr. Burke talk of his house of peers as the pillar of
the landed interest? Were that pillar to sink into the earth, the same
landed property would continue, and the same ploughing, sowing, and
reaping would go on. The aristocracy are not the farmers who work the
land, and raise the produce, but are the mere consumers of the rent; and
when compared with the active world are the drones, a seraglio of males,
who neither collect the honey nor form the hive, but exist only for lazy
enjoyment.

Mr. Burke, in his first essay, called aristocracy "the Corinthian
capital of polished society." Towards completing the figure, he has now
added the pillar; but still the base is wanting; and whenever a nation
choose to act a Samson, not blind, but bold, down will go the temple of
Dagon, the Lords and the Philistines.

If a house of legislation is to be composed of men of one class, for
the purpose of protecting a distinct interest, all the other interests
should have the same. The inequality, as well as the burthen of
taxation, arises from admitting it in one case, and not in all. Had
there been a house of farmers, there had been no game laws; or a house
of merchants and manufacturers, the taxes had neither been so unequal
nor so excessive. It is from the power of taxation being in the hands of
those who can throw so great a part of it from their own shoulders, that
it has raged without a check.

Men of small or moderate estates are more injured by the taxes being
thrown on articles of consumption, than they are eased by warding it
from landed property, for the following reasons:

First, They consume more of the productive taxable articles, in
proportion to their property, than those of large estates.

Secondly, Their residence is chiefly in towns, and their property in
houses; and the increase of the poor-rates, occasioned by taxes on
consumption, is in much greater proportion than the land-tax has
been favoured. In Birmingham, the poor-rates are not less than
seven shillings in the pound. From this, as is already observed, the
aristocracy are in a great measure exempt.

These are but a part of the mischiefs flowing from the wretched scheme
of an house of peers.

As a combination, it can always throw a considerable portion of taxes
from itself; and as an hereditary house, accountable to nobody, it
resembles a rotten borough, whose consent is to be courted by interest.
There are but few of its members, who are not in some mode or
other participators, or disposers of the public money. One turns a
candle-holder, or a lord in waiting; another a lord of the bed-chamber,
a groom of the stole, or any insignificant nominal office to which a
salary is annexed, paid out of the public taxes, and which avoids the
direct appearance of corruption. Such situations are derogatory to the
character of man; and where they can be submitted to, honour cannot
reside.

To all these are to be added the numerous dependants, the long list of
younger branches and distant relations, who are to be provided for
at the public expense: in short, were an estimation to be made of the
charge of aristocracy to a nation, it will be found nearly equal to that
of supporting the poor. The Duke of Richmond alone (and there are cases
similar to his) takes away as much for himself as would maintain two
thousand poor and aged persons. Is it, then, any wonder, that under such
a system of government, taxes and rates have multiplied to their present
extent?

In stating these matters, I speak an open and disinterested language,
dictated by no passion but that of humanity. To me, who have not only
refused offers, because I thought them improper, but have declined
rewards I might with reputation have accepted, it is no wonder that
meanness and imposition appear disgustful. Independence is my happiness,
and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my
country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

Mr. Burke, in speaking of the aristocratical law of primogeniture, says,
"it is the standing law of our landed inheritance; and which, without
question, has a tendency, and I think," continues he, "a happy tendency,
to preserve a character of weight and consequence."

Mr. Burke may call this law what he pleases, but humanity and impartial
reflection will denounce it as a law of brutal injustice. Were we not
accustomed to the daily practice, and did we only hear of it as the
law of some distant part of the world, we should conclude that
the legislators of such countries had not arrived at a state of
civilisation.

As to its preserving a character of weight and consequence, the case
appears to me directly the reverse. It is an attaint upon character;
a sort of privateering on family property. It may have weight among
dependent tenants, but it gives none on a scale of national, and much
less of universal character. Speaking for myself, my parents were not
able to give me a shilling, beyond what they gave me in education; and
to do this they distressed themselves: yet, I possess more of what is
called consequence, in the world, than any one in Mr. Burke's catalogue
of aristocrats.

Having thus glanced at some of the defects of the two houses of
parliament, I proceed to what is called the crown, upon which I shall be
very concise.

It signifies a nominal office of a million sterling a year, the business
of which consists in receiving the money. Whether the person be wise
or foolish, sane or insane, a native or a foreigner, matters not. Every
ministry acts upon the same idea that Mr. Burke writes, namely, that the
people must be hood-winked, and held in superstitious ignorance by some
bugbear or other; and what is called the crown answers this purpose, and
therefore it answers all the purposes to be expected from it. This is
more than can be said of the other two branches.

The hazard to which this office is exposed in all countries, is not from
anything that can happen to the man, but from what may happen to the
nation--the danger of its coming to its senses.

It has been customary to call the crown the executive power, and the
custom is continued, though the reason has ceased.

It was called the executive, because the person whom it signified
used, formerly, to act in the character of a judge, in administering
or executing the laws. The tribunals were then a part of the court. The
power, therefore, which is now called the judicial, is what was called
the executive and, consequently, one or other of the terms is redundant,
and one of the offices useless. When we speak of the crown now, it means
nothing; it signifies neither a judge nor a general: besides which it
is the laws that govern, and not the man. The old terms are kept up, to
give an appearance of consequence to empty forms; and the only effect
they have is that of increasing expenses.

Before I proceed to the means of rendering governments more conducive to
the general happiness of mankind, than they are at present, it will not
be improper to take a review of the progress of taxation in England.

It is a general idea, that when taxes are once laid on, they are never
taken off. However true this may have been of late, it was not always
so. Either, therefore, the people of former times were more watchful
over government than those of the present, or government was
administered with less extravagance.

It is now seven hundred years since the Norman conquest, and the
establishment of what is called the crown. Taking this portion of time
in seven separate periods of one hundred years each, the amount of the
annual taxes, at each period, will be as follows:

Annual taxes levied by William the Conqueror,
beginning in the year 1066 L400,000
Annual taxes at 100 years from the conquest (1166) 200,000
Annual taxes at 200 years from the conquest (1266) 150,000
Annual taxes at 300 years from the conquest (1366) 130,000
Annual taxes at 400 years from the conquest (1466) 100,000

These statements and those which follow, are taken from Sir John
Sinclair's History of the Revenue; by which it appears, that taxes
continued decreasing for four hundred years, at the expiration of which
time they were reduced three-fourths, viz., from four hundred thousand
pounds to one hundred thousand. The people of England of the present
day, have a traditionary and historical idea of the bravery of their
ancestors; but whatever their virtues or their vices might have been,
they certainly were a people who would not be imposed upon, and who kept
governments in awe as to taxation, if not as to principle. Though they
were not able to expel the monarchical usurpation, they restricted it to
a republican economy of taxes.

Let us now review the remaining three hundred years:

Annual amount of taxes at:

500 years from the conquest (1566) 500,000
600 years from the conquest (1666) 1,800,000
the present time (1791) 17,000,000

The difference between the first four hundred years and the last three,
is so astonishing, as to warrant an opinion, that the national character
of the English has changed. It would have been impossible to have
dragooned the former English, into the excess of taxation that now
exists; and when it is considered that the pay of the army, the navy,
and of all the revenue officers, is the same now as it was about a
hundred years ago, when the taxes were not above a tenth part of what
they are at present, it appears impossible to account for the enormous
increase and expenditure on any other ground, than extravagance,
corruption, and intrigue.*[31]

With the Revolution of 1688, and more so since the Hanover succession,
came the destructive system of continental intrigues, and the rage for
foreign wars and foreign dominion; systems of such secure mystery that
the expenses admit of no accounts; a single line stands for millions.



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