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Lest some of our readers may think we presume too much on a supposed deficiency in your acquirements, we must attribute the whole of this, our presumption, to your modest account of your own . deficiencies. Premising, however, that diffidence now-a-days is alto. gether unparliamentary ; and why not? Does not Xenophon, in his life of Socrates, tell us, “tis strange that those who desire to play upon the harp, or on the flute, or to ritle the managed hurse, should not think themselves worth notice, without having practised under the best masters; while there are some who aspire to the government of a state, and who can think themselves completely qualified, though it be without preparation or labour !!!”
The learned and philosophical lord Kaimes, tells us, that “ of all the sciences, politics is the most intricate, and in its progress to maturity proportionately slow ;' and pleasantly enough, that it is his sole ambition to rival those pains-taking authors, who teach novices in the mode of question and answer.” Among novices, says he, “it would be unpardonable to rank such of my fellow citizens, who are ambitious of a seat in parliament, many of whom sacrifice the inheritance of their ancestors, for an opportunity to exert their patriotism in that august assembly.” Can such a sacrifice, he asks,“ permit me to doubt of their being adepts in the mysteries of government, and of finance in particular?” Risum teneatis amici.
But this would be an improper time for such pleasantry, if it were. not that our subject is generally too dull to command the attention of the young, the gay, and thoughtless, and therefore we wish by some excentric means to arrest their attention! and to intreat that some of them be more careful to “ trim the midnight lamp," till they may be better qualified for the high and all important duties of legislation for our world of republics, united in one great commonwealth,
If they do not do this, we shall have more of the effervescence of the spirit of a free people to quell. There will be always a Shays, a Bradford, or a Fries, for every provoked occasion, to pour their hosts in hostile array from the mountains.
56 As when by age, or rains, or tempest torn,
Pitt's Virgil. The origin of all government is patriarchal: hence the semblance of its defined duties under every rational modification.
The grand disideratum in all legislation is, to provide for the exigencies of the great family, and to excite it by the most rational stimuli, directing the excitability to all useful exertion and employ. ment for the public weal, and for individual and universal peace and happiness. The golden age has arrived, wherever all this may be realized.
" The most admired of the institutions of the pious Numa, was his division of the several trades into companies, thereby obliging those who, when alone, were hostile to each other, to associate in these minor republics on term3f equality. This put an end to their quarrels, and restored peace to Rome; where, before these steps were taken, the different classes were often marshalled against each other and kept the city constantly embroiled." Dr. Priestly, therefore, is not well supported in his statement, that commercial associations were the invention of Lewis le Groce, (See lect. gen. policy, ch. 44.) But the motive he assigns for their adoption, is equally important, viz. This was done to free the people from the slavery of their lords, and to grant them a few privileges and protection." Now wherever either the lords or the legislature presume to interfere with, or to tax these minor republics, other than as share holders, they do not answer the valuable purposes for which they are formed ; nor ought the government to grant to any of these a monopoly, either for them. selves, or for any portion of the people who should be entitled to increase them at pleasure, that they may be rivals for the general weal. Thus, if two baking companies are thereby permitted, where there was but one, bread may be cheaper in consequence ; or if there are two banks thus instituted, and neither of them taxed, more of the people will be favoured by loans, than where there is but one bank; and a further increase will reduce even the rate of interest.
Thus to favor any fair reduction of the price of bread, or of interest, and all dispositions for diffusing voluntary loans among all classes of the people, will ever be an important object in every correct republican government; nor can any republican form be otherwise secured for any length of time, in any country.
It would be paying a poor compliment to your inquiry to repeat, that the inode of levying taxes, (as the ordinary means for increasing the revenue is too indiscriminately termed) is, or ought to be a pri. mary desideratum in political arithmetic ; but poor indeed must the government of a great nation be, that has no other resource for its maintainance, but in direct depleting calls on the purses of the poorer classes, as well as of the rich. The national centre or government of a great nation, has always within itself a fountain of wealth, which an individual, or a family, or a small nation, can never enjoy: hence the incalculable advantage of our union; for this advantage will increase in a compound ratio on the further extension of the states, till all North America, so admirably fitted for union, is happily combined. The British mode of revenue is one of the best in Europe ; having previously established a universal public credit, instead of calling money in the first instance from the people, they throw indubitable bills into circulation for the full amount of the duties they intend to levy: thus, the army and navy supplies are obtained before the re. turn of their circulating bills, or money, is called for ; but the whole comes round in time, to balance the account. It is the unequally oppressing the poorer classes that ought to be complained of, and not the general outline of their financial measures for the last 20 years : for, where the governmental distributions precede the duties, there are in fact no taxes. The people merely render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's ; which was literally the case by the mode Augustus Cæsar adopted for the improvement of Rome. . Our present, but more so our late mode, is said to be a contra bonus mores,” being a temptation to perjury ; but if, as is the case in China, a merchant's books could be received in lieu of an oath, the mode would be less exceptionable. But as far as luxuries from abroad are taxed, the mode we pursue is one of the least exceptionable ; except that particular articles are too heavily charged in the custom-house, and thereby we have suffered from smuggling.
The injuries from indiscreet taxation are repeated often in our book, because we believe our country to be yet on a wrong track ; if we are correct, truth will finally prevail. In our next book we shall be more full on this delicate subject, in which some points are involved that may require very lengthy illustrations from universal experience.
Nothing, in our opinion, can be more absurd than the preference sometimes given to direct taxes, over indirect revenue, insensibly drawn from luxuries only. All taxes being hated, as if obnoxious to the people, except in times of imminent danger, or when some noble monument, a charity, or university, or school, excites a noble emulation, they should be kept out of sight and of feeling, if possible. Insensible taxes, besides being often paid, in part, by visitors who may partake of the luxuries of the country they are in, are the only rational taxes, in every view of the subject, that has ever yet been taken. All other taxes are received as severe punishments.
Sancho Panza ought to furnish a hint to theoretic politicians, who, when taxed a thousand lashes to disenchant Dulcinea, as they were to be layed on by himself, wisely concluded that they would be inore delectable through the bark of a cork tree, and thus he might enjoy the benefit of the shade and punishment both together.
These feeling tax levyers remind us of a Roinan emperor, who, when he ordered an execution, would sometimes complain to the executioner, that the suffering wretch did not feel himself die. What brine is to the fresh wound, direct taxes are to the feelings of 99 persons in 100, of every community, except in times of war, &c. But it is said, that if the people were made to feel sensibly, every shilling they pay will encourage them to complain, and may prevent their being too willing to be taxed. All this is absurd nonsense in a republic ; for there never was any danger of a want either of com. plaining or resistance, against the most insensible tax that ever was laid ; so that direct taxes are always totally unnecessary for our general government. We do not mean to say more on this subject at present, believing that we have more income from the present system of revenue than we have occasion for, if a correct system of finance was observed. We now take the liberty to tell you our opiniony
that congress ought to pay themselves something nearer to the value of the sum received when 6 dollars a day was first voted. .
For the difference in the abilities of the people at the respective times, see total valuation; and for depreciation, see the variation table, page 142.
Mr. Jefferson once recommended to the legislature of Virginia, in behalf of the injured officers, that a standard in grain should secure them from the effect of depreciation ; and if he was not himself an officer at this time, he probably would state the difference above mentioned, and propose a relief from an injury that will increase daily, at least as long as the European wars last, and the Spanish mines continue to augment the specie circulation of the commercial world. As we have several relative subjects to submit to your consideration, we would offer you the opinions of every sensible and well informed statesman, on the following all important subject : but as this would be doubting either your judgment or your patriotic love for the general welfare of your country, we hope you will excuse our having offered these mature and correct opinions of Mr. Jefferson. They combine enough to convince any one of the true line of duty for every member of our national legislature, and are (party spirit aside) the unanimous opinion of every rational American.
A question has been made concerning the constitutional right of the government of the United States, to apply this species of encouragement ; (bounties to aid the fisheries) but there is certainly no good foundation for such a question. The national legislature has express authority to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare,' with no other qualifications than that all duties, imposts, and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States ; that no capitation or other direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to numbers, ascertained by a census or enumeration taken on the prin ciples prescribed in the constitution, and that no tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.'
" These three qualifications excepted, the power to raise money is plenary and indefinite ; and the objects to which it may be approprio ated, are no less comprehensive, than the payment of the public debts and the providing for the common defence and general welfare. The terms general welfare,' were doubtless intended to signify more than was expressed or imported in those which preceded; otherwise numerous exigencies incident to the affairs of a nation, would have been left without a provision. The phrase is as comprehensive as any that could have been used ; because it was not fit that the constitutional authority of the union, to appropriate its revenues, should have been restricted within narrower limits than the general welfare ;' and because this necessarily embraces a vast variety of particulars, which are susceptible neither of specification nor of definition."
" It is therefore of necessity left to the discretion of the national legislature, to pronounce upon the objects which concern the gene: ral welfare, and for which, under that description, an appropriation of money is requisite and proper. And there seems to be no room for a doubt that whatever concerns the general interests of LEARNING, of AGRICULTURE, of MANUFACTURE, and of COMMERCE, are within the space of the national councils, as far as regards an application of money."
We are sensible of the difficulties that uneducated gentlemen may sometimes have to encounter, before they can expand their own minds sufficiently to embrace (for all the necessary objects) the most sublime and all important clause of the federal constitution, without which our MAGNA CHARTA would soon become as much an object for disgust, as our first articles of confederation, or the miserable li. mits of the amphictyonic council, or the areopagus of Greece. It ought to be a maxim, at least in politics, that all inefficient or halfway powers should be deemed an insult ; for they rarely fail to widen the breach, or provoke quarrels, instead of preventing or adjusting the difficulties they may pretend to controul' or to heal. In pages 50 and 51, we hope to explain our views of this subject. As the point now before us is no contemptible party question, we entreat all our young legislators to forget, at least for the time of their session, a part of their extreme locality ; and to fancy, if possible, the apron string of COLUMBIA as natural a tie to their affections, as that of an amiable mother, or a beloved wife. Then indeed will the golden days of our country commence ; we should then soon realize brisk circulations for roads, canals, a university, a sufficient navy; premiums for every useful art and science, harmony, life, vigour, and the most rational joy : then indeed will the wilderness of our western world bud, and blossom like the rose. But alas ! what mean those glooiny features and those growling accents, within the sacred walls of the capitol of America ? transformịng the most sublime theatre of the universe into a mere bear garden. In our vision, we behold disa trust and hatred, and malice, the dread offspring of all mean and narrow party views, May they not engender those fell ignated coals where Aie, hot from her infernal cell shall light, and oft in furious rage and frantic sport, shall hurl her flaming brands from pole to pole, till chaos come again.
Such will be the visions that every anxious friend will have of the baneful effects of excessive local ties and party spirit : till these are suppressed by timely exertions, and banished from the hearts of our political fathers, adieu to all our golden dreams of republican felicity. But we do not, we will not yet despond. In addition to the laws to be comprised in the report to congress, of the unfinished business, we beg leave to suggest the following, viz. · A law revising the funding system, and adding thereto the liberty
of reloaning, at a fair interest, the entire debts of the union, in order