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by the Legislature of Pennsylvania in 1826. Her example was followed by Louisiana in 1828, where the tax was, however, restricted to alien heirs, and subsequently statutes were passed in Virginia in 1844; North Carolina in 1846; Maryland, 1864; Delaware, 1869; New York, 1885; West Virginia, 1887, and finally in Connecticut in 1889.
But there seems to be little doubt that it will eventually become a law in all of the States.
A careful study of the principles and decisions established by these collateral inheritance tax laws, as well as a somewhat extended practical experience in connection therewith, convinces me that within a very short period the legislators of the different States will be called upon to consider, inter alia, three ques. tions in connection with this tax:
First.—Whether the tax, which is now confined to collaterals and strangers to the blood, should not be extended to inheritances and distributions to direct heirs; whether, in every case, where a person receives property by reason of, or flowing from the death of another, it is not the duty, as well as the policy of the State, to levy a tax upon the inheritance. As I have intimated, the reason of the law applies as forcibly to direct as to collateral heirs; such a tax has been most successfully imposed in England; it is one easily levied and collected, and if the law be properly administered the tax will produce a very handsome revenue to each of the States that deem it good policy to enact it.
See post, ch. I, p. 11, et. seq. The statutes of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut have been included in the Appendix.
Second.-Another question will relate to exemptions from the tax by ecclesiastical, eleemosynary and charitable institutions. A careful consideration of this subject leads me to believe that such exemptions should be most strictly curtailed and limited, if not altogether abolished by constitutional provision. Practically two States only countenance them, New York and Connecticut. Such exemptions, unless carefully restricted to charities of the almshouse class or for purely public purposes, impair the efficiency and fairness of any system of taxation, and it is probably better that the State should make a direct gift to charitable organizations instead of permitting it to be received in the form of an exemption.
Third.—But the most important question will occur in respect to the amount and manner of imposing the tax. Should there not be a law creating a graduated or scaling tax, by which the small inheritance shall be made to bear a small burden, and the tax gradually increased, so that when the State comes to the distribution of large estates, the distributees should be made to pay back to the people a fair and substantial contribution for the protection which the State has afforded the possessors in accumulating and preserving colossal fortunes ? A graduated tax would not dwarf individual ambition, genius or exertion, nor could it be successfully maintained that such a change was socialistic or communistic in principle.
The performance of official duties in the DistrictAttorney's office of the County of New York in connection with the enforcement of this law, and the fact that no treatise exists on the subject in this country, induced me to believe that I might, in an humble way, perform some service to the public and to the profession by collecting and collating all the various de. cisions and statutes upon this important subject. This I have conscientiously endeavored to do, and I now respectfully submit my work for fair and legitimate criticism.