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Committee of the Lunatic. To prevent sinister practices, the next heir is seldom permitted to be the committee of his person, because it is to his interest that the party should die. The rule does not apply to the next of kin, provided he is not his heir, for it is his interest to preserve the lunatic's life, in order to earn his commissions. The heir, however, is generally made the manager or committee of the lunatic's estate, as it is his clear interest to preserve it, accountable, however, to the court of chancery, and to the non compos himself, if he recovers, or to his administrators.
Civil Law Practice. In the case of idiots and lunatics, the civil law agreed with ours, by assigning them tutors to protect their persons, and curators to manage their estates. In the case of spendthrifts, the Roman law went far beyond the English.
Spendthrift. For if a man by notorious prodigality was wasting his estate, he was deemed non compos. By the laws of Solon, such prodigal was branded with perpetual infamy. But
when a man on an inquest has been returned an unthrift and not an idiot, no further proceedings have been had. And the propriety of this practice itself seems to be very questionable. It was an excellent method of benefitting the individual, and of preserving estates in families, but was hardly calculated for the genius of a free nation, and was a restraint on liberty.
Most of this Ordinary Revenue Alienated. This was very large formerly, and capable of being indefinitely increased, for there few estates in the kingdom, that have not, at some period or other since the Norman conquest, been vested in the hands of the king by forfeiture, escheat or otherwise. Fortunately for the liberty of the subject, this hereditary landed revenue, by improvident management, has sunk almost to nothing, and the casual profits of other branches are likewise almost entirely alienated from the crown.
Deficiencies Supplied. To supply the deficiencies, new methods of raising money, unknown to our ancestors, are now resorted to, which constitute the king's extraordinary revenue. The public patrimony being now in the hands of private subjects, private contributions must supply the public service. It is but fair, that the gain by the extraordinary, should be as great as the loss from the ordinary revenue. The total abolition of taxes would result in pernicious consequences.
1 This rule of exclusion of the heir as committee is not generally adhered to at the present time.
The True Theory of Taxation. As the true idea of government consists in this, that some few men are deputed by many others, to preside over public affairs, so that indivjduals may better be enabled to attend to their private concerns, it is necessary that those individuals should be bound to contribute a portion of their private gains, in order to support such government, and to reward such magistracy, which protects them in the enjoyment of their properties. Wisdom and moderation must be displayed, not only in granting, but in raising necessary supplies. It must be done in such a manner, as is most conducive to the national welfare, and at the same time most consistent with economy and the liberty of the subject, who when properly taxed, contributes only some part of his property, in order to enjoy the rest of it. EXTRAORDINARY REVENUE.
Action of the House of Commons. These extraordinary grants are usually termed aids, subsidies and supplies, and are granted by the house of commons, the members of which, when they have voted a supply to the king, usually resolve themselves into a committee of ways and means, to consider the means of raising the supply so voted. Every member may then propose such scheme of taxation, as he thinks least detrimental to the public. The resolutions of this committee, when approved by a vote of the house, are generally final. Though the supply cannot be actually raised, till directed by an act of the whole parliament, yet the action of the house of commons, in this particular, is deemed certain to become a law.
Taxes. The taxes are either annual or perpetual. The usual annual taxes are those
land or malt. ANNUAL TAXES.
I. Land Taxes. In its modern shape, this has superseded all former methods of rating either property or persons, in respect of their property, whether by tenths or fifteenths, subsidies in lands, hydages, scutages or talliages.
Tenths and Fifteenths. These were temporary aids, issuing out of personal property, and granted to the king by parliament. They were formerly such fractional parts of all the movables belonging to the subject, when such movables were far less considerable than at present. Tenths were first introduced under Henry II, to aid the crusades, whence the tribute was called the Saladin tenth. But afterwards fifteenths were granted more frequently than tenths.
Scutages. Under ancient military tenures, every tenant of a knight's fee was bound, if called upon, to attend the king in his army for forty days in each year. But this personal attendance becoming irksome, the tenants sent substitutes, and in process of time made a pecuniary satisfaction to the king in lieu of it. This pecuniary satisfaction at last came to be levied by assessments, at so much for every knight's fee, under the name of scutages, which were first levied under Henry II, on his expedition to Toulouse. Scutages afterward were assessed, whenever the king went to war, in order to hire mercenary troops, and to pay his contingent expenses. King John, in his magna carta, promised that no scutage should be imposed, without the consent of the common council of the realm.
Hydages, Talliages and Subsidies. Of the same nature with scutages upon knight's fees were the assessments of hydage
all other lands, and of talliage upon cities and burghs. These fell into disuse upon the introduction of subsides, about the time of Richard II and Henry IV. They were taxes, not immediately imposed upon property, but upon persons according to their reputed estates. Aliens were charged a double sum.
This grant did not extend to spiritual preferments, these being usually taxed by the clergy themselves, until the reign of Charles II, when ecclesiastical subsidies fell into total disuse.
II. Malt Tax. This is assessed annually by parliament, and amounts at this time to 750,000 pounds.
I. The Customs. These are the duties, toll, tribute or tariff, payable upon merchandise exported and imported. Two reasons are assigned for investing this revenue in the king: because he gave the subject leave to depart the kingdom, and to carry his goods with him; and also because the king is bound to keep up the ports and havens, and to protect the merchants from pirates.
The Meaning of the Term. Some assert, that they are called customs, because they were the inheritance of the king by immemorial usage and the common law, and not granted him by any statute; but Coke asserts, that the king's first claim to them was by grant of parliament.
Hereditary Customs of the King. The hereditary customs of the crown were those on wool, skins and leather, and were due on the exportation of these three commodities, which were styled the staple commodities of the kingdom, because they were obliged to be brought to these ports, where the king's staple was established. Merchant strangers, being aliens, paid as customs, half as much again as was charged against natives.
Prisage of Wines. It was the right of the king to take two tons of wine from every ship importing into England twenty tons or more. It was also called butlerage, being paid to the king's butler.
Subsidies, Tonnage and Poundage. Other customs, parable upon exports and imports, were distinguished into subsidies, which were taxed on the above staple commodities of the kingdom, tonnage, which was a duty upon all wines, over and above the prisage, and poundage, which was a duty imposed ad valorem on all other merchandise whatsoever. There were also other imposts occasionally laid on by parliament, as circumstances and times required.
Ultimately Paid by the Consumer. These custom duties are immediately paid by the merchant, although ultimately by the consumer. And yet they are the duties felt least by the people. The merchant is content, as he does not pay them for himself; and the consumer, who really pays them, confounds them with the price of the commodity. There however is this inconvenience, that imposts, if too heavy, are checks upon trade.
Smuggling. This also gives rise to smuggling, which often becomes quite lucrative, and its natural punishment, the confiscation of the goods, ineffectual. Recourse therefore should be had to more severe punishment to stop it.
Profits of Middle-men. There is another ill consequence attending high imposts, that the earlier any tax is laid on a commodity, the heavier it falls upon the consumer in the end, for every trader, through whose hands it passes must have a profit, not only upon the raw material, and his own labor and time in preparing it, but also upon the very tax itself, which he advances to the government; otherwise he loses the use and interest of the money he advances.
II. Excise Duty. This is an inland tax, paid sometimes on the consumption of the commodity, or frequently upon the retail sale. This is doubtless the most economical way of taxing the subject, the charges of levying, collecting and managing the excise duties being much less than other branches of the revenue. It also renders the commodity cheaper to the consumer than charging it with customs, because generally paid at a much later stage. But at the came time, this arbitrary proceeding of excise laws seems hardly compatible with the temper of a free nation.
Search for Goods. To prevent frauds, the officers are empowered to enter and search the offices of such as deal in excisable commodities, at any hour of the day, and in some cases, of the night also. A trial by jury may be barred, and the hearing be before commissioners or justices, and these may be in disregard of the common law. From its first inception to the present time, the very name of excise has been odious to the English people. It has been imposed on many commodities to support the enormous expenses of our wars on the continent.
111. Salt. This tax had usually been temporary, but under George II was made perpetual.
IV. Post Office. This branch of the revenue is universally popular, as instead of being a burden, it is a manifest advantage to the public. It is the duty for the carriage of letters. In early times, this business was confined to the furnishing of post horses to persons who desired to travel rapidly, and to the despatching of valuable packages on special occasions. The franking privilege was claimed by the house of commons, as early as 1660. There cannot be desired a more eligible method than this of raising money, for therein both the government and people find a mutual benefit.
V. Stamp Duties. These are a tax imposed upon all parchment and paper, whereon any legal proceedings or private instruments of any nature are written, and also upon licenses, almanacs, newspapers, advertisements, cards, dice and small pamphlets. If moderately imposed, this tax is of service to the general public, by authenticating instruments, and rendering forgery difficult, as the officers vary their stamps frequently by marks known only to them. They were first used in the reign of William and Mary.
VI. Houses and Windows. As early as the conquest,