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existed, to nearly 20 more. This comprises almost one-half of the whole laws annually enacted, and considering how many are now passed each session, it is surely a very large proportion. When we reflect too on the extraordinary rapidity with which fiscal law has sprung up in this country, it adds much to the regret and apprehension with which every one who values an intelligible system of law cannot fail to regard it. The great æra of taxation only began towards the conclusion of the American war, and when it is considered how many articles of trade and manufacture, and how many descriptions of private property are now subject to its regulations which were formerly exempt from them, no one can doubt the obnosiousness of the
present multiplied revenue acts, merely as a body of complicated law to which obedience must be paid. The revenue laws too, are, from their very nature, the most involved and incumbered with provisions of any in the Statute Book. When we take into account the difficulty of effectually securing to government a duty imposed for the first time; that fraud, ingenuity, and the gradual advancement of science open one loop-hole after another for the evasion of duties, which it requires a fresh act of Parliament to close; that new duties and penalties are added to old ones, and old ones totally or partially repealed'; that it may become necessary to levy a tax formerly imposed by new officers, at a different place, or in a different manner; and that through the whole series of enactments introducing these alterations there is invariably inserted a clause of reference to all former acts on the same subject, it may easily be conceived what a chaos the Revenue law has now become. Of this clause of reference, which is the main cause of the confusion existing, take the following instance, out of thousands that might be offered: it is in the 46th section of the 43 Geo. III. c. 68. And be it further enacted, that every act of Parliament in force on and immediately before the 5th day of July, 1803, by which any rules, regulations, conditions, restrictions, were made, established or directed for the ascertaining the value of any goods, wares or merchandise, or for the remitting or allowing of any deduction of any duties on account of damage, or for the better securing the revenue of customs, or for the regular importation into, or exportation from Great Britain, or the bringing or carrying coastwise, or from port to port within Great Britain, or the entering, landing, or shipping of any goods, wares or merchandise whatever, except where any alteration is expressly made by this act, and all provisions, clauses, matters, and things relating thereto, shall and are hereby declared to be, and remain in full force and effect. The clause of reference contained in every act by which Excise duties are im
posed is of still more complicated nature. And when it is considered, that the acts now in force with regard to spirits alone amount to more than 140, and that others on the same subject, though either expressly or impliedly repealed, still stand on the Statute Book, and must be occasionally consulted in order to explain those which are in existence, it would be marvellous if the trader should not be foiled in his attempt to understand what it requires all the ingenuity of an exciseman, and the utmost skill of the barons of the Exchequer to unravel. The whole succession of Stamp Acts are connected in the same manner. Such indefinite references are no doubt convenient to those by whom Acts of Parliament are drawn up, and may be esteemed safe by the Exchequer; but must, of necessity, be harassing in the extreme to all who have to consult or act upon them. Indeed the exclusive attention of a professional life is scarcely sufficient for the attainment of a competent knowledge of any one branch of them.
Besides being objectionable on account of their intricacy aud number, which are the only points of view in which they properly come under consideration here, it ought not to be overlooked that they materially abridge the subject in the controul and management of his own property. Soap, candles, and the distillery are under the Excise lock and key; and in almost every other exciseable manufacture, it is indispensably requisite for the manufacturer to give previous notice to the Excise officer of the different operations before they are begun. It is not only disagreeable and injurious to submit to this, because a man is not permitted to carry on the difficult steps of the process at the time and in the way that would be most advantageous to him, but sometimes spoils the perfection of the manufactured article, of which conclusive evidence as to glove leather was produced before the Committee of the House of Commons on the leather trade, which sat during the year 1814. The immoral tendency of the present system of Revenue Law presents objections of a still more weighty nature. The variety and high rate of duties at present imposed, offer such irresistible temptation to illicit trade, and every species of contrivance by which the King can be defrauded; penalties so exorbitant are incurred, that the offender calculates on their not being enforced; the sanctity of an oath is 60 grossly abused; and so much encouragement is given to that worst of all necessary evils—informers, that the depravation of character, and irregular habits occasioned by the extension of the Revenue law's to so many articles of trade and manufacture cannot be contemplated without feelings of the deepest sorrow. One always suspects the possibility of that being good as a measure of finance, which is so obviously hostile to good order and morality.
The encouragement offered by the Revenue law to informers is one of its most objectionable parts. By 22 Geo. II. c. 36. not only the importer, but all subsequent sellers, and also the makers up of foreign embroidery, and gold and silver lace, are subjected to have the goods burnt, and pay a fine of 100l. for each piece discovered, the half of which is given to the informer. By 18 Geo. II. c. 26. and 7 Geo. III. c. 43. any person importing or selling, except for esportation, or wearing French lawn or cambric, is made subject to a penalty of 5l. for each offence : but if the wearer is prosecuted, and discovers upon oath the person from whom the same was purchased, he is relieved from the penalty. The 19 Geo. III. c. 19. which imposes penalties on persons who sell tea without having the words Dealers in Tea' painted over their doors, and on those who buy tea of such persons, indemnifies the seller, if he informs against the buyer. The 11 Geo. I. c. 30. . imposing penalties on the seller of prohibited or run goods, and also on the buyers of such goods, or goods which the seller pretends to have been smuggled, exonerates the party who shall first prosecute the other with effect, from the penalties incurred by himself. By 4 and 5 William and Mary, c. 15. every person who insures prohibited or smuggled goods, and every person who agrees to pay any sum of money for such insurance, incurs the penalty of 5001.; but if the insurer discovers the fraud, he may keep the insurance money, is discharged from his own penalties, and is entitled to half the sum forfeited by the party making the insurance : or if the insured turns informer he is to receive back his insurance money, is discharged from his own penalties, and entitled to half the sum forfeited by the insurer. The most direful necessity can scarcely reconcile one to so revolting a method of effecting the intentions of the legislature, as thus to convert master and servant, buyer and seller into spies and informers against one another, in direct violation of some of the most sacred obligations by which society is held together. We
e are aware it is too high a question for us to pronounce upon, but we cannot help thinking that although the indirect taxes imposed by the revenue laws accord with the most approved principles of political economy, yet when they embrace so many objects as they at present do in this country, and the duties enforced by them are so high, it becomes a matter of grave consideration, whether it would not be prudent to retrace our steps, and instead of continuing or extending those existing, whether it would not be better and cheaper for the government and easier and less corrupting to the people, to have the same sum raised by a few heavy taxes instead of many small ones. Should such a plan be ever deemed advisable in practice, it will at least have this recommendation,
that it will contribute more to restore the vigour and simplicity of the law than any other single measure which parliament has ever sanctioned.
2. Another set of laws which have greatly helped to swell the Statute book are those which grant bounties on exportation or importation, and those which prohibit exportation or importation for a limited or unlimited time.
It is foreign to our purpose to say any thing respecting the wisdom of the policy by which these enactments have successively been dictated. We only allege that their number has exceedingly incumbered the law, and ihat so many of them have been suspended, repealed, and re-enacted either in part or altogether, that those persons whose private interests lead them to consult them, cannot discover with reasonable certainty what the law was or is, with regard to almost any one commodity. The great law against importation is 3 Edward IV. c. 4. and is so excellent a specimen of the language used on subsequent similar occasions that we shall here insert it. Whereas in the said Parliament, by the artificers, men, and women, inhabiting and resident in the city of London, and other cities, towns, boroughs, and villages, within this realın and Wales, it bath been piteously shewed and complained, how that all they in general, and every of them be greatly impoverished, and much injured and prejudiced of their worldly increase, and daily living by the great multitude of divers chaffres and wares pertaining to their mysteries and occupations, being fully wrought and ready made to sale, as well by the hands of strangers being the King's enemies as other, brought into this realm and Wales from beyond the sea, as well by merchants, strangers, as denizens, and other persons, whereof the greatest part in substance is deceitful, and nothing worth in regard of any man's occupation or profit; by occasion whereof the said artificers cannot live by their mysteries and occupations, as they used to do in times past, but divers of them, as well householders as hirelings, and other servants and apprentices in great number be at this day unoccupied, and do hardly live in great idleness, poverty, and ruin, whereby many inconveniences have grown before this time, and hereafter more be like to come (which God defend,) if due remedy be not in their behalf provided,' &c. And then the remedy provided is the complete prohibition of the importation of almost every wrought article of use or ornament at that time known. In furtherance of the principle which introduced this law, we have since advanced step by step, until there is hardly one considerable branch of trade or manufacture that is not depressed or elevated by a prohibition or a bounty. The woollen manufacture, linen, cotton, beef, verdegrease, gunpowder, leather, silk, sail-cloth and cordage, chip and straw
manufactures, whale, cod, herring and pilchard fisheries, butter, cheese, lace, glass, sugar, and corn, have all with more or less constancy become the objects of parliamentary indulgence. There have been 194 acts passed, probibiting importation and granting drawbacks and bounties on exportation ; 54 respecting the cotton and linen manufactures: 113 relating to the fisheries; 23 relating to sail-cloth and cordage; 29 relating to the corn-trade, and so on with respect to other objects in proportion to their real or conceived importance.
It would be useless to enter into any general or particular examination of these statutes, but a few of them may
be a little more narrowly examined to shew how little knowledge, foresight, and consistency Parliament has evinced in the enactment of them. The preposterous encouragement given to the woollen manufacture by the act of Charles II., which obliged all persons whether they could afford it or not to bury in woollen, is an instance of this, which would have remained forgotten, had it not been for the conviction, which unexpectedly took place a few years ago and caused its repeal by 54 Geo. III. c. 108. The linen trade was assisted in every way during almost the whole of the last century; it then got out of favour, and the bounties on English linen were repealed by 52 Geo. III. c. 96. Those on Irish linen had the good fortune to be continued by c. 69. of the same year. A bounty on Irish cotton was granted by 45 Geo. III. c. 18. and taken away by 55 Geo. III. c. 181. By 24 Geo. III. Sess. 2. c. 21, the exportation of British skins of certain sorts is prohibited for the purpose of encouraging the hat manufactory. One does not at first sight see wbat possible reason could have been alleged for this act, as it is not probable such skins would have found a better market abroad than at home. The 28 Geo. III. c. 38. for consolidating the acts prohibiting the exportation of live sheep, wool, and manufactures of wool slightly made up, appears to be equally unnecessary. Each of the articles prohibited would sell as well at home as abroad, and we are not aware such restriction should be laid on sheep and wool, either on account of their breed or quality. By 41 Geo. III. c. 99. there is a bounty given for bringing fish for sale to London, Westminster, and other places; and by 45 Geo. III. c. 64. it is enacted, that whereas 60001. had been paid in respect of the first mentioned act into the Treasury of Ireland, and the whole of it had not been expended, the Lord Lieutenant is permitted to expend it on the improvenient of harbours ou the coast of that country'—a much wiser application of the money certainly, but it shews what absurd laws a rage for bounties may occasion. Several other instances of the same sort might here be enumerated, but they will find a more appropriate place under the head immediately following. It