Letter VI

The Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Howell Cobb, in his report on the Finances, dated December 6th, 1858, page 7, when speaking on taxes for revenue, says:

“Such duties should be laid as will produce the required revenue, by imposing on the people at large the smallest and the most equal burdens.

“It is obvious that this is most effectually done by taxing, in preference to others, such articles as are not produced in this country; and among articles produced here, those in which the home product bears the least proportion to the quantity imported, are the fittest for taxation. The reason is, that in taxing articles not made in the country, the whole sum taken from the consumer goes into the Treasury, while in the other class the consumer pays the enhanced value, not only on the quantity imported, but on the quantity made at home. This last tax is paid, not into the Treasury, but to the manufacturer, thereby rendering such a duty not only more burdensome, but grossly unequal-the home producer being benefited at the expense of the consumer.”

Now, while fully admitting that taxes should be raised to “produce the required revenue, by imposing on the people at large the smallest and the most equal burdens,” I distinctly deny that any tax on any product of industry whatever, or any tax but the Land Tax, can possibly do it.

Now, let us look at the amount of duties collected, who pay the duties, and what is the result.

The amount collected for the fiscal (or revenue) year of 1857, ending June 30th, was over fifty million dollars; the cost of collecting is reported as over three million dollars, or six per cent on the whole. Much of it will be spent for war vessels to prevent one of the rights or man to Free Trade which our rulers call “smuggling;” another item of cost growing out of the prevention of Free Trade is litigation or numerous law suits for violating the tariff; another enormous expense is the erection of custom houses, Which, in eighteen places completed, cost one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars each.

The average amount of the tariff may be twenty per cent., which the importer must pay, and charge his profit on the twenty per cent. duty, which will be at least twenty-two per cent. to the retailer, who will charge his profit on the whole amount, which, if he add one-third to the Whole, including seven per cent. on the duty, will make the duty of twenty per cent, twenty-nine or thirty per cent. to the consumer.

And who are the consumers of the imported goods? Are they not “the people at large,” on whom were to fall the smallest and most equal burdens of taxation? Who buy the hats, bonnets, jewelry, daguerreotype plates, china, porcelain, earthenware, stoneware, beer, ale and porter, all of which pay twenty-four per cent, while wines and brandies pay thirty per cent. duty?

Who are the consumers? Is it not safe to say that two-thirds are consumed in the Free States, and a great portion by the hard working, ill paid, landless labourers and producers of the nation’s wealth? Do not all such taxes go directly to promote the profit of land monopoly and man monopoly (or slavery)? Does it not take the taxes out of the pockets of the toiling consumers, and by exempting the land from so much taxes, enable the landlord to sell or rent his land for so much more? Do people buy these imported goods in proportion to the land they hold, or in proportion to the slaves they hold? If not, who pay the taxes and make landholding and slaveholding profitable? Land monopoly is really the parent of chattel slavery, for if no persons owned the land of others, or more land than they needed to cultivate by their own labour for their own support, they would not covet their fellow-men as slaves; but, having obtained the land of others by legal or illegal robbery; they crave their fellowmen as slaves to work it for them; and Africa must be robbed, and slaves must be bred, and men, and women, and children reduced to bondage, to maintain in luxury and idleness a land-robbing and man-robbing aristocracy, a nobility forsooth, based on the lasso, the manacles, and the lash; the gag, the fetter, and the thumbscrew; the whipping-post, the chain and ball, the man-stealer, and the bloodhound. But remember that this land-stealing and man-stealing are done, not only by the sanction of our laws, but by our method of taxing, which has made both evils doubly profitable. The law might sanction slavery to all eternity if it was unprofitable, and no law worshippers would be patriotic enough to hold slaves any more than they would carry white men to Africa for slaves at a loss. Let us, then, remove this cause or temptation, which is the profit, by putting all the taxes on the land, and the effect will assuredly cease. I shall endeavour to show that the land tax would make slavery profitless also.

People finding land-robbery and man-robbery profitable, their priests ransack the laws of Moses and the teachings of Christ to sanction the robbery and prove the piety of the institution; and patriotic politicians quote their political ancestors to justify the wrong-as though evil grew venerable by age, and wrong right by authority; and as though we had no standard of right but the law of the priest and politician. While slavery is profitable there will be no lack of patriotism and piety to sustain it; the trinity of profit, patriotism and piety, will be in perfect unity; but take away the profit of slavery, and the patriotism and piety will be nowhere.

     How many in the love of wrong will seek a law or creed,
     A custom or authority to sanctify the deed;
     But that which gives the highest joy to all of humankind,
     Needs no command to justify, no human law to bind.