button to main menu  Gents Mag 1778 p.161

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Gentleman's Magazine 1778 p.161

  Land Tax

Land Tax, Westmorland and Cumberland

An equal LAND-TAX is by many warmly contended for. The following Remarks from Nicolson and Burn's History and Antiquities of Westmoreland and Cumberland, lately published, will furnish their Opponents with a new Argument.
'It is a vulgar mistake,' (say the writers of the History and Antiquities of Westmoreland and Cumberland,) 'that the former of these counties paid no subsidies during the existence of the border service, as supposing it to be exempted from such payment merely upon that account; for we find all along such and such person (mentioned as) collectors of these subsidies in this county granted both by clergy and laity.
'The land-tax succeeded into the place of subsidies; being not so properly a new tax, as an old tax by a new name.
'From the reign of Edward III. downward, certain sums and proportions were fixed upon the several townships within these respective counties, according whereunto the taxation hath constantly been made.
'In process of time this valuation may be supposed to have become unequal, especially since, by the increase of trade and manufactures in some large towns, much wealth is accumulated within a small compass, the tax upon which division continuing the same: and hence a new valuation hath often been suggested to render this tax more adequate, which nevertheless from the nature of the thing must always be fluctuating according to the increase or diminution of property in different parts of the kingdom. But in reality this notion proceeds upon a very narrow and partial principle: an equal tax, according to what a man is worth, is one thing; and an equal land-tax, all other taxes being unequal, is quite another.
'Setting aside the populous manufacturing towns, let us take the county of Westmoreland in general, in which there is no such manufacturing town, Kendal only excepted; and we shall find that this county, upon the whole, taking all the taxes together, pays more to the government, in proportion to the wealth of the inhabitants, than, perhaps, any other county in the kingdom; and that is, by reason of its comparative populousness.
'Suppose a township (which is a common case in Westmoreland) worth 400l. a year: in this township there are about 40 messuages, and a family in each messuage; and, at the proportion of five persons to a family, there are 200 inhabitants. These, by their labour and what they consume, are worth to the public double and treble the value of the land-tax in its highest estimation. These 40 messuages, at 3s. each, pay yearly 6l. house duty; and so many of them perhaps have above 7 windows as will make up 6l. more. Now let us advance further south, and an estate of 400 a-year is there frequently in one hand. There is one family, perhaps of 15 or 30 persons; one house-duty of 3s. some few shillings more for windows, and a 10th part of the consumption of things taxable; as salt, soap, leather, candles, and abundance of other articles. Now where is the equality! One man for 5 or 10 pounds a-year pays as much house-duty as another for 400l. a-year. In Westmoreland many persons (and the clergy almost in general) dwell in houses that pay more house and window duty than the house itself would let for: and in other respects the public is as much benefited by three or four families occupying 10 or 20l. a-year each, as in the other case by one family occupying ten times as much.
'It hath been computed by political calculators, that every person, one with another, is worth to the public 4l. a-year. On that supposition, the inhabitants in one case are estimated at 800l. in the other case at 80l. so if we reduce the sum to half, or a quarter, or any other sum, it will always come out the same that the one and the other are of value to the public just in the proportion of 10 to 1.
'In short, populousness is the riches of a nation, not only from the consumption of thinigs taxable, but from the supply of hands to arts, manufactures, war, and commerce.
'A man who purchases an estate and lays it to his own, making one farm of what was two before, deprives the public of a proportionable share of every tax that depends upon the number of houses and inhabitants.
'A man that gets a whole village or two into his possession by this means, consisting of an hundred antient feudal tenements, evades ninety-nine parts in an hundred of such taxes, and throws the burden on others, who, by reason of the smallness of their property, are proportionably less able to bear it; for a man of an hundred pounds a year can better spare twenty pounds, than a man of ten pounds a year can spare forty shillings, for the one has eighty pounds left, the other only eight pounds.
'This new argument against altering the established mode of collecting the land-tax, added to that of the danger of every innovation, how specious soever the pretence.'

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