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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/169

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

to 1886. Third, a period of recovery from utter collapse, from 1886 to the present time, the result of intelligent fiscal administration so signal and complete as to be without precedent in history. It remains to be seen what will happen in the future in the event of the withdrawal of British occupation and governmental administration of the country in compliance with the wishes of all the other great powers of Europe.

An illustration of how history in Egypt has seemingly repeated itself in respect to taxation is here pertinent to the subject. Prior to the nineteenth century a key to the hieroglyphic writing of Egypt or of the so-called "demotic," which was a shorthand or abridged form of the true hieroglyphics, had not been discovered, and there was little probability that it ever would be.

In 1799, however, during the French occupation of Egypt, a large slab of black granite (now in the British Museum), which originally had been a monument in some public edifice, was discovered in excavating for military purposes near the village of Rosetta, a place in Lower Egypt not far distant from Alexandria and the western mouth of the Nile. The slab had on it three inscriptions—the first in hieroglyphic text, the second in the demotic character, and the third in Greek letters; and a study and comparison of them, mainly by Champollion, a French scholar, led to a solution of the problem of deciphering the hieroglyphic writing, which previously had almost completely baffled analysis. It was then found that the trilingual inscriptions were in the main a copy of a decree in honor of Ptolemy V, Epiphines, King of Egypt, who, about 193 b. c., had conferred great benefit on his country and its people by remitting certain taxes and reducing others, and read as follows:

 
Considering that the King Ptolemy, ever living, the well-beloved of Phtah, most gracious son of the King Ptolemy and of the Queen Arsinoë—gods philopatores (father-loving)—has done all kinds of good; . . . that he has not neglected any of the means within his power to perform acts of humanity; that in order that in his kingdom the people and in general all the citizens should be in prosperity, he has suppressed altogether some of the taxes and imposts established in Egypt, and has diminished the onus of others: . . . It has therefore pleased the priests of all the temples of the land to decree that all the honors belonging to the king shall be considerably augmented; that his statue shall be erected in the most conspicuous spot in each temple; that the priests shall perform three times each day religious service to these statues; and that in all great solemnities all the honors due to other deities shall be paid them. . .

More than two thousand years have elapsed since the service rendered by Ptolemy to Egypt and its people by the remission and readjustment of taxes was thus commemorated. King,