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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/51

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

It is interesting also to note in this connection that against no one class, when the revolutionary element became ascendant in France, was popular hatred more intense than to the farmers-general, to whom the collection of taxes in the different provinces of the kingdom was farmed out or contracted. The extravagant expenditure which, as a rule, characterized their living, was regarded by the masses as all-sufficient evidence of the enormous profits unjustly accruing to them from these contracts; and the power continually exercised by their agents to make domiciliary visits, seize goods, inflict fines, and take other measures of an arbitrary, obnoxious character to enforce compliance with extortions, all contributed to make them objects of execration by nearly the entire people. And this animosity under the revolutionary government speedily manifested itself, by sending thirty-two out of the whole number—sixty—of these high officials to the guillotine; among whom were undoubtedly some honest and conscientious financiers and otherwise distinguished men, such as Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry.

One of the great results of the French Revolution, which ought to be duly weighed in reckoning up the good and evil of that mighty popular convulsion, is that it swept away the feudal land laws of old France and made landowners of several millions of men who were formerly serfs. Fully one half of the land of France at the present time is owned by small farmers or peasants; and in their hands has been demonstrated afresh what Arthur Young called the magic power of property to turn sand to gold. Regions which he visited in 1788, and found barren and deserted, a hundred years later were clothed with vines and gardens under the tillage of peasant proprietors.

From the foregoing consideration of France in the last century, experiencing through the abuse of taxation the most awful revolution in history, let us turn to a country of our own time and continent, and observe methods of taxation yet surviving the vigor and barbarism of the mediæval period.

Taxation in Mexico.—Until recently, and to a great extent at present, the system of taxation operative in Mexico, the origin or evolution of which may in no small part be attributed to a sparseness of population, lack of accumulated wealth or capital, limited wants, and low civilization of the masses, is especially worthy of notice, and most instructive from the circumstance that nothing like it exists in any other country.

took off the taxes from the man of fashion, and laid them with accumulated weight on the poor who were so unfortunate as to be his neighbors? Who has dwelt sufficiently on explaining all the ramifications of despotism, regal, aristocratical, and ecclesiastical, pervading the whole mass of the people, reaching like a circulating fluid the most distant capillary tubes of poverty and wretchedness?"—Young's Travels in France.