Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/12

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expression in Rhode Island in a law that was passed in 1673, by which it was provided that, under certain circumstances, a citizen might be required "to give in writing what proportion of estate and strength in particular, he guesseth ten of his neighbors, nameing them in particular, hath in estate and strength to his estate and strength." It is only fair to add, however, that this law was intended to prevent tax-dodging, and only required a man to guess with respect to the relative size of his neighbors' estates to his own, when he himself was suspected of having undervalued his own estate. Very curiously this ancient law and practice find expression to this day in Rhode Island in the circumstance that no citizen of that State is qualified to vote upon any proposition to impose a tax, or for authorizing the expenditure of public money, that has not paid a personal property tax six days preceding such day of voting. Lists of persons who are or may be qualified to vote generally are published and placarded before election, with prefixes to each name, showing the electoral qualification of its representative on the list, whether the same is dependent on real estate or personal property taxation. Any person who shall take down or destroy this list once placarded is liable to a fine of three hundred dollars, or three months' imprisonment.

Then again very little of a citizen's property was situated without the territorial jurisdiction of the taxing power, or indeed without the territorial limits of the hamlet, town, or city in which the citizen lived. Then a man could not very conveniently live in one place and do business in another. Within a century an English court has declared a contract invalid which stipulated that one of the parties thereto should do an act in London and Oxford the same day, because the stipulation involved in this particular an impossibility. Now the distance involved could be traversed in about an hour. The nature of property, as well as the means for moving it, was also such as to render all transportation difficult, and rapid transportation impossible. The discrepancy in taxation as respects different places was also so small that no great advantage could be gained by shifting one's residence or property for the sake of evading taxation; and the difficulty and inconvenience of so doing were so great that the temptation could hardly have existed. But even in the most simple condition of society the practical application of what may be properly termed the "infinitesimal" system of taxation must have been always attended with great difficulties, for the reason that it involved and necessitated personal inquisitions, than which there is nothing in government that men more dislike and resist; and, in the language of a committee of the French National Assembly of 1789 (of which Talleyrand and Larochefoucald were members), the