"danegeld," a charge on lands at so much per hide, or an area of about one hundred acres; "scutage," a charge on tenants in lieu of military service; "caracage" a charge on "plow lands"; "talliage" (from the French tailler, to cut off), a charge on the tenants of royal manors, and the like were designations of the different forms of such assessments at different periods. As civilization advanced and was accompanied, as at a more primitive period, with an increase in the forms of personal property, a combination of taxes on land and movables, or a general property tax system, developed and was adopted by all the nations of western Europe with all the despotic adjuncts which seemed necessary to make its enforcement successful. The ultimate result of such a system was what might have been anticipated. From a very early period it occasioned great popular dissatisfaction. In Milan, Italy, as early as 1208, it was enforced with such severity "that the assessment book was known as the libra del dolore." In Florence it became so honeycombed with abuses and the load of taxation fell with such crushing force on the small owners of property that imminent popular revolution and disorder compelled its essential modification. As wealth increased, evasions of the tax increased in a greater proportion in every community, leaving the burden of the system, as now in the United States, on that class of the population—mainly the agricultural—that are least able to bear it. Sir Robert Cecil stated in 1592 that there were not five men in London assessed on their goods at two hundred pounds (one thousand dollars); and Sir Walter Raleigh stated in 1601 that "the poor man" (in England) "pays as much as the rich." In Florence in 1495 only fifty-two persons paid the tax on trade capital, although the amount of such capital must have been immense. Marshal Vauban, of France, who wrote on taxation about 1700, stated that the taille personalle was assessed only on the poorest classes. The result has been that as the difficulty of assessing visible personal property and the impossibility of reaching invisible and intangible personalty became apparent, the tax was gradually modified, and finally abolished in all European countries, except possibly Switzerland and Holland, where its nature has very little of its original and typical character. One of the first acts of the French National Assembly in 1789 was to abolish it entirely. A provision for taxing personal property under a nominal land tax continued to exist on the statute book until 1833, when, through constant exemptions and systematic evasions, the annual revenue accruing from the same had run down to the sum of eight hundred and twenty-three pounds (four thousand one hundred and fifteen dollars). It is also interesting to note that the people of Europe have been so long exempted from a general property tax that their
Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/224
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.