Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/373

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

erty of a visible character, as slaves, horses, and cattle, and to exempt from taxation debts, accounts, merchandise,[1] and all other items susceptible of concealment, and which would necessitate inquisitorial methods for assessment. And it was not until 1847, when the State had become financially embarrassed by large expenditures, that any change was made in such system. But in later days, when laws came to be made by legislators who could not conceive that anything more was involved in taxation than the raising of a given amount of money, the discriminating rule in respect to the situs of real and personal property was generally adopted and has resulted in the before-mentioned absurdities. Another involved absurdity is that those States which adopt in their systems of taxation the rule of


  1. In a report of the law committee of the Common Council of the city of Philadelphia, submitted February 16, 1871, we find the following historical review of the tax laws of Philadelphia, under the government of William Penn and his successors in the colonial government:

    "These laws were framed to avoid repeating errors (in respect to the taxation of personal property) which had been proved by long experience in Great Britain and the Continental countries to be inquisitorial in their nature, and by concealment, evasion, and perjury demoralizing to the people. We find the Provincial Council (1683) first determining that ‘a publick tax on land ought to be raised to defray the publick charge,’ and the enactment of 1700, fixing county rates and levies (which law was not enrolled), is believed to have been not larger in the subjects of county rates than in the act of 1724, which were real estate, horses, cattle, sheep, negroes, and a poll tax. It will be noticed that the personal estate here enumerated was visible property not susceptible of concealment, and that debts, accounts, merchandise, and ships are nowhere mentioned. In the several enactments that followed in 1795, 1799, and 1834, the subjects of county levy were substantially the same, sheep and slaves being omitted in the last act, and officers added to the last two, and it was not until 1844, a period when the State, by large expenditures, had become embarrassed, that, by the act of 29th day of April, 1844, mortgages, money owing by solvent debtors, stocks, household furniture, public loans, watches, etc., were made taxable for county purposes. The attempted enforcement of this act was so injurious to the people, by driving capital and industrial establishments from the State, and so evaded in returns, that by common consent the law remained on the statute book a dead letter until the consolidation of the city.

    "At that time (1854) the question was again discussed, and although the councils of the city had the power to impose the tax rate upon all the subjects of taxation, in the thirty-second section of the act of 1844 we find, by the first ordinances, they limited the levy to real estate, furniture, horses, cattle, and pleasure carriages, and so continued until 1864, when an act was passed empowering the city to levy taxes on all the subjects of taxation contained in that section of the act of 1844, a power which they possessed before, but had not exercised.

    "Since that time the authority of the city to levy a tax on mortgages, stocks of Pennsylvania corporations, and occupations, has been repealed. In considering the enlargement of the subjects of levy in this city, the fact must not be lost sight of that the State does not impose any tax on real estate for State purposes, but derives all its revenue from corporation stocks and loans, mercantile license, tavern licenses, collateral inheritance, etc., and it is estimated that of the gross receipts for 1870 ($6,336,603) more than two fifths of the amount ($2,600,000) was derived from the property and business interests of the citizens of this city."