EDWIN BURGESS LETTERS
FIRST PUBLISHED BY
"THE RACINE ADVOCATE"
Mr. Edwin Burgess, author of these letters on taxation (first published in the
Racine Advocate of 1859-60,) was born in London, England, in 1807 and died in
Racine, Wis., in 1869.
He received an ordinary common school education and served an
apprenticeship to the tailors trade; a man of the average middle class of the
early part of the 19th century; a competent craftsman and evidently a man of
some ambition, as he emigrated to the United States in the middle 40s, locating
in Racine, Wis., and establishing himself in a fairly successful business. So
that by the time of the breaking out of the Civil War he was in possession of a
modest competence and being in failing health he retired from business, but not
from a keen interest in the welfare of his fellowmen.
In personal appearance he was one of the men you would hardly
pass on the street without taking a second look at him (as his portrait which
we secured after a long search among his old friends and neighbours will fully
show.) We who were young at that time remember him as a man of liberal ideas in
both politics and religion but most kindly, moderate and thoughtful in all
things, but in the overshadowing presence of the anti-slavery campaign and the
impending Civil War, these letters of his were passed over as the irrelevant
dreams of a crank and at the time excited but little note or comment.
Yet, here was a man who probably never read the "Wealth of
Nations" or the writings of any of the great political economists, out of a
heart overflowing with sympathy for his fellowmen and especially for the masses
of his fellow countrymen and a wonderful keenness of intellect evolved
practically the whole theory of the Single tax as set forth and elaborated 20
years later by Henry George.
The verses accompanying the letters reveal a heart full of
human sympathy, while the letters show an originality and depth of thought and
clearness of statement, which place him among the foremost thinkers of the age.
In fact a man of far more logical acumen and breadth of view than many of the
men who figure largely on the rolls of fame.
In commenting on these letters, Mr. F.M. King, editor of the
Liberator (single tax organ of New Zealand, to whose kindness and
courtesy we are indebted for the copies from which this is printed,) who
republished them in 1908, says: "The marvel of it is, that single-handed and in
spite of chronic sickness, he should have worked out the true solution of the
social problem 20 years before Henry George's work was heard of.
"As a working man, speaking to working men, these letters and
poems are a legacy of which we should all be proud."
He made a visit to England in 1864, taking with him an edition
of these letters and distributing several hundred on Broadway, N.Y, and the
balance in the streets of London.
After his death his wife returned to England and in accordance
with his wish had an edition printed for free distribution, one of which was
found in Mr. Chas. Braillaughs collection of miscellaneous pamphlets now in the
The fact that the ideas he advanced fifty years ago are now
commanding the attention of the whole civilized world and shaping very largely
the destinies of Great Britain and her colonies, would seem to be a sufficient
reason for the re-issue of these remarkable letters and it seemed unfair that
the work and memory of such a man should be allowed to perish in the place of
In view of all which the reprint is put forth by his old time
friends and admirers.
WM. S. BUFFHAM
Land Versus Labour Tax
Why tax we the produce of anyone's toil
While it raises the price of the land,
And limits the sale, by enhancing the price
Of the food which the poor must demand?
It raises the price of the product of land,
And lowers the wages of toil,
So the workers have little their wants to supply,
And nothing to purchase the soil.
With little to buy, they have little demand
For the produce of anyone's toil;
So the workers are idle, as well as the land,
While weeds grow on much of the soil.
Men perish, tho' labour and land would afford
What would keep them in comfort and joy,
While the blessings of health and the comfort of wealth
Would follow their steady employ.
No taxes on aught that our labour can make,
For these would diminish free toil;
But so much per acre all over the land,
So that no one should hoard up the soil,
For the landlords have robbed us, for ages before,
Taxed all but the land which they stole,
Our food and our drink, our paper and ink,
To enslave us in body and soul.
May we reap the reward we've endeavoured to sow,
Of free land and the freedom of trade,
That the taxes may henceforth be all on the land,
And never on labour be laid.
Being in the County Clerk's Room of the Court House, I saw a
large pile of papers headed "Statement of Property," to be filled out and sworn
to by every resident owner. "The number and value of horses and cattle, mules
and asses, sheep, hogs, pleasure carriages of every description, watches,
moneys and credits, merchant's stock, manufacturer's stock and other articles
of personal property;" which is everything that one person could sue another
Now, I could not help thinking somewhat on the cost as
well as consequence of such a method of Taxing People for the support of
1st. Taxing people for their personal property - on their oath,
is a premium on perjury, because those who lie the most, pay the least taxes;
and children born under such influences will be famous for lying - if there is
any connection between cause and effect in the condition of parent and
2nd. The means of valuing or assessing are very expensive;
thus increasing the cost of government, as well as the cost of corruption.
3rd. Taxing personal property prevents production, because the
tax being added to the article for sale, increases its price in proportion to
the means of buying. Hence, less is sold and less is made, and the makers are
less employed; and having, consequently, less with which to buy, the makers or
other things will be less employed also - till the surplus workers will become
paupers, and suffer much misery in consequence; many will become hopeless, and
reckless because hopeless. Some will be tempted to commit crime for the
temporary alleviation of their misery, which, repeated, soon becomes a habit;
we have then paupers and criminals to support, pauper houses and prisons to
build, officers to hire to superintend both; Legislators to make laws for their
government; thus the Tax on personal property, or the product of industry,
increases the amount of paupers and criminals, while the cost of keeping
paupers and criminals, officers and Legislators, increases the amount of Tax
and the cost of government, of course.
A friend of mine intended to buy a piano, but the Tax decided
him against it; fewer watches will be sold, because they are taxed. If any
person puts up a new fence, or make any visible improvement, which employs the
unemployed and prevents their continuance as paupers, and beautifies the
city - they are taxed annually in proportion to the evil they prevent and the
good they do.
4th. Taxing personal property is not only costly, corruptive,
and pauper making, and promotive of misery and crime, but inquisitorial;
burdensome, and aggressive against our right to labour and enjoy the fruit of
our toil unmolested; as long as we injure no one, we should be protected
against aggression, instead of suffering aggression. Are we not now taxed for
the aggression instead of the protection against it?
5th. Taxing people in proportion to their industry prevents
industry; because when an industrious person labours twelve hours per day,
successfully, he must pay twelve times as much taxes, because he has made
twelve times as much property to be taxed, as if he had worked only one hour
per day; and besides the limit of his means to pay the tax, whether in a watch,
a piano, or a horse, no one likes to be taxed for the idleness of others, and
he feels the injustice also, and improvements are thus prevented which would
profitably employ the idle.
6th. Taxing personal property raises the price of land, and
thus promotes its monopoly by the rich - because land being the source of our
subsistence, which labour develops or increases, from which, and on which, all
must live, and money instead of manhood being the qualification for owning
land, it follows that in proportion as the taxes are on personal property, the
land will be exempt, and it will be thus, comparatively cheap, or easy for the
rich to monopolise: so that if all the taxes were on the land, it would sell
for the lowest price, and would be most difficult to monopolise; but if all the
taxes were on personal property, and none on the land, then the land would sell
for the highest price, and labour would sell for the lowest price, because of
the excessive competition of the landless and destitute workers, who by selling
their labour for the smallest portion of its produce, would keep the land at
the highest possible price; so, when you want land to be low, and wages high,
put all the taxes on the land; but if you prefer labour to be low and land
high, you have only to put all the taxes on personal property. All articles of
productive industry cost the keeping of the maker and contriver, but the land
costs nothing for either. It is the natural inheritance of all, for all time;
and all should be protected in their possession, and those who own all the land
should certainly pay all the Taxes for keeping them in possession and their
neighbours out of it.
Must not our southern lords be fools
To buy their slaves, when they're so plenty,
When stealing land by laws and rules,
And keeping poor folks' stomachs empty,
Would give them wages slaves for naught,
Who'd beg to have their labour bought;
And women, too, breathe soft the word,
Who'd sell their bodies for their board?
Our wages slaves ne'er run away,
The fear of starving makes them stay;
Though they must earn the daily bread
For others' mouths beside their own,
Who on the best are ever fed,
Aping the monarch on his throne;
Yet hirelings bowed with want and care
Are glad the coarsest food to share.
The keep of chattels is a bore,
When sick or they can work or more;
Without the lash to drive the work,
Chattels are very apt to shirk;
But the poor landless wages slave,
Must clothing, food, and shelter crave;
For these he works with willing hand
For anyone by sea or land.
Then grasp the land, the source of wealth,
Of life, of energy, and health;
And only let the workers toil,
While you by law can reap the spoil.
What man or woman e'er so brave,
Will want not make a wages slave,
A slave in body and in mind,
To any tyrant of their kind?
In my last, I endeavoured to show that "Taxing Personal
Property" is corruptive and costly, and promotive of land monopoly, pauperism,
and crime. I will now consider a few more of its evils.
7th. Taxing personal property promotes the monopoly of capital
(as well as land), because whenever labour can be bought for a small portion of
its produce, the larger portion (or the unpaid labour) is owned by the
capitalist in the name of profit, with which he can starve the landless workers
into worse terms, as long as they continue landless, in proportion to their
numbers and necessities.
8th. Taxing personal property, by preventing production and
promoting the monopoly of land and its products, makes the means of living the
most precarious, especially for the landless, because there is less produced in
proportion to the wants of the community; and as the land is high and labour
low (from the taxes on industry and competition of the landless), it is
proportionally beyond the means of the cheaply-paid labourer to purchase the
land, or even to rent it; and when the means of living are the most precarious,
the greatest anxiety is suffered by the landless, and the continuance of that
anxiety causes nervousness, sleeplessness, misery, and insanity, which is
transmitted to the offspring with increased force, and thus is insanity made
9th. Taxing personal property promotes intemperance by making
labour so cheap that the labourer must toil excessively for a living, thus
causing bodily exhaustion as well as mental anxiety to the landless workers,
and indolence also on the part of those who live on the labour of others. Those
whose bodies are exhausted by excessive toil, and whose minds are suffering
from mental anxiety, crave stimulants to recruit the body and make the mind
forget its care; while those who live in idleness on others' toil, crave
stimulants to quicken the circulation which should be sustained by honest,
temperate toil, carrying with it the moral satisfaction, that for all they
enjoy no one suffers. Then, and not till then, will the good be transmitted to
the offspring, instead of the evil, as now.
Do we not find the most intemperance and insanity among those
whose means of living are the most precarious? Look to the gold regions among
miners; when they are fortunate, many will drink for joy, and when unfortunate,
many will drink to drown their disappointment.
I was told recently that California has a beautiful climate,
but that it produced much insanity. I asked if the insanity was not caused by
the uncertainty of the means of living instead of the climate; for there is
much gambling there also, and among gamblers the means of living are still more
precarious, and the moral perception and sympathy still lower; and there we
find more intemperance, insanity, and suicide, and these qualities being
transmitted, must bear fruit accordingly.
10th. Taxing personal property by making land dear and labour
cheap, promotes prostitution and disease to a fearful extent. Is not woman more
sensitive and weaker physically than man, and when she can get no just reward
for her labour, and frequently no right to labour, need we wonder that she
sells herself legally or illegally for the means of living? Are not the high
price of land, and the low price of labour, or the no right of land and
consequently no right of labour, the main cause? Is not the right of land
denied to man and woman and given to money and its owners, as though money had
more right to land than man or woman? And thus is woman driven by injustice,
poverty, and misery, into temptation, and prayed out occasionally in revivals.
Pray folks out of temptation, while driving them in,
Is the usual way to atone for the sin;
To fight the effect, while feeding the cause,
You will find the foundation of most of our laws.
11th. Taxing personal property is the main cause of rent,
interest, and usury; for rent of land is but interest on the price, so that
when the land is high the rent will be in proportion, and all the wages of the
landless are required for their support; they cannot buy land or build houses,
or have capital for business, but must pay rent or interest for all. Usury is
but interest or rent of money, more than the law allows, which is sustained by
the extremes of rich and poor, caused by land monopoly and its causes.
Let us not flatter ourselves that we are innocent of the
effects, while we are sustaining the cause by our votes, advocacy, and laws. Do
we really want permanent prosperity, and the interest of all to be honest and
live on their own labour instead of speculating on the unpaid labour of others?
Do we desire purity and truth instead of corruption and perjury to prevail?
Then repeal all taxes on industry, and let the monopolists of land, the source
of our living and the rightful inheritance of all, pay taxes in proportion to
the value of what they monopolise, then poverty, prostitution, and
intemperance, will soon be among the things that were.
Our Liberty and Land
We've robbers of the people's land, and pirates of free trade,
Who plunder us for doing good, by laws, which they have made.
Now, would you cease to be the slaves of such a robber band,
Repeal the tax on honest toil, and charge it on the land.
Then land will cease to sell for gold, and each can have his share;
While peace and plenty, joy and love, will be our daily fare;
Then all can work at farming, in the factory or mine,
To feed and clothe, and get their gold, and build their houses fine;
And then we'll build substantial homes, secure 'gainst fire and rain,
While landlords and monopolists may build to rent in vain;
For land and easy toil each morn, will all we need afford;
Then women will not sell themselves as now for bed and board;
For science and machinery shall aid our daily toil,
To manufacture all we need, and cultivate the soil.
Thus light and easy toil ere noon, will every want supply;
Then rent and care, and haggard want, we'll ever more defy.
We'll educate our children, too, in science, words, and facts,
Nor sell the homes of any for an education tax;
We'll teach them justice, truth, and law, and liberty and love,
To be philosophers indeed, and harmless as a dove;
For plenty then will teach for love, when labour is so light,
When every afternoon will be a Sabbath of delight.
We'll freely roam o'er Nature then, and cull her gems so rare,
And learn her hidden mysteries with all a student's care'
Such means would be a blessing to the teacher and the scholar
And need not then exhaust ourselves, nor drink to drown our care,
When all the riches Nature yields, in plenty we may share;
Then temperance and industry will bless the human band,
When all shall evermore enjoy their liberty and land.
Taxing personal property and offsetting by oath the
indebtedness of the debtor, not only promote perjury, but make it the interest
of those who own property without indebtedness to leave the State, because
they, having no indebtedness to offset, will be taxed for all they own while
the debtor who owes for more property than he owns need pay no tax on personal
property whatever, no matter whether the debt be honestly or dishonestly
contracted, whether there is any intention, or no intention that it shall ever
be paid; so that anyone who has come to this country having swindled his
creditors, or swindles them here, may be exempt from a personal tax in
proportion to the extent of the swindle. Do we not thus make Wisconsin a
profitable Paradise for rogues, by giving them an annual premium on never
paying their just debts? For if they should become thrifty and saving, pay all
they owe and save as much more, then they will have to pay so much more taxes
every year, in proportion to their industry, honesty, truthfulness, and
While the landowners of England were the lawmakers, they taxed
almost everything but the land, to exempt themselves from the payment of taxes.
Now, as we have had laws recently in Wisconsin to delay or prolong the time for
the collection of debts, and now have a law to exempt the personal property of
the debtor from taxation, and thus lay the burden of the taxes on the
industrious and saving, we ought naturally to inquire into the motive, whether
it is a sin of intention in which they were peculiarly interested, or whether
it is a sin of ignorance from want of considering the consequences. If our
legislators would exempt all personal property from taxes, I would say Amen;
because then there would be the greatest inducement for industry and economy,
and the tax would then only be burdensome to the land monopolist, who,
in consequence of his land monopoly, is the greatest burden which society has to
support; and society is quite as much to blame as the land monopolist, for it
almost literally makes him a monopolist by making it his interest to be so; and
as soon as he relinquished the land, which should belong to others, the land
tax would cease to be burdensome to him; and until land monopoly is abolished
there can be no permanent prosperity for mankind. While one man owns the land
of a landless brother, he, to a certain extent, owns the labour of the man. If
all owned what land they needed to cultivate by their own labour, they could be
self-employing, and would not need to sell their own labour or produce for less
than they could buy that of others, then we should no longer feel the
degradation of "begging a brother of the earth to give us leave to toil," as
Burns beautifully expresses the dependent condition of the wages slave.
I know one man who will put off building a large house until
the taxes are levied this year, to save the taxes, and thus are builders kept
idle; and can you blame the man when your laws have made it his interest to do
so, especially in a place as tax-ridden as Racine is, and there are doubtless
many in the same condition?
I know one man who loaned money and bought securities here for
his brother who was living in another State; had the brother lived here he
would have had a special tax to pay, but we made it his interest to live away
and lost his custom, which would help to employ the unemployed, and diminish
our pauper tax; and I had some suspicion that the buying in the brother's name
was only to evade the tax, but shall we blame the effect in him when the cause
is in ourselves, in our blundering laws which encourage deception and perjury,
while producing pauperism, misery, and crime?
We exempt railroad property from local taxes, and gas
property, and schools, churches, and banks; now, if it is good in one case, I
challenge anyone to show that it is not good in all. Then away with your paltry
special privilege legislating, and let us have instead, laws which, if
universally applied, would cause the most permanent prosperity for all; and
though we can never do good to the taxpayer by taxing him, let us be sure that
we do him the least possible injury; and that, I contend, the "ad valorem" land
tax will do, and no other forced tax whatever, for it is less costly in
valuation and collection, less corruptive and unequal, and causes less
pauperism, misery, and crime than any other tax; in fact it is the only Free
Trade Tax, and sets up no board of inquisition on the industry of any man or
The Lay of the Landless
No spot I own on all the earth whereon to lay my head;
I have no right by law or might to earn my daily bread.
I'm pauper made for want of trade; my right of land is sold;
Not for a mess of pottage, but for silver and for gold,
By our patriotic office-rogues, who every wrong uphold.
O Land Robber! the land that should be mine.
That lovely land, that fertile land, by legal fraud is thine.
Who gave the rogues a right to sell the land where all should live?
What proof have we in heav'en or earth 'twas theirs to sell or give?
Until they make their title clear, should we uphold their cause;
Nor strive for right with mind and might, and make some better laws;
And in the cause of Truth and Right march on and never pause!
O Land Robber! the land that should be mine.
That lovely land, that fertile land, by legal fraud is thine.
Shall force and fraud forever reign o'er all the sons of men?
We've tried the sword with poor reward, then try the tongue and pen;
Yes! think and act, rely on fact, learn well to know the right,
And do it, too, with action true, sustained by mind and might.
And thus restore to each and all, the land; 'tis their by right.
O Land Robber! the land that should be mine.
That lovely land, that fertile land, by legal fraud is thine.
In the Constitution of Wisconsin, sec.8, art.1, it says, "The
Rule of Taxation shall be Uniform" upon such property as the Legislature shall
Now I am totally at a loss to see the "Uniformity" of Taxation
under our present law. If it is meant to exempt a certain value of everyone's
property, why exempt horses under two years old, mules and asses under eighteen
months old, and sheep and hogs under six months old? for according to this
rule, one farmer may own a thousand dollars of such property, or any amount,
but if his neighbour has a like amount, no matter how little older, he must pay
double what he would have to pay were all taxed according to the value of their
property. This, instead of being uniform, is burdensome and oppressive to one,
while favouring the exemption of the other.
Do not suppose for a moment that I wish to make any point
against farmers, or any other class whatever, for I would not tax any personal
property, or product of industry in any form, but the land alone according to
its market value, irrespective of all improvements.
But it would really be difficult to show how the mechanic is
correspondingly favoured in exemptions; for he may have six months' fuel and
provisions, if he should be fortunate enough to own as much, but if he should
be owed as much, though it were his all, and he could not collect it before
making his returns, then he must return it to be taxed, except he owes as much,
because those who owed him were either unable or unwilling to pay him; in either
case he must pay more taxes, and thus exempt others, or perjure himself to
avoid the imposition.
According to art.9, sec.3, of the assessment law of Wisconsin,
household and kitchen furniture, beds and bedding, or other personal property
not exceeding two hundred dollars in value, is exempt from taxes. Now a widower
being the head of a family, of course would have two hundred dollars of such
property exempt; and a widow being the head of a family would be entitled to a
like exemption; and I suppose a bachelor or maiden would be entitled to a like
exemption each. But if they should commit matrimony, would they be entitled to
a like exemption, or only two hundred dollars for each family; and if not,
where is the uniformity of the tax? The same question will apply to the six
months' provisions and fuel exempted by art.10, sec.3.
In art.14, sec.3, it says each person shall be entitled to
exemption on other personal property, excepting moneys and credits, and
articles enumerated in sec.8, to any amount not exceeding one hundred dollars;
so that a person may have exempt from taxes a hundred dollar watch chain, but
not a five dollar watch, or a melodeon, or a piano. Had our legislature no
taste for music or mechanics? You may select for exemption a double horse wagon
for work, but not a single one for pleasure. Is there one mechanic in a hundred
who owns one hundred dollars beyond the furniture and other property that he
could collect, to put into such property as is exempted? And if he cannot
collect, then his credits must be taxed to diminish the taxes of those who are
rich enough to own the exempted property. But why the articles enumerated
should be exempt, and others taxed, I think it would puzzle a Wisconsin
legislator to tell; or how taxation can be uniform with special exemption.
Again, how credit can be construed to mean property, except by
the fist of the law, I am at a loss to determine. What is credit but
expectation of property, which is in the possession of another (if existing at
all), and is already taxed in the possession of the buyer? But when you tax
credits it leads to double taxation, first for the property bought, and second
for the credit or expectation also.
For example, suppose one person buys a house and lot of
another, for one thousand dollars cash, then the cash is taxed to the seller,
and the property to the buyer; but if the buyer buys the house and lot on
credit, and loans his money for interest, then the house and lot is taxed to
the buyer and the money to the borrower, and the credit to the seller of the
property and the loaner of the money; and the same property may be sold over
and over again on credit; and the same money be loaned, over and over again,
and remain unpaid; and the credit be taxed for each sale or loan every time.
But it will be said that our somewhat recent law for exempting
an amount of personal property from tax equal to the debts of the debtor,
avoids the double taxation. In many cases this is true, but not in all, for if
you owe for real estate and have no personal property to be exempt for what you
owe, then the real estate will be taxed, and the credits also; and even if you
owe for provisions, which you have consumed, and have nothing with which to
pay, still the credit will be taxed, though no property exists to represent it;
and if the house should be burnt, and the land washed away, still the credits
will be taxed while the wealth is unmade which must cancel the credit.
And I contend that exempting an amount of property from taxes
equal to what we owe is worse than taxing all property to those in possession,
for then it would be the interest of the debtor to pay up, to save the taxes;
which would benefit the creditor pecuniarly, and the debtor, morally, at least;
and it also avoids the double taxation, and taxing for what has ceased to exist
as property, and makes it our interest to trade for ready pay instead of
credit, and gives no premium on perjury, debt, and swindling, and is less
costly, extra-judicial, and inquisitorial; still, it is very inferior to ad
valorem land tax, which, while avoiding all evils peculiar to taxing personal
property and credits, makes land monopoly unprofitable, and keeps the land at
the lowest price, and labour at the highest, while taxing personal property and
credits both make land high and labour low.
Doubtless, this law for taxing money and credits was made to
tax the loaner, and exempt the borrower; but while it does not put it within
the means of the borrowers to get cheap or free land, it not only fails of its
object, but absolutely increases the evil which it was intended to diminish;
for the tax for credit as well as money diminishes the land tax and thus raises
the price of land and produce, rent, interest and usury; and so will our poll
tax, our taxes on personal property, and duties on imports. Thus are we
fighting effects, and feeding causes continually, but I trust we shall soon try
to see if we cannot better prevent the evils of which we so justly complain by
removing their causes entirely.
The Temperance Land Reformer
Air - Fine Old English Gentleman
Oh, that a man into his mouth should put a deadly foe,
To steal away his health and wealth, and work disease and woe;
To drown his reason, love and worth, and desolate his home,
And leave his family in want, unheeded and alone;
Like a poor lost slave of appetite, a whisky-sucking drone.
Then cast a way the maddening draught, which thou can'st not control;
So that thou may'st not perish by the desolating bowl,
But live a useful, honest life, sustain thy moral health:
Be sure thy own, not other's toil, supplies thy store of wealth:
Like a thorough Son of Temperance who scorns to drink by stealth.
But whilst thou fightest the effect, strive to remove the cause,
That made thee sacrifice thy health, and violate its laws;
Say, was it not exhausting toil of body or of brain,
Or indolence, that made thee drink to rouse thy sinking frame:
Caused by the robbers of the land, who riot in thy shame?
Then let the land and man be free, so that excessive toil
The workers need no longer do, for drones to reap the spoil;
That all by honest industry may earn their daily bread,
So they may know that they have been by their own labour fed;
And thus a temperate, honest life, by everyone be led.
Another of the evils of taxing personal property, which
destroys the uniformity of the tax, is, that much of the personal property is
never taxed at all where debts are allowed as an offset to the personal
property in possession; for example, merchants' goods being removed from where
they were bought, frequently or generally escape taxing there, and when they
are owed for here, or sworn to as such, according to sec.4, are exempt here
also. I am told that the taxed personal property of New York City was only
fifty millions, while Broadway alone probably contains much more wealth; so
that besides the evils of perjury and extra cost in valuing, and double
taxation for property and credits, and taxing what has ceased to be property,
preventing production and promoting pauperism, misery and crime, and exempting
railroad companies, gas companies, banks, colleges, churches, parsonages,
universities, academies, etc., and moneys belonging exclusively to
universities, colleges, academies, etc., I think it will be safe to estimate
that one-half of the personal property existing is never taxed at all; while
the conscientious who pay, must pay more for the exemption of the cunning who
escape; not that I have any point to make against merchants or any other class,
for I firmly believe that no product of industry should ever be taxed in any
form whatever, but the land alone, according to its relative value, as the
least injurious means of raising revenue, and to prevent the evil of land
monopoly by making that monopoly unprofitable; and for the reasons named I take
the affirmative of the land tax, and the negative of every other, and invite
anyone to take the negative of the land tax, and the affirmative of any tax or
tithe which he thinks better.
If all taxes were on the land, would railroad monopolists want
to steal the land (the birthright of all) by millions of acres, while they deny
to the landless and moneyless any land on which to get their "daily bread;"
while they hire ministers to open their robbery meetings in Congress by prayer,
and ask the blessing of the Creator on the robbery of His creatures? Do they
not know well that it is only by keeping the workers landless that they can buy
their labour for the smallest portion of its produce; and if all had what land
they needed, their plundered land would be almost valueless for sale; though
its value for production and human sustenance would be undiminished?
If all the taxes were on the land, and all owned their share,
the tax for all would be equal but not oppressive. But if one almighty
monopolist should own the whole of the land, unless one person should suffer
for the act or wrong of another, then all should live as well by the labour of
the monopolist as they could by their own labour on their own land; and if the
land tax will not provide the best remedy, I shall be duly grateful to anyone
who will show me a tax that will, or any better legal remedy whatever.
If all the taxes were on the land, and none on improvements,
then there would be the greatest encouragement for improvements and industry;
then farmers and merchants would not turn land speculators, and run all over
creation to buy land at ten shillings per acre with the produce of their toil,
but make and enjoy the comforts of life with their families at home, instead of
being a curse to the landless and their families elsewhere; they could then
have no fear that their children would suffer for want of land whenever they
might need it.
Were all the taxes on the land, and the people's land free to
the landless - as it should be - then none would be driven into the wilderness to
suffer the changes of climate and want of society; but those who desired could
then settle nearer to their kindred and friends, and enjoy the blessings of
friendship, love and home, with much less cost and inconvenience.
Were all the taxes on the land, and the people's land free,
then the hitherto landless could soon build their own homes on their own land,
and raise all they needed to consume or exchange, and no longer need the land,
houses, or capital of others; then rent, interest, and even usury would cease
for want of poverty to sustain them, for the curse, land monopoly, being
removed, the effect would cease with the cause. Thus would the happiness of
mankind be immeasurably increased, and misery be proportionately diminished;
then would earth be redeemed from the giant sin of land robbery, and the
Paradise of the present or future be as far above that of the past, as the
intelligence of the philosopher is beyond the ignorance of the child.
Freedom for Man and Trade
Young Liberty is growing fast, he soon will be of age,
And with the tyrants of mankind the war of Freedom wage:
Then bravely raise his banner high, let all who would be free
Enlist to aid the sacred cause of Truth and Liberty.
Our standard unto every land should ever be unfurled
With Freedom for all human kind, free commerce with the world.
Unbound to creed, to party, sect, to colour or to clime,
Our watchword, Freedom unto all, throughout all space and time;
Freedom to think, to write, to speak, free printing-press and land,
Freedom for woman and for man, in justice we demand.
The shackles from the slave shall fall, the dungeon cease to be;
Tyrants of body and of mind, "make way for Liberty;"
The faggot fires no more shall blaze for martyrs good and brave,
Our language cease to bear the blot of master and of slave.
Inquisitors and ruling knaves too long have been combined,
To blot from out the face of earth the rights of all mankind;
'Tis time that Liberty should reign with Justice, Love and Truth.
To be the guardians of mankind, the friends of age and youth.
A free earth unto all mankind, an Eden then will bloom,
To bless with plenty every home, and beautify the tomb;
Then Peace and Wisdom, Truth and Love, and Liberty shall reign,
Instead of War and haggard Want, and Tyranny and Shame.
The Tongue and Pen are often far more mighty than the sword,
Lives are destroyed by swords and guns, but errors by a word;
Swords strike but single foes, while words "strike thousands at a blow,"
Which, by a free unshackled press, to all the world may flow.
The Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Howell Cobb, in his report
on the Finances, dated December 6th, 1858, page 7, when speaking on taxes for
"Such duties should be laid as will produce the required
revenue, by imposing on the people at large the smallest and the most equal
"It is obvious that this is most effectually done by taxing,
in preference to others, such articles as are not produced in this country; and
among articles produced here, those in which the home product bears the least
proportion to the quantity imported, are the fittest for taxation. The reason
is, that in taxing articles not made in the country, the whole sum taken from
the consumer goes into the Treasury, while in the other class the consumer pays
the enhanced value, not only on the quantity imported, but on the quantity made
at home. This last tax is paid, not into the Treasury, but to the manufacturer,
thereby rendering such a duty not only more burdensome, but grossly unequal -
the home producer being benefited at the expense of the consumer."
Now, while fully admitting that taxes should be raised to
"produce the required revenue, by imposing on the people at large the smallest
and the most equal burdens," I distinctly deny that any tax on any product of
industry whatever, or any tax but the Land Tax, can possibly do it.
Now, let us look at the amount of duties collected, who pay
the duties, and what is the result.
The amount collected for the fiscal (or revenue) year of 1857,
ending June 30th, was over fifty million dollars; the cost of collecting is
reported as over three million dollars, or six per cent on the whole. Much of
it will be spent for war vessels to prevent one of the rights or man to Free
Trade which our rulers call "smuggling;" another item of cost growing out of
the prevention of Free Trade is litigation or numerous law suits for violating
the tariff; another enormous expense is the erection of custom houses, which,
in eighteen places completed, cost one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars
The average amount of the tariff may be twenty per cent.,
which the importer must pay, and charge his profit on the twenty per cent.
duty, which will be at least twenty-two per cent. to the retailer, who will
charge his profit on the whole amount, which, if he add one-third to the Whole,
including seven per cent. on the duty, will make the duty of twenty per cent,
twenty-nine or thirty per cent. to the consumer.
And who are the consumers of the imported goods? Are they not
"the people at large," on whom were to fall the smallest and most equal burdens
of taxation? Who buy the hats, bonnets, jewelry, daguerreotype plates, china,
porcelain, earthenware, stoneware, beer, ale and porter, all of which pay
twenty-four per cent, while wines and brandies pay thirty per cent. duty?
Who are the consumers? Is it not safe to say that two-thirds
are consumed in the Free States, and a great portion by the hard working, ill
paid, landless labourers and producers of the nation's wealth? Do not all such
taxes go directly to promote the profit of land monopoly and man monopoly (or
slavery)? Does it not take the taxes out of the pockets of the toiling
consumers, and by exempting the land from so much taxes, enable the landlord to
sell or rent his land for so much more? Do people buy these imported goods in
proportion to the land they hold, or in proportion to the slaves they hold? If
not, who pay the taxes and make landholding and slaveholding profitable?
Land monopoly is really the parent of chattel slavery, for if
no persons owned the land of others, or more land than they needed to cultivate
by their own labour for their own support, they would not covet their
fellow-men as slaves; but, having obtained the land of others by legal or
illegal robbery; they crave their fellowmen as slaves to work it for them; and
Africa must be robbed, and slaves must be bred, and men, and women, and
children reduced to bondage, to maintain in luxury and idleness a land-robbing
and man-robbing aristocracy, a nobility forsooth, based on the lasso, the
manacles, and the lash; the gag, the fetter, and the thumbscrew; the
whipping-post, the chain and ball, the man-stealer, and the bloodhound.
But remember that this land-stealing and man-stealing are
done, not only by the sanction of our laws, but by our method of taxing, which
has made both evils doubly profitable. The law might sanction slavery to all
eternity if it was unprofitable, and no law worshippers would be patriotic
enough to hold slaves any more than they would carry white men to Africa for
slaves at a loss. Let us, then, remove this cause or temptation, which is the
profit, by putting all the taxes on the land, and the effect will assuredly
cease. I shall endeavour to show that the land tax would make slavery
People finding land-robbery and man-robbery profitable, their
priests ransack the laws of Moses and the teachings of Christ to sanction the
robbery and prove the piety of the institution; and patriotic politicians quote
their political ancestors to justify the wrong - as though evil grew venerable by
age, and wrong right by authority; and as though we had no standard of right
but the law of the priest and politician. While slavery is profitable there
will be no lack of patriotism and piety to sustain it; the trinity of profit,
patriotism and piety, will be in perfect unity; but take away the profit of
slavery, and the patriotism and piety will be nowhere.
How many in the love of wrong will seek a law or creed,
A custom or authority to sanctify the deed;
But that which gives the highest joy to all of humankind,
Needs no command to justify, no human law to bind.
We would naturally suppose that the question, What is the best
means of raising revenue? would be one of the first considerations of every
party desiring to govern this country or any other; but I am at a loss to find
any party in any country that has investigated the subject, and recorded a
In this country, our revenue is raised by duties on
imported goods and the proceeds or profits of the sales of public lands; and
when the expenditure exceeds the revenue, the deficiency is supplied by an
issue of notes on the treasury, bearing interest, which are to be redeemed by
future duties on imports and sales of public lands.
But it is evident that the
sales of land cannot be much relied on for revenue, as they only amount to
between three and four million dollars a year, and about one-third is generally
consumed for collecting, surveying, mapping, rent of offices, etc., and the
payment of Indians will probably about balance the account, to say nothing of
Indian wars; besides, the sales must soon diminish and ultimately cease, unless
we buy or steal more territory. Therefore, our main dependence for revenue is
on duties on imports; and is it not our duty and interest to inquire if that is
the best means of raising revenue?
If a tax on commerce is the best means of raising revenue on
the boundaries of countries or nations to bear the expenses of the general
government, why not on the boundaries of states, counties, towns, and cities,
as in Paris and other cities on the continent of Europe, to defray the expenses
of state, county, town, and city government? If the principle is the best, why
not apply it everywhere? but if not, why apply it anywhere?
In Paris, a city containing nearly two millions of people,
there are numerous roads out of the city, through strong iron gates, protected
by military; and all persons are searched, if suspected, every time they enter,
to see if they have any articles on which duties may be levied, and the duties
on fruit, meat, vegetables, tobacco, wines, spirits, etc., are there collected.
What a glorious source of patronage this would be for a corrupt republic! What
a paradise for official toadies! What an interesting scene to witness the
"pants" of every gentleman, and the "crinoline" of every lady, subjected to
official scrutiny! No wonder the press is gagged, and the people gagged and
forbidden to hold public meetings, or sing the "Marseillaise," or anything
which breathes of liberty, truth, and justice, just as the press and people are
gagged with us at the South, if they write, speak, or sing of liberty for all,
or lend "Uncle Tom's Cabin" to a coloured man, woman or child.
One would think that when we declared our Independence of
Foreign Government, we would exercise the independence of thought, to see what
means of raising revenue would leave the largest liberty, equality, and
prosperity for all; and be the least expensive, burdensome, and oppressive to
any; and if the tariff, high or low, for protection or revenue, or both, best
fulfils these conditions, then carry it into every department where revenue is
To illustrate the relative merits of the tariff and the land
tax, let us suppose, for example, that Racine exempted all merchants' and
manufacturers' goods from taxes. and all grain, farm produce, etc., and all
people from poll tax and all improvements from taxes, and put all the taxes on
the land; and at the same time Milwaukee and Kenosha exempted all land from
taxes, and put all the taxes on the farm produce and merchants' and
manufacturers' goods and improvements and poll tax, in fact on all articles
which are exempt from taxes in Racine; where would the mechanics, merchants and
manufacturers settle? If all other advantages were equal, evidently where the
goods were untaxed, because it would cost less to commence and carry on
manufactories, and they could sell goods better also where no special tax
raised the price of the article. Where would the farmers go to sell their
produce and buy their goods? Doubtless where neither were taxed, because there
they would obtain the most money for their produce, and the most goods for
their money. Would not Racine grow rapidly while Milwaukee and Kenosha
dwindled? And will not this be true of any city, town, county, state, or
But where will the land speculators go? Will it not be where
the land is untaxed? because there it will sell for the highest price, while it
costs nothing to keep the land idle and the man idle; there the land monopolist
might flourish, but there it would be more difficult to commence farming
because the land will be higher, and manufacturing also, not only because the
land for the factory will cost much more, but because of the high special tax
on the raw material, and every implement for manufacturing it. And where the
land is untaxed, the land being higher, the rents will be higher also, and it
will be doubly difficult for the landless mechanic to buy a lot for his house,
and his rent will be high in proportion as the land is high; and the high price
and high rents, instead of defraying the expenses of government (as the land
tax would do), go to enrich the land monopolist at the cost of every landless
consumer; and by making and keeping people landless and dependent on the
monopolist for employment, and thus making the means of living the most
uncertain, promote misery, pauperism, and crime, and thus vastly increase the
cost of government by increasing the taxes for the prevention of crime and the
support of paupers, criminals, and their officers.
The land tax, unlike the tariff, would require no extra
officers for assessing and collecting revenue for the general government, as
the expenses would be defrayed by a percentage on the assessment for State
purposes, which would be transmitted to the general government in the best
Think what a saving that would be over the old feudal system
of barbarian despots! No buying Cuba or any other country on the plea of the
benefits of free trade, but free trade without buying the country for it; no
Custom Houses and officers; no revenue service to diminish our liberties,
increase our expenses, and rob us of our right of free trade on the plea of
protection; no commercial treaties abroad for special monopolies, or vexatious
litigation on tariff violations at home; more producers and fewer destroyers;
standing armies and navies being no longer needed when our commercial motto
shall be "Free Trade with all the world."
Our Stars and Stripes to every land should ever be unfurl'd,
With liberty for all mankind; free commerce with the world.
The Worker's Platform
Come, brother workers, one and all,
Get ready for the fight:
We're going now to battle for
The cause of Human Right.
First let us get our heritage,
The right to own the soil;
And then we'll see who'll nabobs be
On other people's toil.
Then raise the worker's platform,
The right of all to land;
The right to toil and eat the fruit,
In justice we demand;
The right to make, the right to own,
To freely sell and buy;
Say! who is there can show the wrong,
Or dare the right deny?
Why should we heed the tyrant's laws,
By which the few can hold
The land which should belong to all,
Which now they sell for gold?
With gold they buy our brethren, while
They rob us of our land;
Then we must starve or sell our toil
To feed the robber band.
'Tis time the proud and lazy drones
To toil should have a chance
That out of their own labour they
May pipe and sing and dance;
We've kept them idle long enough
In luxury and pride;
'Tis only right that they with us
The labour should divide.
And then our wives and children dear
Will have some time to learn;
In poetry and music sweet,
And dancing take a turn.
When decked by their own honest toil,
Who knows but they may shine
As well as any gentle folk
We've fed and clothed so fine.
We would not harbour vile revenge,
Nor wrong return for wrong;
But still we want such slavery
They should no more prolong.
To do as we'd be done unto,
Is all that we demand;
To justly share with them the toil,
And they with us the land.
The word tariff appears to have its origin in the name of an
ancient town at the entrance of the Straits of Gibraltar, in Spain, called
Tariffe, where a nest of pirates, legal or illegal, levied tribute on all
vessels entering or departing between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic
Ocean. Whether the tax, or tribute, was levied on the plea of protection,
right, duty, or robbery, this deponent sayeth not, but the plunder will be just
as manifest, injurious, and degrading to the robber and the robbed under one
name as another.
"The rose by any name will smell as sweet,"
And wrong by any name be just as great.
The expense of the United States General Government, from June
30th, 1857, to June 30th, 1858, were over eighty-one and a half million
dollars, making about three dollars each for every man, woman, and child in the
nation, or fifteen dollars for the head of each family, counting a man and wife
and three children as a family. Now, were the public land free to the landless,
and all the taxes on the land alone, irrespective of all improvement, would not
one dollar per head, or about thirty million dollars be sufficient for all the
purposes of the general government to protect their citizens in the possession
of their natural rights (for it costs much less to protect us in the possession
of the right of land and free commerce than to rob us or those rights)? If that
estimate is correct, then we should save one million dollars weekly by ceasing
to tax the industry of the country for the benefit of the land monopolist,
which would keep the land at the lowest price and within the reach of the
greatest number, and consequently labour would reach its greatest reward; and
only when the land is at the lowest price will the competition to supply cheap
food be equal to the competition to supply cheap manufactures for all, which
cannot be while the many are landless as now.
But, with free or cheap land, the country would be much more
densely populated, while the cities and villages would be much smaller, and we
should much more nearly attain that proportion of population to land, which
would be compatible with the greatest possible protection at the least possible
By robbing the majority of their right of land in the country,
and by taxing their industry to make the land-robbery profitable, we drive that
landless majority into cities. which depopulates the country and over-populates
the cities; till the cities become crowded full of cess-pools of pauperism,
prostitution, misery, disease, and crime, while the country is comparatively a
wilderness, where isolation and ignorance must prevail, from the want of that
mental communion in which each receives and gives the greatest benefit to all;
or why do farmers send their children to be educated in cities, where,
unfortunately, they learn as much sensualism as science, and more intemperance
than industry? And necessarily so, from the sickly hot-house life of cities,
which dwarfs the bodies and limbs of children, just as the bodies and limbs of
hot-house plants are dwarfed instead of developed; and as hot-house plants
prematurely bloom and perish and become unfit for healthy reproduction, so it
is with our girl and boy fathers and mothers, whose children seldom see many
Is not this Nature's just penalty for the sin of land-robbery
in the country, thus causing the hot-house life of cities, and giving us a
doctor tax, frequently greater than the cost of government, besides populating
our cemeteries and bereaving our homes; giving sad evidence of errors seldom
thought of or reflected on, and still more seldom practically heeded?
Look at the landlord tax growing out of the same cause of land
monopoly; people generally think of it about rent days, but rarely of the cause
or remedy. Who can estimate the rental of the nation, or even of Racine city,
every dollar of which is caused by land monopoly, except the rent for wear,
risk, and insurance, which is the only natural rent, so that, were it not for
land monopoly, everyone might soon become his own landlord?
Farmers, do you ever think that when lots are rising in
cities, rents are rising also, which you, as consumers, must pay when you buy
your goods? Merchants, do you reflect that when land rises in the country from
10s. to 10 or 100 dollars per acre, you also pay the rent or interest of that
land, in proportion to its price, on all the produce that you consume?
Manufacturers, mechanics, and labourers, do you know that you must pay the high
rents of stores as well as dwellings, and the high prices, interest, or rents
of farm lands also, on all the farm produce and manufactures which you consume?
And do we all understand that labour as one inevitably pays the whole? Yes, the
mechanical contrivers for productive industry (not war), the manufacturers,
merchants, and mechanics, the farmers and labourers, pay the whole expenses of
extortionate governments, landlords, doctors, lawyers and legislators, kings,
lords, popes, bishops, cardinals, priests and princes, pirates, paupers,
prostitutes, gamblers, thieves, loafers, and the standing army and navy to
Then comes the question how to reduce the government to the
least cost with the greatest security and most certain means of living for all.
Wherever a population is very dense, as in cities, the moral
influence is least, while the cost of government is greatest. Take New York
City, which costs ten dollars per head, while Racine, with the estimate of
thirty-six thousand dollars for 1859, will be four and a half dollars per head,
counting eight thousand as the population in round numbers.
Public opinion is greatest for the moral restraint of evil and
promotion of good, where each knows all, and is known by all for the greatest
number and distance; and the towns and villages approach the nearest this
But the cost of roads and schools is large in a thinly settled
district, because there are few road makers in proportion to the roads
required, and few children and far apart in the school districts. But if the
land tax would abolish land monopoly, and make the means of living honestly the
most easy and certain for all, and make it unprofitable to keep land idle, then
people would settle near each other for convenience, comfort, society and
profit; and farmers would not need to send their children to cities for
education. In fact, few cities comparatively would exist, with free and cheap
land in the country: and I do not think that town and village government now
costs over a dollar per head, so that, besides saving a million dollars weekly
by the general government, we should save millions weekly by city government,
by saving health and morals, by rents, interest and usury, by diminishing
pauperism, prostitution, disease, and crime, and the high price of land, which
inevitably grows out of our taxing our labour and improvements for the profit
of the land monopolist alone.
Song of the Earth
Listen, dear friends, to the song of the Earth:
Did I not bear every being at birth!
Am I not present wherever you rove
Over the mountain, in valley and grove?
Plough me, and dig me, rake, harrow and hoe
Plant and manure me, and freely I'll grow'
Sing me a song on the land or the main,
Then will your parent, Earth, never complain.
Do I not aid all your innocent glee?
Why is no song ever written to me?
All the rich fruit and the beauty I show,
Are they not pressed wherever you go?
Do I not turn to the sun and the moon,
Making it even, night, and morning, and noon?
Do I not hold all your metals in store
Iron and silver, and gold in the ore? '
Do I not bear all the ships of the main,
All the rich harvests of fruit and of grain?
Fishes that dwell in pond, river, and sea,
Are they not all well supported by me?
Animals grazing the hill or the plain,
Roaming the forest, or skirting the main,
Birds of rich plumage, of beauty and song,
All to your parent, Earth, ever belong.
Shall I expose my rich bosom in vain?
Parched with the sun, and then drenched with the rain;
Clad every winter with crystals of snow,
Swept by the whirlwinds that terribly blow.
Who supplies mortar and stone for your halls,
Clay for the potter, and lime for your walls?
Where would your statues and paintings e'er be,
Were marble and colour not given by me?
Do I not make all the forests to grow,
All the choice woods which the workers well know?
What would their planing and polishing be,
Were not the beauties provided by me?
Do I not hold every mountain and hill;
Beds for each ocean, lake, river, and rill;
Coal fields for fuel, and fining your ore:
What can a parent Earth do for you more?
When you are planting your fruit and your grain,
Blessed with the sunshine, the dew, and the rain,
Giving rich harvest to fill you with glee;
Think you how much is provided by me?
Let all your wars and your quarrelling cease,
Dwell on my bosom in plenty and peace;
Love one another, be honest and true;
Thus would your parent, Earth, teach unto you.
Let not a brother, when strong to command,
Rob anyone of his right to the land:
Is there not room on my bosom for all;
Why fill your Earth-life with wormwood and gall?
Why am I rented, and bartered and sold,
By part of my children for silver and gold;
Robbers by law, and rulers by might,
Foes unto justice, and freedom, and right?
Is not my bosom to everyone free,
Do I demand of each tenant a fee?
Take what is needed, but joyfully give
Everyone else the same freedom to live.
Let not the strong ones the weaker enslave;
Those who are strong, should be tender and brave,
Foes to the tyrant, and friends to the free;
Such would give joy unto you and to me.
When you are steaming by sea and by land,
All you desire being yours to command;
Gratitude ever will heighten your glee -
Oft a kind thought would be welcome to me.
In considering the best means of promoting the production and
distribution of wealth, we are naturally led to consider the advantages of home
markets and manufactures, and how we can best encourage them without violating
the right of free commerce, or putting any unnecessary tax upon any portion of
the community. For this purpose I propose the Land Tax exclusively, and the
repeal of all laws for the collection of debts contracted after the passage of
Mr. Cobb says, in his report as Secretary of the Treasury, for
1857, that the theory of a protective tariff is, that it must be high enough to
prevent importation or diminish it, or the home manufacturer will not be
benefited; and if the tariff is high enough to exclude foreign imports, then
we get no revenue, but every dollar which the manufacturer gains the consumer
loses, and as the consumer must pay more for his goods he must buy less. But
the remedy which he proposes is, what he calls a remunerative tariff, so that
while the consumer buys his goods cheap, he at the same time pays the
expenses of Government.
Now I think I can show a much clearer case with the land tax
for revenue than any remunerative or protective tariff whatever; for, while all
the taxes are on the land, not only does the land tax defray all the cost of
government, and diminish the cost of government, but the land sells for the
lowest price also, instead of the highest, thus keeping the land within the
means of all, or at least the great majority of the people; so that we can have
the greatest number of land owning producers of food, who having no rent to
pay, can supply us with cheaper food minus the rent, or divide what was
hitherto paid in rent between the producer and the consumer. And with land at
the lowest price, rents would be the lowest also, and ultimately cease; so that
the rent hitherto paid by mechanics, labourers, merchants, and manufacturers,
would then be divided between the maker, the seller, and the consumer.
For, with all the taxes on the land, it would not pay to keep
it idle, therefore speculation in land would soon cease and be transferred to
untaxed manufactures or labour, which would increase the demand and raise the
wages of labour and reduce the profits of capital and speculation; and at the
same time we should create and sustain the most permanent and profitable home
market for produce and manufactures, and settle for ever that oft-mooted
question of political economists, how to realize the utmost economy in the
production and distribution of wealth; and in this way it could be done with
the least possible cost of government and with the protection of free commerce
and free land instead of the violation of both.
Then, when food becomes cheap in the country, from cheap land
and no tax on improvements, mechanics, manufacturers, and merchants can go
where food is cheapest whenever it will pay better than having the food
transported to them, as they will then have the increased means, which were
hitherto paid in rents, with which to travel. And when farmers desire to settle
near factories for the benefit of market and exchange, they may be sure the
land will never be high nor manufactures either; because the tax is on the
land, and not on the manufactures, which keeps the landlord's rent, and the
speculator's profit from the land, and the robber tariff from the manufactures
But when all the revenue is raised by a tariff on commerce,
the land being comparatively exempt from taxes, sells for a higher price; then
we have fewer landholding producers and more land speculators and landlords,
and thus the high tariff on manufactures tends to destroy that very home market
which it was intended to create, by reducing the number of landowning
producers, who are inevitably the best customers of the manufacturers and
mechanics, and by which their means of living is rendered the most certain
instead of the most precarious. So that the tariff, high or low, for protection
or revenue, proportionately diminishes the home market for manufactures, while
it robs us of our right of free commerce, increases vastly the cost of
government, and pauperises and debases the community!
In England the landowners and farmers claim protection against
the cheap food of other countries to sustain their high rents and high prices
of land and food; there the lords have thousands of acres each in parks,
pleasure grounds, and game preserves, while the landless are comparatively
destitute, and their means of living exceedingly precarious; there land
monopoly flourishes amazingly; there, in 1824, the land tax was only
£1,183,00, while the tax on labour, or its product, was
£49,432,000; there the land-monopolists, the descendants of the Norman
pirates, have been the law-makers and tax-makers, and have for their exclusive
interest put nearly all the taxes on labour; there, for a small commutation,
they can now redeem the land from nearly all the little tax that is left on it
forever, if the government of the landocracy should last so long, and the
valuation of the land for the redemption of the tax is not its present
valuation, but the small valuation at the time the law was made. Obedience to
wrong is treason to justice and to man.
Land is frequently advertised for sale in England, "land tax
and tithe redeemed,'" for these tithes are commuted for in the same manner, and
there God is still professedly worshipped by priests sustained by public
plunder; there the protection demanded is more against cheap food than cheap
manufactures. What an idea, protection against cheap food, against the
fertility of the earth and the freedom to eat of it! But what is the remedy? I
say put all the taxes on the land, and repeal your stamp duties, your duties on
imports, your inquisitorial excise laws, your robbing legacy duties, which tax
nothing for the inheritance of land, because the land monopolists made the
laws. Put all the taxes on the land, and then the landlord's rent will pay the
cost of government, and keep the land at the lowest price forever; then
cultivation, production, and plenty, will prevail, and much of the manufactures
which you are now exporting will be needed at home; your home market will be
vastly increased, you will be prosperous and permanent customers to each other,
your poor laws will be diminished, your credit will not be needed; then
poverty, beggary, and a land robbing aristocracy, and a tithe-eating Church and
State priesthood will soon be among the things that were.
Then free trade, by removing the necessity for standing armies
and navies, would open the reign of peace on earth and good will to all
mankind; then arts, industry, commerce, and morals, would progress with
accelerated force; our whole attention and energies would be devoted to the
promotion of human good, the supplying permanently and bountifully our wants,
and elevating our condition physically, mentally, morally, and socially; all
nations would become as one family, in which a wrong done to one would be
resented by all. The universal brotherhood of man would be realised, and the
earth in its fruitfulness, bloom, and beauty would become the Eden home of the
free, the noble, and the good.
Protection, in thy honoured name
What wrongs mankind degrade;
Aggression 'gainst the rights of man.
Free labour, land, and trade.
Some clamour for protection
Against cheap food and clothes:
Nor dream they in their ignorance
Of famine's horrid woes.
Home manufacturers often seek
'Gainst foreigners protection;
While farmers must pay double price
Till bunglers gain perfection.
And when for twenty years they've had
A most tremendous booty,
They'll cry you want to ruin them
If you remove the duty.
Whoever robs us of a right,
At manhood strikes a blow;
Replacing freedom's happiness
With tyranny and woe.
Free trade is part of freedom,
Which tyrants would invade;
And rob us of the benefit,
The right of honest trade.
Thus bit by bit they make us
Slaves to protection's laws;
And bit by bit we are deprived
Of freedom's peaceful cause.
'Tis moral wrong on cotton land
To raise the sugar cane;
If honest labour must be taxed
To make the planter's gain.
When toil and land are rightly used,
Each for their greatest worth
No nation needs protection laws
'Gainst any power on earth.
Protection's due alone to right
Resistance unto wrong;
But right produces plenty, peace,
And love, so pure and strong.
While wrong produces poverty,
And bloody war and hate
Brings ruin to a nation,
A colony, or state.
When will men see wrong never can
Be bound by time or space;
"That wrong unto the least of men,
Is wrong to all the race?"
Many may think that the means of raising revenue whether the
taxes are levied on the land or labour - have nothing to do with chattel slavery;
but if they will carefully examine the subject, I think they will find that,
putting all the taxes on the land would be one of the best means of making
chattel slavery unprofitable that can possibly be devised by human ingenuity.
Slave labour also requires more land to yield the same amount
of produce than free labour; and, therefore, their taxes would be greater in
proportion to their produce.
Were all the taxes on the land, the Slave states would have to
pay as much tax for the general government as the Free States, because they
have as much or more land. But as the expenses of the general government are
now paid by duties on imports, of which the Free States consume three-fourths,
consequently the Free States pay three fourths of the taxes for general
It costs vastly more for local government in the Slave States,
for officers and overseers to keep slaves in bondage; and were all the taxes on
the land, it would diminish the profit of slave produce in proportion to that
of the Free States.
It costs vastly more for legislators to make laws to sustain
slavery than to sustain freedom, besides the cost of slaves, of officers,
spies, and bloodhounds, and slave-catchers, to sustain the heartrending
Were all the taxes on the land, the Slave States would have to
pay their own postage.
Were all the taxes on the land, it would not pay to keep land
idle for speculation, and the poorer the cultivation the worse it would pay;
and as slave cultivation is always poor and exhausting, thus far it would pay
worse than free labour. Consequently, slave farms surrounded by free farms, and
Slave States surrounded by Free States, could not, commercially compete with
either in their surplus productions, and thus the profit of slaveholding would
be diminished or destroyed; for the extra cost of slaves, and the extra cost of
keeping them in bondage and ignorance - and their masters and overseers in
idleness - would more than consume all that you could whip and starve out of the
slave. I know no tax that would so effectually kill slavery as the per acre
land tax; while no tax is so little cost to the Government, gives so little
inducement to corruption, and so effectually destroys land monopoly - on which
chattel slavery and wages slavery both depend, for did none own more land than
they needed to cultivate or occupy, they would not want to steal their
brethren, or hire others to cultivate it for them.
The slave must always remain in ignorance to keep him a slave,
and consequently he can only do the cheapest labour; while the free man is
daily growing in intelligence, and inventing machinery which tends to supersede
slavery itself. And the cheaper and freer the land for all, the more will those
who own their farms, who are interested in keeping them in the best possible
condition, and who cultivate them by their own labour, closely compete with
rented farms and slave labour, and thus tend, happily, to supersede chattel and
Were all the taxes on the land, it would not pay to keep it
idle; the result would be cultivation to make it pay, which would cause an
abundance of produce, for which manufactures would be made to exchange. And as
the land would be free or cheap, the wages of labour would rise, because,
whenever manufacturing paid less than farming, many more would farm the land,
and thus equalize the wages of labour between farming and manufacturing. And as
the wages of labour rise, the profits of trading fall, and as it would be
useless to glut the market, and produce over-much, it would be less profitable
to buy slaves and keep them for a market easily over-supplied, and which
continually diminishes the profits of commerce, in proportion to the surplus
production, till it would be harder to buy and whip slaves to work than to do
the little work, with the aid of machinery, for our own subsistence.
But with cheap free land, with the aid of machinery, we could
easily produce a super-abundance of all that is best for mankind, and have an
abundance of leisure for the cultivation of our physical, mental and moral
faculties, and thus produce, that physical, mental and moral elevation which
slavery must inevitably dwarf instead of develop.
It is now said that one wages slave or landless hireling will
do the work of two or three chattel slaves. But if a hireling will do as much
better than a slave who is owned, how much better will free landowners work for
themselves, thus saving all the cost of overseers, taskmasters, slave-catchers,
officials, blood-hounds, and slave legislation, while enjoying all the fruits
which have hitherto kept them in luxury, indolence, extravagance, and vice?
Then give us free land and the exclusive per acre land tax to
keep the land as cheap as possible, or without price, forever, so that all who
desire can have land to cultivate, and thus create an unbounded home market for
our manufactures; then we may fearlessly remove all restrictions on commerce,
and enjoy a peace-making, free, and fraternal commerce with every nation in the
The world is fast becoming densely peopled, and the same
extent of land monopoly as formerly cannot be borne without a vast increase of
misery, which should certainly be avoided by all just and practicable means.
With our taxes on labour land becomes dearer continually, and is only owned
permanently by the rich, who, owning the land practically, own the largest
share of the labour of the landless, for Denton, of Michigan, long since
computed that American labourers get less than one-fifth of the produce of
their labour, while in England, in 1858, it was estimated at only
Then again I say, put all the taxes on the land, so that only
those who profitably cultivate it and live on it can afford to occupy it; then
the land, the source of all our subsistence, will cease to be owned by drones
and speculators, but be permanently and profitably occupied, not only by the
industrious tillers of the soil, but by the factories and homes of every being
of our race.
Proud and Lazy Asses
The world is bored with silly pride,
As well as lazy asses,
Who raise their noses with disdain
At all the working classes.
I wonder they are not too proud
To own their great Creator,
For being "mean" enough to work,
And thus become their Maker.
Work built the palaces they own,
Provides their daily feeding;
And yet they think contempt for work
A proof of their good breeding.
Girls let their mothers toil and slave,
Will such poor things their duty do
That they may play like ladies;
To their poor little babies?
They keep their parties quite select,
Yet oft they dread a panic;
And thank their stars when they escape
"The smell of a mechanic."
God help the man who for a wife
Gets one of these fine ladies;
No wonder if her husband courts
The girls that nurse the babies.
Young college gents talk knowingly
Of the "old man" and "woman,"
As tho' old folks were common clay,
And young ones superhuman.
God save the world from learned dolts
From proud and lazy asses,
Who raise their noses with disdain
At all the working classes.
On the 20th of August last "S.S." replied to my letters on an
exclusive land tax for revenue under the head of "Taxation Reconsidered." He
thinks it wrong that the farmers who, he says, "make the least cost of
Government" should pay in proportion to the land, which they own. I think if
the farmers do make the least cost of Government it is because they enjoy their
right of land, and are less exposed to the destitution, privation, and
temptations of the landless; and this is one of the reasons why I put all taxes
on the land, that none might monopolize the land which should belong to others,
to support themselves, and thus diminish crime and the cost of Government, and
create the best home market for our home manufacturers. For when the land is
free and priceless, as it would be without law, or as the land tax would make
it, then the people can either farm or manufacture, whichever will pay better
than the other, but with the high price of land caused by the labour tax, the
landless and moneyless have no choice but to labour for others if they can
get the work, or beg, steal or starve. So that it is not the honest and
thrifty, but the lazy and greedy farmers and land monopolists, who own vast
quantities of land and cultivate but little, who make paupers, drunkards, and
criminals of the landless, which "S.S." charges on the citizens and would fain
make the citizens support all the drunkards, paupers, and criminals whom the
land monopolists have made. Why, he might as well buy up and monopolize the
breasts of the mother, and then blame the babe for crying for its food, for the
land is to mankind what the breast is to the babe, the source of subsistence.
I believe that no one has a moral right to land because he has
bought it, and paid for it, any more than the slaveholder has a moral right to
the man, woman, or child he has bought and paid for; because no one can have a
moral right to sell the land which belongs equally to all, or the man, woman,
and child whose persons, liberty, and labour belong to themselves.
Does not "S.S." know that the land contains all the food of
mankind, and that the landowners would charge the tax on the food they sold,
just as the importer charges the duty, which he advances on the goods which he
imports? And thus the land tax would be the most equal possible and the least
costly and corruptive also; for when the taxes are on imported goods, only
those who buy the goods pay the tax. Thus, the North buying three-fourths of
the imported goods pays one-half of the taxes of the South, and when the taxes
are on personal property, the most industrious and saving pay while the idle
and extravagant escape. And when the personal property consists of imported
goods, which have paid one tax on importation, they will be taxed again in the
hands of the wholesale and retail merchants for state, county, town, and city
purposes, while the land pays taxes only for local purposes and not for the
general government, and the product of labour is frequently first taxed as raw
material and afterwards as manufactured goods.
Then, look at the folly of taxing hundreds of different
things, when the land tax reaches everything and destroys land monopoly as
well, because every dollar of the millions will then be expended in the produce
of the land, raw or manufactured, and thus do all pay taxes in the most equal
manner possible and at the least possible cost, whereas when you tax hundreds
of different things you make hundreds of times more cost, labour, and
difficulty to raise "revenue," while you give a premium on war, smuggling,
piracy, robbery and murder, perjury and fraud, thus morally degrading mankind.
"S.S." prints the word "tailor" in capitals - I suppose to remind me of my
business. I am really proud of its usefulness. But does he suppose that telling
me what I was will alter the truth of what I say, or be a sufficient reply to
"S.S" says that the land tax would cheapen food and raise
manufactures, but, as I said before, the enterprising would equalize the value
of their labour by working at whatever pays best which they cannot do without
the use of the land.
"S.S." says the whole system of balances and averages would be
changed, and this to the detriment and pecuniary ruin of the present and future
farmers. Now, the farmers, as well as mechanics, could change their occupation
if they found manufacturing more profitable, and much more easily than at
present, because the land for the factory would cost probably nothing, and
there would be no inquisitorial, pauperizing "labour tax" on manufactures to
prevent them, so that it would be easier to commence farming because the land
would cost less, and every implement and machine needed for cultivation would
cost less also, and there would be no tax on the stock of the farmer or
manufacturer, or on the improvements of either, so that the changes in values
would be good for farming and manufacturing, and no "ruin" could result to
present or future farmers or manufacturers from the land tax, but permanent
prosperity to both.
"S.S." charges me with "class legislation, and professedly,
designedly, unequal taxation." My conscience and, I think, my life denies it.
But do we not judge others much by our own moral condition? What facts are
referred to show my dishonesty? Rogue often cries Rogue to avoid suspicion and
cast it on the innocent. The least truthful and honest have the least reason to
suppose truth and honesty in others. "Judge not lest ye be judged." I think
"S.S." professes to believe good of us all.
What the argument of the French nobles or lords was I know
not, but the English nobles put nearly fifty millions of taxes annually on the
labour and less than two millions of taxes on the land - this enables the nobles
to own most of the land. There humanity must starve to keep parks, pleasure
grounds, game preserves, moors, etc., for the splendour of the nobility and
aristocracy, while the landless must manufacture, beg, steal, or starve, and
rely on foreign countries for their food. And this is what I would fain prevent
in America and every country and nation of the world, and I proposed and
advocated the land tax for that purpose.
"If skilless I've performed my part,
The error lies not in my heart,
My head's alone to blame."
"S.S." would claim that taxing all property has destroyed the
aristocracy of France, which exists, to a great extent, though much less than
in England. The following figuring may tell why:
|Taxes on land|| on industrial produce
The above I copied from an English paper about the year 1849.
In all the above countries except England, more than half the taxes are on the
land, and the riches of the aristocracy are just in proportion as the land is
exempt from taxes.
"S.S." says: "If the great burden of the land tax causes one
to sell out, the same cause will prevent others buying." I contend that the
taxes will be much less, and consequently less burdensome, because, the land
being priceless, any persons, or, at least, many, could till the lands for
themselves, whom we now keep as paupers and criminals. This would diminish the
cost of government (or taxes), which will be less burdensome in proportion to
the cheapness of land, and only the land kept idle or badly cultivated would be
obliged to be sold because it would not pay the tax. And none can rightly keep
land idle and make others suffer for their indolence, else, if one man could
buy all the land he might keep all of it idle except enough to support himself,
and starve everyone else to death.
"S.S." says: "At the low price of produce resulting from an
increase of producers and a decrease of consumers, the farmer cannot sustain
himself and pay his increased and increasing tax." This is the old fallacy of
supposing that cheap land would compel people to farm while manufacturing paid
"S.S." says: "But supposing the prices remain relatively the
same, what better is he off by paying a large tax to a government than paying
the same amount in rent to a landlord?" I reply: Not only would the taxes be
diminished by all the cost of the revenue service, but by that of every pauper
and criminal who ceased to be landless, because of the free or cheap land, also
by that of every pauper and criminal who found labour in manufacturing for the
increased supply of the produce of the land, while the very rent to which
"S.S." refers would be saved also by any houses that were placed on the free or
cheap land by their owners, and all interest and usury would cese also, as all
could easily own their own homes and make all the capital they needed. Then
bankers, brokers, and usurers would soon die out from the universal prosperity
"S.S." complains that the land tax would change the actual and
relative value of land. The actual value is its productive power, which it
would not change except by encouraging its use and making its idleness
unprofitable. Its relative or money value might be changed by the Homestead
Bill, which "S.S." might charge with destroying the hard-earned property of
millions of monopolists by giving their birthright to millions of mankind. Let
us remember that when we trade in the rights of others in buying risk, and not
at the cost of the innocent or the wronged.
"S.S." says: "No man can have any more right to the soil
another has bought than to the food that others have raised from it, or to the
clothing or other products that he has earned by its cultivation." "S.S." still
fails to distinguish between the land, which naturally and morally belongs to
all, and the produce of the land, which naturally belongs to the producer.
Suppose one man or many could buy all the land, who has the right to sell it?
Would the buyers have the right to starve all the rest of mankind, and entail
the land to their children with the eternal power of starving all other
children? I think not, and therefore think the right of land is as inalienable
as our existence, and that everyone who buys the land of others ought to lose
it, just as the slaveholder who buys a man, woman, or child ought to lose what
he paid for his covetous villainy.
"S.S." says: "When there is no other soil which he may
acquire, and to which he may go, and no other food which he may procure, then
he may assert a claim which it will be the duty of others to heed." Now, as "no
one can rightly make others suffer for what he enjoys," so no one can rightly
own land to the injury of others - to drive them out of any country or
neighborhood. And this is it is the duty of all speculators to heed, now and
forever. And to make it the interest of the land monopolist to let such land
alone, and to prevent the taxes on the product of labour which prevent
production and employment and to make it as easy as possible to commence and
continue farming and manufacturing, and consequently to follow whichever will
pay the best, are my principal reasons for advocating the land tax exclusively,
and my continued examination only strengthens my conviction that I am right in
theory as in practice.
In Love I'd Pass Away
Like the dew before the sunshine,
Like the light at close of day,
Like the fading of the autumn leaves
I'm passing now away.
The hand of death is on me,
And he's welcome, as a friend
For he suffering and sorrow brings
Unto a peaceful end.
When we cannot give back labour
For the labour we receive,
When our feeble words to harmony
The mind can scarcely weave:
When with pain and anguish sinking
When our sun of health is set
Then is not death a blessing,
To help us to forget?
Then, welcome dissolution
To the body and the brain,
When I cannot give back labour
For the labour that I gain.
For I would not live a burden
To one of human kind,
To leave in debt and wretchedness
A loving one behind.
No! better when my toil is done
To peacefully depart,
And trust to loving sympathy
To heal the wounded heart.
Like dew before the sunshine
Like the light at close of day,
Like the fading of the autumn leaves,
In love I'd pass away.