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headquarters would be thoroughly trustworthy; for, on account of the great irregularity of all official operations in Russia, many errors must creep into that.
The following is a sketch of the institutions connected with the Ministry of Finance:- In all the chief places of the empire there are Bureaus of Finance, provided with a Presiident and several Councillors, who collect the excise tax on brandy (ardent spirits of all kinds) and salt, as well as other taxes, and have authority in all that relates to financial matters and affairs of police. It is also a part of their business to receive recruits.
The net income of the Russian government may well be called insignificant in comparison with the number of the people, and the rich resources of the nation; for, according to pretty exact statements, it amounts only to a hundred million silver rubles, or a little more, and as this sum is not whol ly derived from taxation, direct or indirect, but comprises what comes from the imperial estates and other sources, so the amount collected from sixty-three millions of inhabitants seems very small when compared with other lands. On the average only about one ruble is collected from each person; while in England the amount is six times as great, and in France and Prussia it is twice as large. The extraction of money from the people is much better understood in the latter countries. A single glance at the list of taxes shows the rude condition of the science of finance in Russia. At the head of all as the chief source of income, stands the tax paid for license to sell brandy. This produces thirty-six million silver rubles. In order that this chief source of national income may continue to yield liberally, the government allows no temperance societies, but, on the contrary directly promotes the vice of drunkenness, by allowing numerous holidays and festivals, on which intemperance cannot be punished. The same vice was carefully inoculated into the whole nation by Peter the Great, by means of his example, the highest of all. The government is not satisfied with selling licenses at public auction, thus seeking continually to increase the tax paid for permission to sell brandy in the provinces, and in this way leading necessarily and directly to falsehood and deceit, and thus seducing men to the vice of drunkenness, it does not blush yet further to use this infamous business as a means of extracting money from the people, for it is made the duty of the sellers to receive from the imperial magazines and keep on
95 hand a certain quantity of brandy at a certain price, and under penalty of the law, to sell this again at the same price and no higher. On the other hand, exile to Siberia is denounced against smuggling brandy from a neighbouring district, where it is often three times as cheap and good, because the price of grain is there so much less. The seller dilutes his brandy with water, and then to make it appear strong enough for the drinkers, unpunished and without shame he adulterates it with substances well known to be poisonous. It has been maintained that, in this way, about two hundred thousand lives were lost every year, while the health of great numbers was undermined. The authorities have often been informed of all the enormities of this system of licensing, but they have only raised the sum paid for a license, and setting no limits to this poisoning of the nation, have gladly pocketed the income thus enlarged! Cancrin, a former Minister of Finance, was himself made a partner in this increase of income by receiving a portion of the gain, and accordingly compelled to act a most unworthy part, and to show himself more and more deserving his nickname the Cancer of the State, (Krets am Volks Körper.)
If the Emperor Nicholas ever actually said to his ministeras it is alleged that he should rejoice in any diminution of the income derived from the sale of brandy, this is to be taken as a sentence not seriously spoken, and must be looked on as belonging to the part of Emperor in the political comedy. A specious appearance is made with a phrase which seems virtuous, and then indulgence is shown to the crime for the advantage of the state. This is a plain fact.
It is well known that the poll-tax belongs to the rudest forms of taxation. This has been allowed to remain in Russia as a sign of the internal weakness of the autocratic power which, without, seems so splendid. It is well known that a tax on real and personal property is far more just, and — what is the main thing-would produce more. However, the evil conscience of the despotism is afraid that the spirit which must come with a rational scheme of taxation, would be hostile to the authorities. Accordingly the government is not ashamed, whenever it is possible, to lay all burthens on the humblest class of the people, thus making a mock at their efforts for improvement. The poorest class know not how to satisfy their hunger with even the most miserable food; but by means of the tax, the government poisons the only drink
with which they can produce the requisite vital warmth, and thereby takes from them money which might purchase better food; yet even they must pay a poll-tax which is not demanded from the rich debauchee! No one but a heartless actor of comedies could ever lend his name as a cloak for conduct so terrible and abominable. It sounds like scorn to call that government: to describe conduct so shameless, it would be far better to call it seduction, corruption, abuse, ruin, and similar
The salt-tax appears as coarse and brutal as the poll-tax. It makes it difficult to obtain one of the most indispensable necessaries of life, while shrewdness, not to speak of humanity and wisdom-lays down this as a rule: to cheapen every thing which belongs to the necessaries of life. The more this is done, the more certain are the people to be content, the more certainly will the national welfare advance, and only rational institutions will march at its side. But on the other hand, every burthen laid upon them retards the progress of mankind. This is very obvious in Russia, for if it is true that obstacles in the way of a nation which has reached a high degree of development, only call out increased efforts, and therefore a yet higher degree of culture, it is also true that obstacles in the way of a nation taking its first steps, can only discourage and deter them from progress. Of course the first germs of culture are thus kept from growing. Accordingly, while the government, which calls itself patriarchal, boasts of "leading the people in the way of their development," it actually does all in its power to stifle the first germs of culture. Is it possible for the government to desire the welfare of men, when it only allows them to vegetate, and not to develop their mind?
After what has been said in reference to the unworthy conduct in respect to brandy, we can only be surprised at finding any vice in Russia from which the State-Harpy does not extract some gain; we should expect to find that robbery, murder, unchastity, lies, hatred, envy, and the like, would be artificially nourished, patented and taxed. This is actually the case, in many instances, as it will appear, at least, in part, from the following facts. Peter I., commonly called the Great, found a certain simplicity of manners in his people, which, if fostered, protected, and developed, would have led to the finest results. It has been shown above that he promoted the vice of drunkenness by his own example, the highest in
the land. He was not contented with that, but opened the gates of his kingdom to another means of intoxication Tobacco. For a certain bribe, (Bestechungsumme,) called Abgabe, a sum not sufficient to cover the expenses of his foreign journey, he gave the Dutch the exclusive privilege of introducing and distributing tobacco throughout Russia for a certain time. However, the desire for the use of tobacco increased; this is partly to be attributed to the natural disposition of the Russian who at first had not wished to overcome the disagreeable taste of the article, in order to obtain intoxication therefrom; for it is well known that when a man has first become acquainted with any kind of enjoyment that a little difficulty in the way of obtaining it, is to be regarded as an incitement and means of seduction, and we have every reason to suppose that the present monopoly of tobacco was established for this purpose, for the late minister of Finance, M. Cancrin, did not hesitate to express his admiration at the unsatisfactory result.
In the imposition of duties which furnish a large part of the national revenue the Russian government appears not so much wicked as short-sighted and feeble-minded. Instead of levying duties merely for revenue, the Emperor aims by his duties" to call forth and protect the industry of the land." The result appears obvious in the unnatural enterprises which in general do only hurt. Hands which were insufficient for the culture of the soil, were yet, in large numbers, by means of this duty, attracted to manufactures which at the same time found no suitable field in Russia, for they naturally come as the result of a previous cultivation of the soil. It is maintained that by this tendency to manufactures the emancipation of the Slaves has been hastened. There is some truth in this, but it is of a formidable nature; for if any one is acquainted with our present system of manufacturing, he would not desire to promote emancipation by laying on non-slaveholders a yet more abominable load. Why cripple the slaves, yet more, in soul and body, in order to induce him to break his chains? Is not this to adopt the maxim thrown out by the frivolous," that if you wish to lead men to freedom, the more you trample on and abuse them the better!" In our present system of manufactures, man, for the most part, is degraded into a mere part of a machine; and thereby more or less robbed of his health. All trustworthy accounts of the condition of the manufacturing population in Europe agree in this:
that men deteriorate therein from one generation to another. But the Emperor does not wish to lead his people to freedom; for that would become more and more. So he gladly encourages them to turn away from that, by a slavish system of manufacturing, and by the imposition of duties, derives a profit from it. We are of the opinion that the tax on lotteries and gaming houses, or that on houses of ill-fame, could hardly be called more shameful for a government. In order to regulate freedom without injuring it, and accordingly without diminishing it, Republics must by all means take care of the manufac turing business; but when Republican governments impose customs and duties for the sake of getting a revenue from a business which degrades men, then, in common with monarchies, they become participators in a wrong, and degrade themselves thereby, though in a less degree, for they do not bring men into such a state of thraldom as restrains them from a just use and development of their powers.
Every government which conforms to reason—and only democratic Republics do this, must regard freedom as the basis of industry and trade, and keep its eye steadily on that, but without being stiff in carrying it out; for, practically, in human affairs, extreme measures never appear tenable. For example, in a nation not much developed, if domestic industry and trade are to prosper, protective or differential duties must be levied in support of domestic labor, and therefore against that of other and more advanced nations. However, these protective duties must never become so high as to be out of proportion to the pay of labor, as they are in Russia, where duties are levied which are many hundred per cent. above the value of the raw material and all the labor expended upon it. The following are some of the results of such a perverse undertaking: When the system of monopoly is thoroughly carried out, the most pernicious encroachments will be made on the natural course of the nation's development; individual speculators, charmed by the prospect of making money, will draw off a part of the people from their former business, and so an injury will be done to that. Thus several branches of industry for which Russia was formerly celebrated have fallen to ruin or gone to decay; only one example need be named, the manufacture of leather, which is now far from its former perfection. Other evils follow at a later period. The high protective duties must at length fall, for nothing unnatural can long continue, and then competition brings down the price of