property of all kinds from the dead to the 
living, and upon those transferring immoveable 
property from the living to the living
transactions which might easily have been 
taxed directly
The vicesima hereditatum, or the twentieth 
penny of inheritances, imposed by Augustus 
upon the ancient Romans, was a tax upon 
the transference of property from the dead to 
the living. Dion Cassius,[63] the author who 
writes concerning it the least indistinctly
says, that it was imposed upon all successions
legacies and donations, in case of death, except 
upon those to the nearest relations, and 
to the poor
Of the same kind is the Dutch tax upon 
successions.[64] Collateral successions are taxed 
according to the degree of relation, from 
five to thirty per cent. upon the whole value 
of the succession. Testamentary donations, 
or legacies to collaterals, are subject to the 
like duties. Those from husband to wife, or 
from wife to husband, to the fiftieth penny
The luctuosa hereditas, the mournful succession 
of ascendants to descendants, to the 
twentieth penny only. Direct successions
or those of descendants to ascendants, pay no 
tax. The death of a father, to such of his 
children as live in the same house with him, 
is seldom attended with any increase, and frequently 
with a considerable diminution of 
revenue; by the loss of his industry, of his 
office, or of some life-rent estate, of which he 
may have been in possession. That tax 
would be cruel and oppressive, which aggravated 
their loss, by taking from them any 
part of his succession. It may, however, 
sometimes be otherwise with those children
who, in the language of the Roman law, are 
said to be emancipated; in that of the Scotch 
law, to be foris-familiated; that is, who have 
received their portion, have got families of 
their own, and are supported by funds separate 
and independent of those of their father
Whatever part of his succession might come 
to such children, would be a real addition to 
their fortune, and might, therefore, perhaps, 
without more inconveniency than what attends 
all duties of this kind, be liable to some 
The casualties of the feudal law were taxes 
upon the transference of land, both from the 
dead to the living, and from the living to the 
living. In ancient times, they constituted
in every part of Europe, one of the principal 
branches of the revenue of the crown
The heir of every immediate vassal of the 
crown paid a certain duty, generally a year's 
rent, upon receiving the investiture of the 
estate. If the heir was a minor, the whole 
rents of the estate, during the continuance of 
the minority, devolved to the superior, without 
any other charge besides the maintenance of 
the minor, and the payment of the widow's 
dower, when there happened to be a dowage 
upon the land. When the minor came to be 
of age, another tax, called relief, was still due 
to the superior, which generally amounted 
likewise to a year's rent. A long minority
which, in the present times, so frequently disburdens 
a great estate of all its incumbrances, 
and restores the family to their ancient splendour
could in those times have no such effect
The waste, and not the disincumbrance of 
the estate, was the common effect of a long 
By a feudal law, the vassal could not alienate 
without the consent of his superior, who 
generally extorted a fine or composition on 
granting it. This fine, which was at first arbitrary
came, in many countries, to be regulated 
at a certain portion of the price of the 
land. In some countries, where the greater 
part of the other feudal customs have gone 
into disuse, this tax upon the alienation of 
land still continues to make a very considerable 
branch of the revenue of the sovereign
In the canton of Berne it is so high as a sixth 
part of the price of all noble fiefs, and a tenth 
part of that of all ignoble ones.[65] In the canton 
of Lucern, the tax upon the sale of land is 
not universal, and takes place only in certain 
districts. But if any person sells his land in 
order to remove out of the territory, he pays 
ten per cent. upon the whole price of the 
sale.[66] Taxes of the same kind, upon the 
sale either of all lands, or of lands held by 
certain tenures, take place in many other 
countries, and make a more or less considerable 
branch of the revenue of the sovereign
Such transactions may be taxed indirectly, 
by means either of stamp duties, or of duties 
upon registration; and those duties either 
may, or may not, be proportioned to the value 
of the subject which is transferred
In Great Britain, the stamp duties are 
higher or lower, not so much according to 
the value of the property transferred (an 
eighteen-penny or half-crown stamp being 
sufficient upon a bond for the largest sum of 
money), as according to the nature of the 
deed. The highest do not exceed six pounds 
upon every sheet of paper, or skin of parchment
and these high duties fall chiefly upon 
grants from the crown, and upon certain law 
proceedings, without any regard to the value 
of the subject. There are, in Great Britain
no duties on the registration of deeds or writings
except the fees of the officers who keep 
the register; and these are seldom more than 
a reasonable recompense for their labour. 
The crown derives no revenue from them.