or a sum equivalent to what the tax is likely 
to cost him during the time he uses the same 
coach. A service of plate in the same manner
may last more than a century. It is 
certainly easier for the consumer to pay five 
shillings a-year for every hundred ounces of 
plate, near one per cent. of the value, than to 
redeem this long annuity at five-and-twenty 
of thirty years purchase, which would enhance 
the price at least five-and-twenty or thirty per 
cent. The different taxes which affect houses, 
are certainly more conveniently paid by moderate 
annual payments, than by a heavy tax 
of equal value upon the first building or sale 
of the house
It was the well-known proposal of Sir 
Matthew Decker, that all commodities, even 
those of which the consumption is either immediate 
or speedy, should be taxed in this 
manner; the dealer advancing nothing, but 
the consumer paying a certain annual sum 
for the licence to consume certain goods. The 
object of his scheme was to promote all the 
different branches of foreign trade, particularly 
the carrying trade, by taking away all duties 
upon importation and exportation, and thereby 
enabling the merchant to employ his whole 
capital and credit in the purchase of goods 
and the freight of ships, no part of either being 
diverted towards the advancing of taxes
The project, however, of taxing, in this manner
goods of immediate or speedy consumption
seems liable to the four following very 
important objections. First, the tax would 
be more unequal, or not so well proportioned 
to the expense and consumption of the different 
contributors, as in the way in which it 
is commonly imposed. The taxes upon ale
wine, and spiritous liquors, which are advanced 
by the dealers, are finally paid by the 
different consumers, exactly in proportion to 
their respective consumption. But if the tax 
were to be paid by purchasing a licence to 
drink those liquors, the sober would, in proportion 
to his consumption, be taxed much 
more heavily than the drunken consumer. A 
family which exercised great hospitality, would 
be taxed much more lightly than one who entertained 
fewer guests. Secondly, this mode 
of taxation, by paying for an annual, half-yearly, 
or quarterly licence to consume certain 
goods, would diminish very much one of the 
principal conveniences of taxes upon goods 
of speedy consumption; the piece-meal payment
In the price of threepence halfpenny
which is at present paid for a pot of porter, the 
different taxes upon malt, hops, and beer, together 
with the extraordinary profit which the 
brewer charges for having advanced them, may 
perhaps amount to about three halfpence. If 
a workman can conveniently spare those three 
halfpence, he buys a pot of porter. If he 
cannot, he contents himself with a pint; and, 
as a penny saved is a penny got, he thus gains 
a farthing by his temperance. He pays the 
tax piece-meal, as he can afford to pay it, 
and when he can afford to pay it, and 
every act of payment is perfectly voluntary, 
and what he can avoid if he chuses to do so. 
Thirdly, such taxes would operate less as 
sumptuary laws. When the licence was once 
purchased, whether the purchaser drunk much 
or drunk little, his tax would he the same. 
Fourthly, if a workman were to pay all at 
once, by yearly, half-yearly, or quarterly payments
a tax equal to what he at present pays, 
with little or no inconveniency, upon all the 
different pots and pints of porter which he 
drinks in any such period of time, the sum 
might frequently distress him very much. 
This mode of taxation, therefore, it seems 
evident, could never, without the most grievous 
oppression, produce a revenue nearly 
equal to what is derived from the present mode 
without any oppression. In several countries, 
however, commodities of an immediate or very 
speedy consumption are taxed in this manner. 
In Holland, people pay so much a-head for 
a licence to drink tea. I have already mentioned 
a tax upon bread, which, so far as it 
is consumed in farm houses and country villages, 
is there levied in the same manner
The duties of excise are imposed chiefly 
upon goods of home produce, destined for 
home consumption. They are imposed only 
upon a few sorts of goods of the most general 
use. There can never be any doubt, 
either concerning the goods which are subject 
to those duties, or concerning the particular 
duty which each species of goods is 
subject to. They fall almost altogether upon 
what I call luxuries, excepting always the four 
duties above mentioned, upon salt, soap, leather, 
candles, and perhaps that upon green glass
The duties of customs are much more ancient 
than those of excise. They seem to 
have been called customs, as denoting customary 
payments, which had been in use for 
time immemorial. They appear to have been 
originally considered as taxes upon the profits 
of merchants. During the barbarous 
times of feudal anarchy, merchants, like all 
the other inhabitants of burghs, were considered 
as little better than emancipated bondmen, 
whose persons were despised, and whose 
gains were envied. The great nobility, who 
had consented that the king should tallage 
the profits of their own tenants, were not 
unwilling that he should tallage likewise those 
of an order of men whom it was much less 
their interest to protect. In those ignorant 
times, it was not understood, that the profits 
of merchants are a subject not taxable directly; 
or that the final payment of all such taxes 
must fall, with a considerable overcharge, upon 
the consumers
The gains of alien merchants were looked 
upon more unfavourably than those of English 
merchants. It was natural, therefore, 
that those of the former should be taxed more