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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

The Constitutional Right to a Revision of the Land Tax

page 183

The Constitutional Right to a Revision of the Land Tax.

It having been urged by Sir Robert Peel and other defenders of the corn-law, that the landholders have a just right to be protected from the importation of agricultural produce on account of the peculiar and heavy burdens imposed on land in this country, the Council of the National Anti-Corn-Law League considered it their duty to institute an enquiry into the nature and extent of those alleged burdens, and the land tax having been found the only peculiar burden to which land in England and Scotland is subjected, it was considered of paramount importance that the origin and nature of the land tax should be carefully investigated. It being therefore determined to take a legal opinion on the subject, a case was submitted to counsel, and an opinion requested on the following points:—
1.Whether the State had not a constitutional right to an equitable equivalent in lieu of the profits of the feudal tenures abolished by the Statute 12 Car. II. c. 24.
2.Whether the excise can be considered as such equitable equivalent.
3.Whether the present land tax can be considered as such equitable equivalent.
The opinion received being to the effect that there was a constitutional right to such equitable equivalent; and that neither the excise nor the land tax could be considered as being such equitable equivalent; a further opinion was then requested on the following points :—
1.Whether the land tax has always been levied in a legal manner.
2.Whether a Constitutional Right now exists to a revaluation of the land, for an assessment for the land tax by a pound rate on the full yearly value at the time of assessing thereof, as appears to have been the intention of Parliament at the revolution.

The first of these questions was answered in the negative, and the second in the affirmative; and the reasons for these opinions form the groundwork of the argument contained in the following pages.

George Wilson,

Chairman of the Council of the National Anti-Corn-Law League. Manchester,