The large cities in America are by no means so lightly taxed as might be supposed from the cheapness of the government; the public works, public buildings, and police establishments, requiring adequate funds for their maintenance and support; however, the inhabitants have the consolation of knowing that this must gradually decrease, and that their money is laid out for their own advantage, and not for the purpose of pensioning off the mistresses and physicians of viceroys, as in Ireland. Another thing is to be observed, that in addition to the national debt, each state has a private debt, which in many cases is tolerably large. These debts have been created by expenditures on roads, canals, and public buildings. The mode of taxation latterly adopted by the legislature is not popular, and many of the public prints have remonstrated against the system. “The Philadelphia Gazette,” of the 24th Sept. 1830, makes the following remarks—“The subject of unequal and oppressive taxation deserves more attention than it has hitherto received from our citizens. The misery of England is occasioned less by the amount of revenue that is raised there, than by the manner in which it is raised. In Pennsylvania we are going on rapidly, making our state a second England in regard of debt and taxation. Our public debt is already 13,000,000 dollars; and before our canals and rail-roads shall be completed, it will probably amount to 18 or 20 millions. The law imposing taxes of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 dollars on retailers, is not the only just subject of complaint. The collateral inheritance tax is equally unjust. The tavern-keepers are besides to be taxed from 20 to 50 dollars each. Nor does the matter end here. At the next session of the legislature, it will, in all probability, be found necessary to lay on additional taxes: and when the principle of unjust taxation is once admitted in legislation, it is difficult to say how far it will be carried.”
Whilst staying at Philadelphia an account of the French revolution arrived, and the merchants, there and at New York, were in high spirits, thinking that war was inevitable. A war in Europe is always hailed with delight in America, as it opens a field for commercial enterprise, and gives employment to the shipping, of which at present they are much in need.
During the long and ruinous war in Europe, the mercantile and shipping interests of the United States advanced with an unexampled degree of rapidity. The Americans were then the carriers of nearly all Europe, and scarcely any merchandize entered the ports of the belligerent powers, but in American bottoms. This unnatural state of prosperity could not last: peace was established, and from that era the decline of commerce in the United States may be dated. The merchants seem not to have calculated on this event’s so soon taking place, or to have overrated the increase of prosperity and population in their own country,