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impose a fine of twenty-five dollars upon an assessor in every case where he neglected to put a man under oath in regard to his personal property. Out of forty-two assessors who came before that committee, forty of them were in favor of that law. Why? Because they are perfectly willing to do it, if they can do it without any risk to themselves. They are all looking for re-election, and they know that if they should attempt to carry out the law when it has been ignored so long they would not be re-elected. Put that law in force, and I will guarantee that the taxes of the farmers would be reduced one-third the very first year. Two billions of property for taxation in this Commonwealth. Five hundred millions of that is personal property. Just think of it! One-quarter only, when we all know that the personal property is four times the amount of real estate in this State. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest States in this Union. We hold the bonds of railroads all over the country, we hold mortgages on property all over the country, and yet we pay but a very small personal tax. Let me tell you one thing, brother farmers : it is coming to this, that we have either got to get hold of this personal property and tax it, or they will put the whole taxation upon real estate. They came up before the legislative committee, and said, “ We are only taxing about a quarter part of the personal property; why not drop it entirely, and put the whole tax upon real estate?” It will come to that unless there is a law passed that will get hold of this personal property. I know that it can be got hold of, from my own experience as an assessor in the town of Barnstable. When I was elected, I determined that the law should be enforced in that town; and in less than five years I increased the valuation of personal property from $800,000 to over $1,600,000. And what was the result? It reduced the taxation from $12.50 to $8.30 on $1,000. That was by merely enforcing the law. I had some pretty warm work, I will admit, but yet they kept on electing me.
Mr. CUSHMAN. What do you think would be the effect, if you should have a rigid enforcement of the law, in driving personal property out of the Commonwealth ?
Mr. EDSON. Supposing a man is living in the Common
wealth who is worth a million dollars, and it is all invested in Western railroads and Western mortgages. He does not own any real estate ; he
pays no tax; he takes that interest money as it comes in, and reinvests it in Western mortgages and Western railroads. What benefit is he to the Commonwealth? That is just the kind of men we should drive out. Such a man is no benefit to this Commonwealth by simply living here, standing still, and accumulating property that pays no tax.
We should not drive out any honest capital that is paying an honest tax. It is no argument against the proposed law, to say such a man is going to leave the State because he has got to be honest. I believe in honesty, I believe in righteousness. I believe that if a man has got $100,000 in personal property, and is receiving the benefit of the laws of Massachusetts, he should pay the same proportion of the taxation as though he had $100,000 in real estate. One man came before the committee of the Legislature, and said, “We want you to pass a law that will put the whole tax upon land, exempting all personal property.” I could bring my own town up to show the absurdity of that thing. Our personal property and our real estate are just equal. Our tax is ten dollars per thousand. You take off the personal property, and you make the taxation twenty dollars a thousand to the farmer. Then you take off the buildings, which he called personal property, which are just about equal to the value of the land in the town of Barnstable, and you make the farmers' tax forty dollars a thousand. I told him, if he wanted to annihilate every farmer, drive him out of the business in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, pass that law. But, unless we stir in this matter, and enact some law that will get hold of personal property, just so sure as I stand here a law will be passed exempting personal property from taxation.
Secretary SESSIONS. I want to say just one word, lest a wrong impression should be created by this discussion. It is, I suppose, well known to you that all bank stock and all stock of corporations in Massachusetts is taxed, and all savings bank deposits are taxed to a certain extent. So that the personal property that escapes taxation is not of this character. It is not personal property that is invested
in shares in manufacturing or railroad corporations within the State. Every man who owns a share in the Middlesex corporation at Lowell, or any other corporation that is manufacturing in this Commonwealth, is taxed to the full value of that share. So every single share of bank stock of these Worcester banks is taxed at the rate of taxation here in Worcester. The property that escapes taxation is other than that invested in business here in this State. It is not the property that is adding to the industries and business of our State that escapes taxation; it is the property that is used to juggle with, that is invested in foreign mortgages and foreign corporations (outside the State, I mean), and money that is used for speculative purposes. That is the kind of property that escapes taxation.
Mr. Hale. This is a very important matter, and I was much interested in what my friend Mr. Edson has said. But we all know enough of human nature to know that a man who will lie will lie just about as quick under oath as he will when not under oath. A few men will be frightened at the idea of taking an oath. They are liars, but they are not utterly reckless liars, and they will feel the force of an oath ; but the average tax liar will lie anyway. This may be pretty strong language, but I think the fact warrants it.
Now, this law which Mr. Gold has told you about in Connecticut, which last year drew out such a large sum, was a compromise with perjury on our part. I think the best people of Connecticut felt ashamed of it, but it was the best thing we could do. We have by that law pulled those sneaks up through the hole. I think by-and-by the farmers will plug up the hole.
I have studied the question of taxation from a farmer's standpoint. I have looked at it in all sorts of lights. I have studied poor, weak human nature; and I find that, while you can touch some men by an appeal to their honesty, you cannot touch them all. When you touch a man in his pocket, you have got away down below his heart. It seems to me a law might be passed that would compel every property owner on a certain day or month in the year to go before an assessor and make a record of every dollar's worth of property he possesses, and make oath to it. The assessor can strike out whatever is non-taxable, and the rest is left. Then I would have a law which would forfeit any property not reported, one-half of it to go to the State, and the other half to the man who ferreted it out. That is my idea of the only law that can ever bring these men out. God speed the day when it comes !
Mr. Shaw. After five years' experience as an assessor, I have come to the conclusion that the only way by which we can procure the justice for which we ask is to make the people give in a list of all their property, wherever it may be located. The assessors are the ones to judge whether it is taxable, or not, not the person who has it. The gentleman from Connecticut has, I think, hit that nail directly on the head.
Mr. PARKER of Holden. One inconsistency in our law, as I understand it, is that the money loaned upon mortgages in Massachusetts is not taxed. I have found by a little investigation that about two-fifths of the property in Massachusetts escapes taxation in this way. Now, it appears to me, as a person who pays taxes upon property that is all visible, and expects to pay a fair per cent with his neighbors, that there is no reason why a neighbor of mine who may have $100,000 invested in mortgages upon property that is ample security should pay no tax. If he has a note secured by personal property, floating property perhaps, he is liable to a tax upon that; but just as soon as the money is invested in something that is tangible, where the income is sure, he goes free, he pays no tax; and those of us who pay taxes maintain his children at school, and if he should happen to come to want, we maintain him in the poor-house. It seems to me that this is a question in which farmers are very much interested, and this is the place to agitate the question and have the influence of the State Board of Agriculture brought to bear upon the members of the Legislature. I know you are handicapped to start with. There are more people in the Legislature who loan money on mortgages than there are who borrow, and for that reason you will find it difficult to pass a law of that kind. It seems to me there is no remedy except to send men to the Legislature who do not belong to that class. Then perhaps you would get
honest legislation. I wish that a resolution might be brought forward and backed up by the farmers here, that shall look to securing the passage of a law providing that all property that is invested in mortgages in Massachusetts shall be taxed like other property.
Mr. F. J. KINNEY of Worcester. It is a matter of fact, - it is not guess-work, – that property rules the nation. Now, supposing that the man who loans money to a poor man on a mortgage has to pay the taxes on it; the poor man will have to pay them, because his rate of interest will be increased until the rich man is secured. In very mar
In very many ways, and unknown to themselves, farmers are gathering about themselves clouds that it will be very hard to escape from, and that is one of them.
Dr. TWITCHELL. I am much interested in the question now under discussion. We are working upon it down in the State of Maine. One gentleman has said, “ Send a class of men to the Legislature who will be true to your interests."
“Get behind the men you have now in the Legislature." There is the work for the farmers in your State and in my State to do. We have got to get behind our legislators, and make them feel our power; and, doing that, we shall bring about results. The trouble in the State of Maine is, that we cannot arouse the farmers to come up before the committees of the Legislature, and there stand together for results. They ask the grange, they ask the Board of Agriculture, to do this and to do that for them. We turn round and say to them, “Gentlemen, if this thing done, go up there yourselves, unite your influence with ours, and we will give you results."
Professor ROBERTS. Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that the fault lies with ourselves entirely. We have submitted to this wrong and oppression, because it was easy for us to get a living and pay the taxes to boot. The arm of the law can reach every dollar of property. There is no trouble about it. Uncle Sam manages to reach everything that is in your trunk when you land in New York; and, if
you undertake to lie out of it, he will take your property and confiscate it; he will take your trunk, and he will take you. It is idle for any man to get up here or elsewhere and say