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that the law cannot reach all his property, and that, because a man is a liar and a rogue, you must let him go and call him an honest man. We have laws against horse stealing. We cannot always execute them. Once in a while a fellow gets away with a horse, but as a general thing we catch the horse thief. As a general rule our horses are perfectly safe in our stables. We go to bed and rest easily because justice is abroad in the land ; the strong arm of the law stands there at our stable door with the sheriff to protect our property. And shall we, as farmers, as men, as citizens of a great republic, quietly pass a few little wishy-washy resolutions, and then go up and vote the straight ticket?
It is not class legislation. We do not want legislation for the farmer, we do not want legislation for the Republican, we do not want it for the Democrat, we do not want it for the Mugwump. Let us rise to some sort of dignity as citizens of this great Commonwealth and this great nation, and say, “ Gentlemen, eternal justice, if we have to get it with the aid of the sheriff and the hangman.” We have, in our baste, in our anxiety to get wealth, in our newness, in our want of knowledge of how to govern, - for we lack a good deal in that yet, - we have gone on and simply ignored the wrongs that are easily corrected if we only set our foot down. And I want to repeat again, that the people who are to begin this work are the yeomanry of this country, because in the yeomanry reside more virtue and more democracy than in any other class of people. We are not naturally any better, but our opportunities are better; our environment has simply made us a little better. The reason why we are a little better than the average saloon-keeper is because we went into farming instead of liquor selling.
Now, I appeal to the able essayist of the afternoon to know what is the trouble. I go back for knowledge. We find that on the river Nile they had the science of irrigation developed and in practice thousands and thousands of years before ever we thought of it on the western plains. So there is some knowledge lying behind us that is well worthy our careful attention. Joseph went up to Bethlehem to be taxed. Have we found any better way than to go up to the city or the town, and give in an honest schedule of our property, instead of setting men running around the country after us? Is not that fair, Mr. Gold ?
Mr. Gold. It appears to be.
Professor ROBERTS. A man who does not do his duty as an American citizen should be debarred from voting. He has no right to vote in this country if he does not do his duty as a citizen. No man who is not a good citizen has a moral right to vote. Cut him off, and assess him so that it will bring him next year to a realizing sense of his duty as an American citizen. If he hides his property, confiscate it, just the same as you confiscate the contents of my trunk that I bring over from Germany and am trying to run through the custom house without paying the duty, thus breaking the laws of my country.
It does not matter whom you send up to the Legislature. That is not it. It is the power behind the man that makes the man do the work. Say to these gentlemen whom you send to the Legislature, “ Thou shalt,” and “ Thou shalt not,” and it will be so. It seems to me that the time has gone by for talking. We know, — we do not guess, as we do in many problems, - we know that every man who owns real estate is paying at least three dollars in taxes where he ought to be paying one, and in many cases five or six dollars. I am talking right against my own interest, gentlemen, to the tune of fifty dollars probably in taxes every year. not afraid of the truth, and I say the time has passed for milk-and-water resolutions. The time has come for you to say, “ Thou shalt make a just law for taxation, and every dollar of value in this Commonwealth and in the United States shall pay its fair proportion of the expense of watching over it and caring for it.” Is not that justice? A large part of the personal property costs ordinarily two or three times as much to watch as the real. We will give the owners of that personal property that advantage ; but the eternal principle is that every hundred cents of real value, at a fair valuation, shall pay its true and right proportion of the expense of watching over that dollar. Now, there is nothing wrong
in that, and we can have it before next year's snow flies if we just stand together and say, “ Thou shalt! We will lift every one of you out of your chairs, from Governor
clear down to assessor, it does not matter whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or a Mugwump, but we will have justice.” Let us lose sight of partisanship for a time, and say, “ We believe in eternal justice, and give us justice or out you go.”
Mr. Epson. I should be very glad to have a law such as the gentleman advocates, but can we get it? That is the question.
Professor ROBERTS. Yes.
Mr. Edson. I do not know whether the gentleman has ever been in the Legislature, or not; but, if he bas been, he must know something of the difficulties in the way of securing the enactment of such a law. I fought hard last winter in our Legislature merely to procure an enactment that should say that the law already on the statute book should be enforced, and what was the result? Forty votes, out of two hundred and forty, in favor of it, – that was all. The other two hundred had personal property that they did not intend to pay any tax upon. There is where the difficulty came, and there is exactly where you will find it will come every time. Look at the injustice of the thing. A young man moved into a small town in this State ; his father and uncle had died and left him a great deal of property, and he had made a great deal of property himself. When he came down to that town the assessors asked him, as they usually do, “ What shall we tax you for personal property ?” He thought $300 would be about right. So they assessed him that amount, and for fifteen years he paid a tax of $300. He died, and his property went to probate. The next year his estate was taxed $2,300. The result of getting hold of that $2,000 was to put the taxation of that town down from $10.00 to $8.50 per thousand. Now, I contend that every widow and orphan in that town worth $1,000 paid $1.50 a year for fifteen years into that capitalist's pocket. He might just as well have gone into the chicken houses of those widows and orphans, and stolen $1.50 worth of their chickens. It would have been more honorable to have done it than to do what he did. I brought that case up before the committee on taxation. I am going there again this winter, and shall try it again ; but I have no idea I shall be successful unless you farmers will come before the committee and plead your own case. We had committee hearings day after day for months, and no farmers came there to advocate their own cause. The assessors were there, and, as I said, forty out of forty-two were in favor of putting this penalty upon assessors if they did not do their duty. Why were they in favor of it? Because it would take the odium off from them, and put it on the law. It is very easy, if there is a penalty attached to the neglect of this duty, to put the law in force. Now, if we can get a law on the statute book that will take twenty-five dollars from an assessor every time he omits to put a man under oath, we shall be able to reach all this personal property. The gentleman (Mr. Hale) says that a man who will lie will take a false oath. It is pot, so. I tell you that when a man comes up and takes an oath before Almighty God he feels the responsibility. It is only the most abandoned liars who will take a false oath. Very few men who will evade taxation, who will prevaricate and equivocate in making their returns, will take a false oath. Now, if the farmers will only come up this winter when we have this matter before the committee, or send their delegations there and give us some encouragement, I think we can get the bill through.
Mr. Bill of Paxton. I have taken a great deal of interest in the tax question, and I believe you have got to proceed in some radical way. I think the plan suggested by the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Hale) would meet the
I believe that the farmers are paying a larger share of the taxes of this State than they ought to. You have heard a good deal about abandoned farms. If this thing goes on much longer, more farms will be abandoned and there will be more abandoned farming. Farmers are leaving the State already, and farm lands are cheaper in Massachusetts, leaving out those within a certain radius of our cities, than they are anywhere on the face of the continent. The western railroad companies are holding large tracts of land higher than they can be bought for in Worcester County Farms with their buildings can be bought for five or ten dollars an acre in this county to-day, and it is so all over the Commonwealth. Now, I say if taxation is not distributed more equally and justly, there will be more abandoned farms than we have now.
But to sum up and crystallize the sense of the meeting, to give it some point, I would move that this meeting here and now appoint a committee of five, whose business it shall be to appear before the committee on taxation of the next Legislature, and present the case, and likewise invite every farmer to go with them before that committee, and push things. This is a world of push and energy, and those who push hardest and are most persistent accomplish most. It is time the farmers did some energetic pushing. You may talk here until doomsday, and if you take no action you will accomplish nothing. You say that it depends upon the Secretary of the State Board or upon some other official, and the farmers' duties are discharged in that way. Are they? I think not. I think the appointment of such a committee is a proper method of action, and would so move, and I would ask the chairman not to appoint me upon that committee.
Mr. Eaton. There is one phase of this subject of taxation that has not been touched upon, which is of great interest to the farmers especially; that is, the matter of taxation for the support of schools. We know that the education of our children throughout the State is of just as much interest to one man as it is to another, but the inequalities of the tax for the support of schools are great. That is, the tax rate needed to raise five dollars per scholar in some of the country towns is four times what would be necessary to raise the same sum per scholar in Boston. Now, I say that the State Board should use their influence with the Legislature to levy a State tax for the support of the schools in a gross sum, and then let the towns draw from that amount a sum in proportion to the number of scholars they have to educate, in that way equalizing the tax all over the State for the education of our children. By doing that, many of the poor country towns would draw from the State treasury a sum greater than that which they pay in.
The CHAIRMAN. Will Mr. Bill of Paxton please repeat the resolution which he offered?
Mr. Bill. I offered it in the form of a motion. In order to bring the matter to a head, and have some results come