Page:Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire vol 1 (1897).djvu/236

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162
THE DECLINE AND FALL

cottons, silks, both raw and manufactured, ebony, ivory, and eunuchs. [1] We may observe that the use and value of those effeminate slaves gradually rose with the decline of the empire.

The excise II. The excise, introduced by Augustus after the civil wars, was extremely moderate, but it was general. [2] It seldom exceeded one per cent.; but it comprehended whatever was sold in the markets or by public auction, from the most considerable purchases of land and houses to those minute objects which can only derive a value from their infinite multitude and daily consumption. Such a tax, as it affects the body of the people, has ever been the occasion of clamour and discontent. An emperor well acquainted with the wants and resources of the state was obliged to declare, by a public edict, that the support of the army depended in a great measure on the produce of the excise. [3]

Tax on legacies and inheritances III. When Augustus resolved to establish a permanent military force for the defence of his government against foreign and domestic enemies, he instituted a peculiar treasury for the pay of the soldiers, the rewards of the veterans, and the extraordinary expenses of war. The ample revenue of the excise, though peculiarly appropriated to those uses, was found inadequate. To supply the deficiency, the emperor suggested a new tax of five per cent, on all legacies and inheritances. But the nobles of Rome were more tenacious of property than of freedom. Their indignant murmurs were received by Augustus with his usual temper. He candidly referred the whole business to the senate, and exhorted them to provide for the public service by some other expedient of a less odious nature. They were divided and perplexed. He insinuated to them that their obstinacy would oblige him to propose a general land-tax and capitation. They acquiesced in silence. [4] The new imposition on legacies and inheritances was however mitigated by some restrictions. It did not take place unless the object was of a certain value, most probably of fifty or an hundred pieces of gold: [5] nor could it be exacted from the nearest of kin on the
  1. M. Bouchaud, in his treatise de l'Impot chez les Romains, has transcribed this catalogue from the Digest, and attempts to illustrate it by a very prolix commentary.
  2. [It was imposed in Rome and Italy; but cannot be proved for the provinces.]
  3. Tacit. Annal. i. 78. Two years afterwards, the reduction of the poor kingdom of Cappadocia gave Tiberius a pretence for diminishing the excise to one half; but the relief was of a very short duration.
  4. Dion Cassius, 1. lv. p. 799 [25], 1. Ivi. p. 825 [28]. [This tax was introduced 6 A.D.]
  5. The sum is only fixed by conjecture.