Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/196

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186
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

is, even among those least swayed by this awe, a vague faith in the immediate possibility of something much better than now exists—a tacit assumption that, even with men as they now are, public affairs might be much better managed. The mental attitude of such may be best displayed by an imaginary conversation between one of them and a member of the Legislature.

"Why do your agents, with no warrant but a guess, make this surcharge on my income-tax return; leaving me to pay an amount that is not due, and to establish a precedent for future like payments, or else to lose valuable time in proving their assessment excessive, and, while so doing, to expose all my affairs? You leave me to choose between two losses, direct and indirect, for the sole reason that your assessor fancies, or professes to fancy, that I have understated my income. Why do you allow this? Why in this case do you invert the principle which, in cases between citizens, you hold to be an equitable one—the principle that a claim must be proved by him who makes it, not disproved by him against whom it is made? Is it in pursuance of old political usages that you do this? Is it to harmonize with the practice of making one whom you had falsely accused pay the costs of his defence, although in suits between citizens you require the loser to bear all the expense?—a practice you have but lately relinquished. Do you desire to keep up the spirit of the good old rulers who impressed laborers and paid them what they pleased, or the still older ones who seized whatever they wanted? Would you maintain this tradition by laying hands on as much as possible of my earnings and leaving me to get part of it back if I can: expecting, indeed, that I shall very likely submit to the loss rather than undergo the worry, and hindrance, and injury, needful to recover what you have wrongfully taken? I was brought up to regard the Government and its officers as my protectors; and now I find them aggressors against whom I have to defend myself."

"What would you have? Our agents could not bring forward proof that an income-tax return was less than it should be. Either the present method must be pursued, or the tax must be abandoned."

"I have no concern with your alternative. I have merely to point out that betw T een man and man you recognize no such plea. When a plaintiff makes a claim but cannot produce evidence, you do not make the defendant submit if he fails to show that the claim is groundless. You say that, if no evidence can be given, nothing can be done. Why do you ignore this principle when your agents make the claim? Why from the fountain of equity comes there this inequity? Is it to maintain consistency with that system of criminal jurisprudence under which, while professing to hold a man innocent till proved guilty, you treat him before trial like a convict—as you did Dr. Hessel? Are your views really represented by these Middlesex magistrates you have appointed, who see no hardship to a man of culture in the seclu-