By continual taxes and seizures upon what they gain, poverty subdues their spirits, and makes them more patiently suffer all kind of injustice and violence that can be offered them, without thoughts or motion to rebellion: And so … it is impossible for a people overladen with taxes ever to become martial or valiant … By this means the Turk preserves so many different sorts of people, as he hath conquered, in due obedience, using no other help than a severe hand, joined to all kind of oppression.

—Thomas Gordon. Cato’s Letters No. 50, An Idea on the Turkish Government, Saturday, October 28, 1721.

The thirteen American colonies had the spirit to rebel against the slight taxes the British parliament sought to impose on them because they were not already burdened by heavy taxes. By contrast the British people remained abjectly submissive to their rotten and undemocratic government because their spirit had been broken by heavy taxes, Thomas Paine explained:

There is scarce an article of life you can eat, drink, wear or enjoy, that is not there loaded with a tax; even the light from heaven is only permitted to shine into their dwellings by paying eighteen pence sterling per window annually; and the humblest drink of life, small beer, cannot there be purchased without a tax of nearly two coppers a gallon, besides a heavy tax upon the malt, and another on the hops before it is brewed, exclusive of a land tax on the earth which produces them. In short, the condition of that country in point of taxation is so oppressive, the number of her poor so great, and the extravagance and rapaciousness of the court so enormous, that were they to effect a conquest of America, it is then only that the distresses of America would begin. (The American Crisis, October 4, 1780.)

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove