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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsHouse - Chapter 18. I State My Views On Taxation
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House - Chapter 18. I State My Views On Taxation Post by :caller Category :Nonfictions Author :Eugene Field Date :May 2012 Read :3097

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House - Chapter 18. I State My Views On Taxation


Of the many friends who hastened to congratulate us when they heard that we had acquired a home, none was more delighted than Gamlin Harland. I take it for granted that you have read Mr. Harland's numerous books, and that you know all about Mr. Harland himself. Not to know of him is to argue one's self unknown.

My first meeting with Mr. Harland was at a single-tax convention six years ago; he was a delegate to that convention from Wisconsin, and I was a delegate from Illinois. I was a delegate because the manager of the party, who lives in New York, could n't find anybody else to serve as the delegate from the congressional district in which I lived. I thought that rather than have that district unrepresented I ought to serve, and so I did. The acquaintance I then made with Gamlin Harland soon ripened into friendship, and this intimacy has lasted ever since. Mr. Harland insists that I am a single-tax man, and it may be that I am in theory, although I certainly am not in practice; for I never have paid any tax of any kind, be it single or double.

As soon as he heard of our purchase Mr. Harland came out to inspect the premises, and of course he was delighted.

"This will make a new man of you," said he to me. "It will take your mind off your impracticable star-gazing and moonshining, and divert your attention into the channels of realism. These premises are so spacious as to admit of your engaging to a considerable extent in agriculture; you can now lay aside the telescope and the spectrum for the spade and the hoe; the field of speculation can be abandoned for this noble acre which I hope soon to see smiling into an abundant harvest."

"Yes," said I, "it is my purpose to engage largely in the cultivation of flowers."

"Pshaw!" cried Mr. Harland, "there you go again! Don't you know that flowers are wholly worthless except in so far as they pander to the gratification of a sensuous appetite? It would be a crime to surrender these opportunities to ignoble uses. You must raise vegetables here, or perhaps some of the small fruits would thrive better in this rich sandy soil."

Investigation satisfied Mr. Harland that blackberries were _the particular kind of small fruit to which the soil seemed adapted. I was not surprised at this, for I knew that the blackberry was a favorite with Mr. Harland--in fact, Mr. Harland is the only author I know of who has written a novel whose plot hinges (so to speak) upon a blackberry. So passionately fond of this fruit is he that he devotes a part of the year to cultivating blackberries on his Wisconsin farm. There are invidious persons who intimate that his only reason for cultivating the blackberry is to be found in the fact that nothing else will grow on his farm, and presumably you have heard the epigram which the romanticists have perpetrated at Mr. Harland's expense, and which represents that ambitious and aggressive gentleman as raising blackberries in summer and ---- in winter.

After getting me thoroughly inoculated with the blackberry idea, and having duly impressed me with his theory that true manhood consisted of making one's self unspeakably miserable and sweaty with a shovel and a hoe, Mr. Harland broached his favorite topic, and ventured the assertion that now that I was the possessor of taxable property I would become as rabid a single-tax advocate as Henry George himself. I answered that I already advocated a single-tax system, for the reason that if we could only once get a single-tax system in vogue we should then be but one remove from no taxation at all, and would have less difficulty in securing that desirable end ultimately.

The truth of the matter is, I object to taxation only in so far as it affects me. I have no objection to other folk being taxed, but I do not fancy being taxed myself. I agree with Brother Harland that there is palpable injustice in making an industrious and public-spirited man pay for the so-called privilege of building himself a home; he pays the carpenters and masons and painters for making that home, and he is then expected to pay the city and the State for having invested his hard earnings in a permanent enterprise which gives employment to the laborer, which beautifies the neighborhood, and which enhances the value of the adjacent property. The object of taxation (as Mr. Harland asserts and as I believe) is to enrich the office-holding class, a class of loose morality, utterly heartless and utterly conscienceless, and I agree with Mr. Harland in the opinion that the time is not far distant when the honest people of this country will arise as one man and subvert the corrupt hand of politics which is now grinding us under the iron heel of oppression.

It is seldom that I give expression to my views upon this subject, for the reason that I fear they may be misinterpreted. I have always had an apprehension that I would be mistaken for an anarchist, which I am not; I am an advocate of peace and of the laws; I do not believe in violence of any kind.

And now that I am speaking of violence, I am reminded of an incident which illustrates the thoughtless cruelty of too many of our youth. It was scarcely two weeks ago that I detected a boy (apparently about twelve years of age) climbing one of the willow trees in our old Schmittheimer place. I crept up on him unawares and speedily became satisfied that he was after the eggs in a bird's nest that nestled cozily in a crotch of the limbs. I shouted lustily at the young scapegrace, and his confusion convinced me that my suspicions were correct. I kept him in his uncomfortable position in the tree until I had lectured him severely for the cruelty he contemplated and until I had exacted from him a promise that he would forever thereafter abstain from the practice of robbing birds' nests. The tears which trickled down his face assured me no less than his solemn protests did that the lad was indeed penitent, but the fellow had no sooner descended from the tree and reached a point of safety the other side of the fence than he gave utterance to sentiments which wholly disabused my mind of all faith in his previous professions of reform.

I have never been able to understand what pleasure can accrue from the spoliation of the homes of birds, the beautiful musical creatures that contribute so largely toward making the world cheerful. One of the pleasantest recollections of my boyhood is that in all that active period I never once killed or wounded a bird or robbed its nest. And I think that the kindest act I ever did--at least the one which I recall with the most satisfaction--was my release of a caged bird. A careless, heedless neighbor had caught and caged a redbird, and the mournful twittering of the poor creature as he fluttered incessantly behind the bars of his prison pained and haunted me. The redbird can never be reconciled to confinement; he is of the forest; the wildness of his peculiar note indicates the restlessness of his nature. So for nearly a year the melancholy twittering and the fluttering of that caged bird haunted me.

One morning--it was in the gracious May time--I awoke early. The sun was just coming up and was kissing the tears from lovely Nature's face. The air was full of coolness and of sweet smells. Then, hearing the querulous note of the imprisoned bird upon the porch yonder, I determined to set the poor thing free. So I dressed myself and stole out into the graciousness of the early morning. To my last day I shall not forget the delight, the rapture, with which that released bird mounted from the doorway of his cage and sped away!

One of the most treasured relics I have is a poem which my father wrote when I was a little boy. My father was a native of Maine, but for all that he was a man of sentiment and he had much literary taste, and ability, too. The poem which he gave me, and which I have always treasured, will (if I am not grievously in error) touch a responsive chord in many a human heart, for all humanity looks back with tenderness to the time of youth.


A bird sat in the maple tree
And this was the song he sang to me:
"O little boy, awake, arise!
The sun is high in the morning skies;
The brook's a-play in the pasture lot
And wondereth that the little boy
It loveth dearly cometh not
To share its turbulence and joy;
The grass hath kisses cool and sweet
For truant little brown bare feet--
So come, O child, awake, arise!
The sun is high in the morning skies!"

So from the yonder maple tree
The bird kept singing unto me;
But that was very long ago--
I did not think--I did not know--
Else would I not have longer slept
And dreamt the precious hours away;
Else would I from my bed have leapt
To greet another happy day--
A day, untouched of care and ruth,
With sweet companionship of youth--
The dear old friends which you and I
Knew in the happy years gone by!

Still in the maple can be heard
The music of the morning bird,
And still the song is of the day
That runneth o'er with childish play;
Still of each pleasant old-time place
And of the old-time friends I knew--
The pool where hid the furtive dace,
The lot the brook went scampering through;
The mill, the lane, the bellflower tree
That used to love to shelter me--
And all those others I knew _then_,
But which I cannot know again!

Alas! from yonder maple tree
The morning bird sings not to me;
Else would his ghostly voice prolong
An evening, not a morning, song
And he would tell of each dear spot
I knew so well and cherished then,
As all forgetting, not forgot
By him who would be young again!
O child, the voice from yonder tree
Calleth to _you_, and not to _me_;
So wake and know those friendships all
I would to God I could recall!

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