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Page 537 of Life and speeches of Henry Clay (vol. 2)

ON A TRUE PUBLIC POLICY. passed; and there has been no difficulty in administering the duties of the Treasury on that principle. It was necessary first to acertain the value of the goods, and then to impose the duty upon them; and from the commencement of the act to this day, the ad valorem principle has been substantially in opera- tion. Compare the difference between specific and the ad valorein system of duties, and I maintain that the latter is justly entitled to the preference. The one principle declares the duty paid shall be upon the real value of the article taxed ; the specific principle im- poses an equal duty on articles greatly unequal in value. Coffee, for example, (and it is an article which always suggests itself to my thoughts,) is one of the articles on which a specific duty has been levied. Now it is perfectly well known that the Mocha coffee is worth at least twice as much as the coffee of St. Domingo or Cuba, vet both pay the same duty. The tax has no respect to the value, but is arbitrarily levied on all articles of a specific kind alike, how- ever various and unequal may be their value. 1 say that, in theory, and according to every sound principle of justice, the ad valorem mode of taxation is entitled to the preference. There is, I admit, one objection to it: as the value of an article is a matter subject to opin- ion, and as opinions will ever vary, either honestly or fraudulently, there is some difficulty in preventing frauds. But with the home valuation proposed by my friend from Rhode Island, (MNr. Simmons,) the ad valorem system can be adopted with all practicable safety, and will be liable to those chances only of fraud which are inevitable un- der any and every system. Again: What has been the fact from the origin of the government until now The articles from which the areatest amount of revenue has been drawn, such as woolens, linens, silks, cottons, worsteds, and a few others have all been taxed on the ad valorem princil)le, and there has been no difficulty in the operation. I believe, upon the whole, that it is the best mode. I believe that if we adopt a fixed rate ad valorem, wherever it can be done, the revenue will be sub- jected to fewer frauds than the injustice and frauds incident to speci- fic duties. One of the most prolific sources of the violation of our revenue laws has been, as every body knows, the effort to get in goods of a finer quality and higher value, admitted under the lower rate of duty required for those of a lower value. The honorable gen- 537

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