Friedrich von Raumer.

Italy and the Italians (Volume 2) online

. (page 16 of 22)
Online LibraryFriedrich von RaumerItaly and the Italians (Volume 2) → online text (page 16 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

cannot be the foundation of commercial treaties, but
frankness, regard to mutual interests, and real reci-

If the prince of Cassaro succeeds in carrying out
these views, to the benefit of his country, that great
monster (which has other fathers), namely, the Sici-
lian sulphur monopoly, must die a deserved death.
That preponderance, too, will decrease which (owing
to more rational principles and greater activity) the
Sardinian states now exercise over the Neapolitan,




Naples — Fuiaiices — Tuxes; on Land; on Trades; on Con-
sumption — Revenues and Debts of the State — Revenue
and Expenditure of the city of Naples.

Naples, July 16th.

Having treated of a great many other subjects,
I must at length notice the taxes and the financial
system. One might say — Per tot ambages tendi-
mus in Lathim — but that the financial system is
not a very agreeable Latium. Its mazes, its blun-
ders, its diseases, afford no pleasure to the profes-
sional man, still less to the amateur, who dislikes
nothing so much as ennui. Penetrated with this
conviction, I will throw the greatest part of my
extracts overboard, and get over the ground that is
not to be avoided as rapidly as possible.

It would be very wrong to assume that, till the
year 1806, a wise system of taxation and finance
prevailed in the Neapolitan states, and that revolu-
tionary perverseness has since established itself. On
the contrary, the old system of taxation had the
greatest defects ; but of anticipations, debts, arbi-
trary proceedings of various kinds, a superabun-
dance. With the accession of the French domina-
tion some things became wors than before, others,
on the contrary, much better; almost all, without
exception, were re-modelled But I must, nolens
volens, enter more into detail. The new sources


of income were, land-tax, tax on trades, personal
tax, customs and excise, stamp and register tax,
monopolies, (salt, tobacco, playing cards, gunpow-
der, saltpetre,) post, lottery.

So early as the 8lh of August, 1806, a great
number of petty taxes on land were abolished, and
the levy of a general land-tax was ordered. Those
pre-existing taxes were certainly of very different
origin, had little connexion, were uneqjial in pro-
portion and inconvenient to levy ; but, upon the
whole, they were moderate, and the payers were
accustomed to them. Charles III. had, so far back
as his time, directed the preparation of a general
tax-book, but the opposition of the privileged orders
prevented the execution of the plan. Now, not
only was no regard paid to such opposition, but it
was evidently a main object to saddle the estates
formerly belonging to the church and the nobles
with the new tax, and thereby to increase the reve-
nue. It was easy to say — The clear produce shall
be calculated, (mostly according to the then high
ten years' average,) and a fifth part of it paid as
land-tax. In three winter months, amount, quality,
quantity, were not be calculated, and so errors,
deceptions, injustices, crept in in such number and
to such an extent, that the amendments made at
different periods, though they diminished the de-
fects, yet could not wholly extirpate them. Nay, to
put an end to a still greater evil, the constant uncer-



tainty of property, it was at length decreed that no
further alteration in the land-tax should take place
before the year I860. It produces annually the
sum of 6,150,000 Neapolitan ducats (dollars). The
following additions to it are levied : —
10 grani for the debt of the state,
7 ... for fixed provincial expenses,
2 ... for variable provincial expenses,
2 .. for communal expenses,
I ... for the gendarmerie.

At any rate a very considerable portion of the
Neapolitan taxes falls upon landed property.

The new tax on trades was (with the abolition
of other taxes of that kind) modelled after the
French, subsequently much altered, and in 1815
totally repealed The stamp and registration duties
have on the other hand been retained, after under-
going many alterations.

The productiveness and the defects of the govern-
ment monopolies I need not again discuss. A plan
for substituting a mill-tax instead of the revenue
from tobacco has not been carried into effect. The
monopoly of playing cards is also continued ; games
of hazard, on the contrary, are prohibited upon pain
of being fined from 50 to 500 ducats. The salt-tax
has not always been equally high. An attempt
was made in 1807 to force the purchase of a certain
quantity miscarried. The regulations are still bur-
densome, the punishments severe, and the prohibi-


lion of the private and easy preparation of sea-salt

To the inhabitants of Naples snow, or water
cooled with snow, is nearly as necessary as salt.
The supply of the capital is farmed to certain per-
sons, and it is prescribed what stock shall always be
kept (at 4 grani therotolo) in the 60 to 65 principal
shops. Considerable penalties are imposed for every
hour in which it is not to be had.

It were to be wished that the government had
manifested the same laudable concern about the
lotto as about the sale of snow. Ever since 1628
this evil has existed in various shapes, but since 1800
it has exceedingly increased, though out of the
total receipts (about two millions of ducats) not half
is given back, but levied as the most pernicious of
taxes from the misled multitude and retained. The
capital has addicted itself most to this passion.
Naples pays 12 twentieths of the sum raised by it ;
the district of Naples and Terra di Lavoro, 4 ;
Principato citra, 1 ; and all the other provinces, 3.

As in all other countries, so in Naples there is a
whole series of customs' laws, with many, partly
voluntary, partly compulsory, modifications. Before
1809, the mercantile system, as it is called, prepon-
derated ; but the custom s' tarif exhibited neither
science nor unity. The law of the 24th of February,
1809, had the same defects, and merely united a
great number of small, frequently local, duties into


one tax. Hence arose, in many cases, singular and
unfair rates ; thus a dozen oil-skin hats were charged
1 ducat 31 grani, the hundred weight of raw cow-
hides, 1 ducat 13 grani, &c. A second law, of the
10th of May, 1810, paved the way to the abolition
of all internal tolls and all duties on coast-navigation.
The third law, of the 6th of November, 1810, was
a consequence of the fatal continental system. Laws
of the 20th of January, 1815, and the 20th of
April, 1818, abolished this tyranny, but substituted
no rational system in its stead. Since that time go-
vernment has sought to accomplish a double end by
the customs' tarifs of 1823 and 1824 — complete free-
dom of trade in the interior and on the coasts, as
well as protection of the public revenue and ma-
nufactures, and maritime commerce against fo-
reigners. The export of all produce and manufac-
tures is therefore in general free or very lightly
taxed ; but the import duty is still in part immode-
rately high. Thus, for instance, paper pays from
30 to 40 per cent, of the value, musical instruments
30 per cent., cloth 18 per cent., &c. The duty on
furs amounts to 35, and on handkerchiefs to 67.
The duties are levied either by quantity or weight.
Pains are taking to simplify these things, and to
profit by the light that science and experience have
of late thrown upon the system of the customs, and
especially upon the high monopolizing protecting
duties. Hence the duty on the exportation of oil



is likely to undergo an alteration It produced in
1821—1823, at 42 grani the stajo, l,304,000ducats;
1830—1832, on smaller quantities, 1,939,000.

In Sicily this duty is considerably lower. The
profit upon smuggling is still so high that the dread
of severe punishment is not sufficient to deter from it.
The customs are farmed for a certain sum, and
the surplus receipts, after deducting a certain per-
centage, are divided between the government and
the farmer. The farmer exercises over the king's
receiving officers a superintendence and conUjol,
which are considered safer than those of boards ap-
pointed for the purpose. Such distrust, such an
anomaly, must furnish sufficient proof of the worth-
lessness of these custom-house officers, of which every
traveller daily finds abundant opportunity to con-
vince himself.

The tolls on consumption in the towns (exclu-
sively of Naples) are computed at the following
round sums :
On Butchers' meat 193,000 ducats.

Fish 39,000

Snow 15,000

Wine 351,000

Oil 5,000

Flour 664,000

Cheese, salted meat, &c 20,000

Other transient nonopolies and

voluntary payments 199,000

Total 1,490,000


The mill-tax imposed in 1826 was reduced one
half in 1831, but was still attended with so many
difficulties (on account of the hand-mills, the poor,
and supervision) that the required or expected
amount was chiefly raised in a different way, and
not by the mill-tax.

The government levies all the taxes on consump-
tion in Naples, and pays the city annually a fixed
sum of 260,000 ducats.

For the amount of the total revenue of the state I
find abundance of figures, but nobody to vouch for
their accuracy, as the truth is either purposely con-
cealed, or alterations in the financial system make
such changes as cannot be gathered from the prin-
cipal sums. Upon the whole, the revenue and the
expenditure have kept progressively increasing, and
the latter has but too often exceeded the former.
The revenues are said to have amounted in

1790 to 16,708,000 ducats.

1810 „ 14,488,000 ...

1812 „ 16,464,000 ...

1820 „ 20,354,000 ...

1823 „ 24,061,000 ...

1829 „ 26,777,000 ...

1832 „ 27,442,000 ..
This increase was by no means the result of in-
creasing prosperity alone, but mostly the conse-
quence of augmented taxes and burdens. No sooner
had the government got into a better track than the


revolution of 1820 very much diminished the re-
ceipts and greatly increased the expenditure ; so
that loan upon loan followed, bad speculations and
swindling transactions on 'Change gained ground,
and yet the large yearly deficit was not covered.

It is impossible to express one's self on this sub-
ject with more sincerity and concern than the law of
the 11th of January, 1831. The preamble to it
says, " We were desirous to make ourselves ac-
quainted with the Neapolitan financial system in all
its nakedness. Lamentable as it is, Ave will make
no secret of it. This legislative sincerity is worthy
of us and of the high-minded people whom Provi-
dence has called us to govern. The law of the 28th
of May, 1826, left room to hope for the restoration
of the equilibrium of expenses and receipts ; but
this hope has been disappointed. In consequence
of the events of 1820, there arose a deficit, which
has been yearly increasing by means of the interest.
Under the mysterious name adopted in the modern
financial theories of a floating debt, there existed an
evil which still continued to be a debt, and so much
the more burdensome as the resources for a per-
manent diminution were wanting, and the payment
of the sums falling due could not always be deferred.
This debt amounts to 4,345,000 ducats, and the
deficit is still iiiore than a million ducats."

In regard to the debt of the state, two other un-
pleasant circumstances are to be taken into account.

.N 5


In the first place, two-thirds of the debt are due to
foreigners, and the interest must of course be sent
abroad; in the second, no diminution of the interest
is possible, because in the country the rate of interest
is so much higher that every one would be glad to
accept the profl'ered capital.

So much, however, is certain, that, during the
reign of the present frugal monarch, a great deal
has been done for improving the finances of the
state. This cannot well be shown here in detail. I
shall, therefore, content myself with quoting the
estimates for the years





Total revenue



Council of Ministers"!
(expenditure.) J



Foreign AfJyirs .



Ministry of Justice



Ministry of lleligion .



Finances, royal house-'\

hold, and debt of the V


1 4,236,000

state . . J



War ....


Navy ....






Accustomed as we are to see in modern Europe
states exhausted and ruined by immoderate war-


expenses even in time of peace, still we are struck,
to find that in Naples these run away with upwards
of 85 millions of dollars,* while a paltry sum indeed
is allotted to the ministry of religion. The conjec-
ture that this is abundantly provided for in some
other way finds no confirmation, when we turn to
what has been said concerning the school system,
and to what I have still to remark upon the poor.
The state debt and the royal establishment take
away a great deal (the latter about 2 millions) ;
so that, what with the deductions occasioned by
the improvident wastefulness of the past, and the
sums expended out of fear for the future, not one-
fourth of the present revenue of the state is actually
applied to the purposes of the present. Is it matter
of surprise that the living generation should often
be dissatisfied with such a state of things, though it
has no clear notion either of the causes or of the
remedy for it ?

The revenues and expenses of the city of Naples
amount annually to about 407,000 ducats.

For many successive years the city (like the state
of Naples) has expended more than it has received —
a consequence partly of inevitable necessity and
compulsion, partly also of want of strict regularity
and a wise economy. Murat undertook the debts
of the city, but at the same time appropriated to

* The communes and individuals are burdened with many
other « ar-expenses besides.


himself plots of land and taxes to a far greater
amount. The more recent debts have been in-
curred chiefly for expensive undertakings, buildings,
and the like.

If we compare the relation of several Italian
cities to the taxes on consumption levied on them,
we find it to vary much. Trieste, for instance, re-
ceives the whole of those taxes and gives only a
certain sum out of them to the government;
whereas, the latter, in Turin and Naples, takes the
whole to itself, and allows only a fixed sum to the
cities. Both forms are liable to the weighty objec-
tion that, in case of the increased prosperity or de-
cline of the cities, fixed sums are unsuitable and
appear too large or too small, either for the govern-
ment or for the city. If, on the other hand, a
portion, a quota of the total receipts were to be paid
to the state or to the city, the sums for both parties
would rise or fall according to existing circum-

I have already mentioned that great improve-
ments are making in the cities and provinces by the
government and the communes. The proposal of
such plans rests with the provincial councils, and
three of the members of that council usually su-
perintend the execution. As, however, on such
occasions misunderstandings, quarrels, misapplica-
tion of the money, generally take place, the go-
vernment mostly appoints competent persons as


assistants, and commits the chief supervision to the


Naples — Relief of the Poor — Mendicity — Foundling Hospitals.

Naples, July 25tl).

There are many customs, usages, institutions,
laws, of a people, which at a distance appear foolish,
but which on a close view one learns to comprehend
and to think natural : there are others, on the con-
trary, which appear wrong whether near or afar off,
and may be designated as prejudices and defects.
Sometimes writers, setting themselves in opposition
to the people or the government, or both, have
attacked errors of this kind, and at last come off
more or less victorious ; sometimes they are infected
with the same prejudices, and seek to clothe these
in the specious garb of wisdom, or to find pretexts
of all sorts for their justification. A subject treated
in this way, sometimes skilfully, at others unskil-
fully, is the provision lor the poor.

I will not repeat what I have said in my letters
from England, on the general point of view from
which pauperism may be considered, but shall con-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryFriedrich von RaumerItaly and the Italians (Volume 2) → online text (page 16 of 22)