1151 Series IV Volume III- Serial 129 - Correspondence, Orders, Reports and Returns of the Confederate Authorities from January 1, 1864, to the End
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conduct of the war," the Congress does not occur in that opinion. The writ has not been suspended since August last. It is not perceived that the military reverses of the country since that period were occasioned by the absence of the legislation asked for. I regard to impressments, Congress at the present session has passed a bill declaring that the terms "just compensation," as used in the Constitution, entitle the owner whose property is impressed to the market value thereof at the time and place of impressment. This legislation was considered necessary in consequence of judicial decisions of the States and because of the difficulty of procuring supplies on any other terms. Indeed, it was supposed that the Executive had reached the same conclusion, as the Commissary-General, on the 20th of December, 1864, had advertised that he would pay for supplies the price fixed by local appraisement, which is in fact the market price. The President in his annual message of November last did not call the attention of Congress to any difficulties attendant on the execution of the impressment laws. The present message, for the first time during this session, suggests modifications of those laws, and the recommendations of the President will doubtless receive the respectful consideration of Congress. It may well be doubted, however, whether the present specie value, payable in the future, will induce the owner of property to part with it, and whether the passage of such a measure would not result in a general concealment of provisions and consequent starvation of the Army.
It is apprehended by the President that some degree of embarrassment in the management of the finances will be felt in consequence of the inadequate provision made by Congress; and it is intimated that some of the measures recommended by him were so retarded as to lose much of their value, and others, after being matured, were for the same reason abandoned because no longer applicable to our altered condition. The only financial measure abandoned after being matured was the currency bill recommended by the Secretary of the Treasury and indorsed the President in his annual message. It may be remarked that the failure to enact any fiscal measure which has not sufficient vitality to render it valuable and applicable for the short period of four months does not deserve much regret. The currency bill was recommended to Congress, and based on the condition the finances presented by the President in his message and by the Secretary of the Treasury in his report. It was abandoned without regret because, at the subsequent period of the session, it was ascertained that the arrears of public debt constituting cash demands on the Treasury exceeded by nearly $400,000,000 the amount originally reported to Cocretary of the Treasury. The currency bill contemplated the reduction of the currency to $150,000,000 by a conversion of the Treasury notes into tithe certificates, payable after the war, and by annual application of a portion of the taxes, in a nature of a sinking fund. The Treasury notes received for tithe certificates were to be canceled. The military reverses, which impaired the credit of the Government to such an extent as to destroy the salability of any of its bonds, left little hope that Treasury notes would be exchanged for tithe certificates. As soon as the enormous increase in the arrears of debt was discovered as above mentioned, all idea of reducing the currency was abandoned as impracticable. For these reasons the committee of conference having charge of the currency bill agreed to abandon it as a useless pledge of future resources without corresponding present advantage. Indeed, if the bill had been passed the first day of the session it would have expired from inanition on the 9th of January, 1865, the day on which the Secretary of the Treasury reported to Congress the deficit of $400,000,000 and recommended an increase of taxation to meet it.
The tax bill is regarded by the President as liberal, though inadequate. No nation on earth ever conducted a protracted war by resources derived from taxation alone. the message intimates a regret that the recommendation, by the Secretary of the Treasury, of a tax on agricultural incomes equal to the augmented tax on other incomes, payable in Treasury notes, was rejected by Congress. This is evidently a mistake, as it assumes there has been an increase of taxes on other than agricultural incomes. The present income taxes are those laid by the act of April, 1863, as amended and re-enacted on 17th of February, 1864. To require toe agriculturist to pay a tax on the income derived from his farm, in addition to the one-tenth of his gross productions, and the property tax of 9 per cent. ad valorem, would be manifestly unjust and oppressive. After the delivery of this tithe, to tax the income of the agriculturist derived from the property producing the tithe would leave little for mainly subsistence, for the purchase of supplies necessary for carrying on his agricultural operations, and for the payment of the ad valorem tax on his property. Congress, therefore, did not concur in the recommendation of the Secretary of the Treasury, believing it to be highly inexpedient.
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