PART IV. Of the Expense of supporting the Dignity of the Sovereign.
Over and above the expenses necessary for enabling the sovereign to
perform his several duties, a certain expense is requisite for the
support of his dignity. This expense varies, both with the different
periods of improvement, and with the different forms of government.
In an opulent and improved society, where all the different orders of
people are growing every day more expensive in their houses, in their
furniture, in their tables, in their dress, and in their equipage; it
cannot well be expected that the sovereign should alone hold out against
the fashion. He naturally, therefore, or rather necessarily, becomes
more expensive in all those different articles too. His dignity even
seems to require that he should become so.
As, in point of dignity, a monarch is more raised above his subjects
than the chief magistrate of any republic is ever supposed to be above
his fellow-citizens; so a greater expense is necessary for supporting
that higher dignity. We naturally expect more splendour in the court of
a king, than in the mansion-house of a doge or burgo-master.
The expense of defending the society, and that of supporting the dignity
of the chief magistrate, are both laid out for the general benefit of
the whole society. It is reasonable, therefore, that they should be
defrayed by the general contribution of the whole society; all the
different members contributing, as nearly as possible, in proportion to
their respective abilities.
The expense of the administration of justice, too, may no doubt be
considered as laid out for the benefit of the whole society. There is
no impropriety, therefore, in its being defrayed by the general
contribution of the whole society. The persons, however, who give
occasion to this expense, are those who, by their injustice in one way
or another, make it necessary to seek redress or protection from the
courts of justice. The persons, again, most immediately benefited by
this expense, are those whom the courts of justice either restore
to their rights, or maintain in their rights. The expense of the
administration of justice, therefore, may very properly be defrayed
by the particular contribution of one or other, or both, of those two
different sets of persons, according as different occasions may require,
that is, by the fees of court. It cannot be necessary to have recourse
to the general contribution of the whole society, except for the
conviction of those criminals who have not themselves any estate or fund
sufficient for paying those fees.
Those local or provincial expenses, of which the benefit is local
or provincial (what is laid out, for example, upon the police of
a particular town or district), ought to be defrayed by a local or
provincial revenue, and ought to be no burden upon the general revenue
of the society. It is unjust that the whole society should contribute
towards an expense, of which the benefit is confined to a part of the
The expense of maintaining good roads and communications is, no doubt,
beneficial to the whole society, and may, therefore, without any
injustice, be defrayed by the general contributions of the whole
society. This expense, however, is most immediately and directly
beneficial to those who travel or carry goods from one place to another,
and to those who consume such goods. The turnpike tolls in England,
and the duties called peages in other countries, lay it altogether upon
those two different sets of people, and thereby discharge the general
revenue of the society from a very considerable burden.
The expense of the institutions for education and religious instruction,
is likewise, no doubt, beneficial to the whole society, and may,
therefore, without injustice, be defrayed by the general contribution
of the whole society. This expense, however, might, perhaps, with equal
propriety, and even with some advantage, be defrayed altogether by those
who receive the immediate benefit of such education and instruction, or
by the voluntary contribution of those who think they have occasion for
either the one or the other.
When the institutions, or public works, which are beneficial to the
whole society, either cannot be maintained altogether, or are not
maintained altogether, by the contribution of such particular members
of the society as are most immediately benefited by them; the deficiency
must, in most cases, be made up by the general contribution of the whole
society. The general revenue of the society, over and above defraying
the expense of defending the society, and of supporting the dignity of
the chief magistrate, must make up for the deficiency of many particular
branches of revenue. The sources of this general or public revenue, I
shall endeavour to explain in the following chapter.