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lands of the island, therefore, are locked up from exchange, and from all the advantages which the free circulation of landed property is calculated to produce. Mr Leckie informs us, that the miseries attendant upon this universal entail had lately produced some futile attempts to relax the restrictions upon alienation, attempts, however, which experience had proved to be inade‘quate ; that the universal want of money among the owners of land, who are debarred from selling one part of it to improve the rest, perpetuates the desolation of the country. As the land of the nobles is equally debarred from division as from sale, the younger branches of the noble families, such of them at least as do not find a maintenance in the church, are in the most humiliating and wretched situation.
It is unnecessary to mention the king as part of the government of Sicily. The Gothic tribes who overran the Roman empire, everywhere carried with them their original notions of liberty; and the institution of a parliament universally attests the care they had for its preservation. The parliament of Sicily, however, is very circumscribed in its functions. It has no legislative
power; it has no right to discuss the measures of government; and no means to influence its determinations, except by preferring sometimes a request in conjunction with a grant. The king, however, complies only as he judges proper. The sole business of the parliament is to grant taxes. These are always voted for three years. It is therefore periodically summoned, at the expiration of that time, to renew the old supplies, or to grant additional ones, if the exigencies of the government render them necessary; and as soon as this business is finished, the para liament is dismissed.
The Sicilian parliament is constituted in the following manner. It consists of three houses : the house of the nobles, or the baronial house; the ecclesiastical house; and the demesnial house, or that composed of deputies from the towns situated within the royal demesnes. The baronial house is composed of the great barons, or the heirs and possessors of those lands which Roger the Norman originally distributed among his chiefs. Every one of those barons on whose lands there is one town, has a seat in the house; and for every town on his own lands he has a vote. The ecclesiastical house consists of archbishops, bishops, and the heads of such monastic houses as possess lands. As these are, in general, the younger sons of noble families, the views of the ecclesiastical are never at variance with those of the baronial house. The deputies who compose the demesnial house, are not chosen by the people. They are merely nominated by the corporations of the royal towns which send them; and the members of those corporations, instead of being elected by the people whom they govern, are annually appointed by the Tribunal of Patrimony at Palermo-that board erected by the king for the superintendance of his demesnial patrimony. The deputies whom the corporations choose, are generally their attornies at Palermo ; and as one man may be the attorney of several corporations, it very often happens that one man is the representative of two or three towns at once. These men are alınost always dependent upon the nobles ; and the vote of the demesnial house thus follows that of the baronial as a thing of course.
By this constitution it appears, that the parliament of Sicily is, properly speaking, composed solely of the nobles ; and the power of levying the taxes is placed entirely in their hands. The consequence is remarkable and instructive. They have uniformly exempted themselves from the burdens of the state, and imposed them on the rest of the community. The supplies are distinguished into certain portions, called donatives, each consisting of a defined sum, but not all equal in amount.
Of these there are eighteen ; thirteen of which are denominated ordinary, and five extraordinary. From the thirteen ordinary donatives the barons have voted themselves entirely exempt. The ecclesiastics, though not totally spared, approach to that happy point very nearly. They are entirely exempt, as well as the barons, from five of the ordinary donatives; and, though they contribute to the remaining eight, it is only at the rate of a sixth, or rather less. The whole, therefore, of the ordinary donatives, with the trilling exception of about an eighteenth part, is laid upon the lower and middling classes of the people. Even with regard to the extraordinary donatives, the barons have preserved themselves almost equally free. They pay a small rate to four of them, which amounts to about a sixteenth only of the whole ; and in this they include the quota of those who bear titles without possessing fiefs ; so that their real share is considerably less. Of the extraordinary donatives, the parliamentary prelates contribute only to three, or nearly one nineteenth part of the whole. About one tenth, therefore, of the extraordinary donatives are borne by the nobles and the church; and the whole of these also, with the exception of this small proportion, is thrown upon the people. The nobles and the church possess two thirds of the lands of the kingdom ; yet they bear between them only one eighteenth part of the ordinary donatives, and one tenth of the extraordinary. The people who have no landed property, the farmers, tradesmen and labourers, are loaded with the burden, while these contribute only their pittance. The mode in which these donatives are raised, is the next cir.' cumstance which requires consideration. The sum to be levied, after deducting the small contributions of the nobles and the church, is distributed among the different corporations of the kingdom. The great cities of Palermo and Messina are assessed, the one at one tenth, the other at two thirds of a tenth of the whole. The other corporations are assessed in the following manner. For ten of the donatives, an equal division is made between the towns on the demeśnial, and those on the baronial lands, without any regard to the number or riches of the inhabitants. For the remainder, each order of corporations is assessed by a distinct rule, one according to the population, the other according to a valuation of property. A distribution entirely arbitrary is made with regard to the extraordinary donatives.
The particular sum which every corporation has to pay being thus fixed, an order is issued upon it for this purpose ; and it may raise the sum demanded, on the people within its diction, in any form which it deems most expedient, only subject to the approbation of the Tribunal of Patrimony. It follows, that the revenue-laws are different and discordant in every two districts of the kingdom, and produce confusion and trouble without end. The general plan, however, upon which the business is conducted, is remarkable. The great tax is on bread, or flour. It is levied by the royal towns on the lands within their district, in the following manner. An account is taken of what
proportion is under tillage, and what is in pasture. From this an estimate is made of the number of people employed; and from the number of people, an estimate is made of the bread which they an jually consume.. According to the last estimate, an assessment is levied upon the renter. In some places, the tax on bread is farmed out. The farmers of it go from house to house, says Mr Leckie, to examine the bread which the unfortunate husbandman makes ; and he who should sell a loaf to an hungry traveller, would subject himself to fine and imprisonment.' In regard to the towns, the tax is levied upon the flour. It pays at the gate of the town, as it returns from the mill. This is the principal source of revenue in Sicily. After the tax on the first of the necessaries of life, follow those on articles of secondary necessity. The imposts on cheese manufactured, and on the purchase and sale of cattle, are among the principal taxes of the island.
Besides the eighteen donatives, an additional contribution has been raised for some years past, which has obtained the name of millioni. It is distributed in the 'usual manner among the corporations. Of this, however, the barons, pay a certain small propcrtion, wlich is about four hundred times less, by Mr Leckie's account, than the proportion according to which the small farms are assessed. But, what is more remarkable than all, the baron pays not even this small proportion. He assumes the privilege of taxing his vassals to raise the money ; and taxes them in such a manner, that he levies five or six times the amount, and puts the surplus in his pocket. After all, these lords,' says Mr Leckie,
are now five-and-twenty years in arrear to the crown. Such is an outline of the system of internal taxation in the island of Sicily.
The taxes on exports and imports, which correspond to the duties of tonnage and poundage, so famous in our own history, are not subject to parliament. They are reckoned part of the hereditary and independent revenue of the crown, which the king may increase or diminish as he pleases. This, with the other branches of the king's revenue, is committed entirely to the Tribunal of Patrimony, who are thus constituted the absolute masters of trade. They make a most extraordinary use of their trust. They establish no general rules ; they issue a special order, or permission, for every particular transaction. No article of the produce of the country, as corn, oil, cattle, &c. can be exported, even on paying the duties, without an express permission ; and to procure this,' says Mr Leckie, the trader must bribe through thick and thin. Sometimes,' he adds, the right of exportation is allowed for a short time, and then suddenly stopped, and thus causes the ruin of those who had provided a quantity to ship off.' The permission to export hemp is annually given as a privilege to an individual, who is chosen solely for the weight of his bribe ; and any merchant who may have occasion to deal in it, must purchase leave to export it from the monopolizer of the Tribunal of Patrimony. The city of Palermo is supplied with wine and oil by a set of contractors, to whom the monopoly is secured. These contractors, by bribes to the Tribunal, annually obtain a prohibition of all exportation of those articles, till they are supplied with the quantity which they require ; that is to say, till they have compelled the owners to sell to them at the price which suits their own cupidity. It is remarkable, that the duties on the importation of such commodities even as are the produce of the Sicilian soil, bear a very small proportion to the duties on the exportation of Sicilian produce. Even the reexportation of foreign commodities is treated with a similar lenity. It is the policy, therefore, of the Tribunal of Patrimony to encourage the agriculture of other countries, at the expense of the agriculture of their own. The raw produce of the soil,' says Mr Leckie, which is the only source of riches to Sicily, finds so many obstacles to exportation, from the difficulties which VOL. XIII. NO. 25.
are ever thrown in the way of the merchant, that it seems as if the Tribunal of Patrimony took all the pains possible to keep the balance of trade always in favour of foreign nations.' This tribunal, which governs the commerce of Sicily in so singular a manner, is composed of six members ;--the President, the Conservadore Generale, who is the King's advocate, and four judges. They are all lawyers, ' whose whole lives,' says our author,
have been spent in scenes of the most iniquitous litigation, and who possess no kind of information on commerce; so that all commercial regulations, which, with us, are fixed by act of Parliament, being here left to their will and caprice, are formed by ignorance and venality.'
If such is the mode in which the external trade of Sicily is managed, that in which the domestic trade is managed is still more ruinous and irrational. We have already explained in what manner the supply of the capital, with two of its principal articles of consumption, oil and cattle, is provided ; namely, by a monoply in the hands of contractors. But of all the strange regulations which Sicily presents to our observation, none are more extraordinary than those relating to the corn trade. The Tribunal of Patrimony issues, annually, an order to all the corporations of the kingdom, and to corn deputies, where the jurisdiction of the corporations does not extend, to provide themselves at harvest with a sufficient supply of corn for the whole year. For this purpose, they are invested with an absolute monoply of the crop within their respective jurisdictions, so as to prohibit, on the one hand, any part of the produce of their own district from being carried out of it, or any part of the produce of the neighbouring districts from being brought in. Trade in corn, therefore, is not permitted to exist. The districts in Sicily, where the harvest is plentiful, are not allowed, as in other countries, to relieve those where it is scanty; and as Sicily is extremely uneven in its surface, and various in its climate, there is no country where inequalities in the crops prevail to a greater extent, and where the want of that uniform supply, produced by freedom of trade, creates more extensive mischief. The corporations proceed in the most arbitrary, and often in the most capricious manner. They take an account, at harvest, of the producc, each of its own district, obliging every farmer, renter, or landholder, to give in a declaration of the quantity of corn his lands have produced. After this is done, they fix, by an arbitrary mandate, the price of corn; and the grower is compelled to deliver, on demand, to the corporation, one third of his whole produce, at the price which they themselves have thought proper to name.
This is the mode in which all the corporations, with a very few exceptions, Mr Leckie informs us, supply themselves with