Preliminary to an examination of the different modes of taxation, it may be proper to say, that there are, in the United States, two general systems; viz., by national and by State authority. The national government imposes taxes in every form, direct and indirect, except upon the poll. The State governments generally rely upon direct taxation; and the poll-tax is one of the forms adopted.

Under State authority, counties, cities, towns, and school-districts impose taxes; so, also, parishes and religious corporations: but the latter, generally, only on voluntary membership.

Taxes may first be divided into two kinds, — direct and indirect. A direct tax is demanded of the person who it is intended shall pay it. Indirect taxes are demanded from one person, in the expectation that he will indemnify himself at the expense of others. Such are customs and excise.

In our further examination of the subject, we shall refer to the national taxation of the United States, and the State taxation of Massachusetts; selecting the latter State only for being the most convenient, and as representing that of the individual States generally with considerable exactness.