Primary Sources On Taxation

Benjamin Franklin to Robert Morris:

Basic Facts

Author: Benjamin Franklin

Recipient: Robert Morris

Date: December 25, 1783

Summary

Benjamin Franklin, like many of the other elite in American society, was concerned that people were unable to pay taxes because that meant that the new nation would not be able to pay off its debt. He was also worried that creditors would not receive the money they lent back, because much of the population at the time was not able pay off their own debts (mortgages). Franklin expressed his concern to Robert Morris about the defiance of the people to pay taxes, and suggested that the existing law be changed in order to conduce people to pay their taxes and debt. He also expounded on the rights of property.

Original Text

The Remissness Remissness (adjective) negligent, careless of our People in Paying Taxes is highly blameable; the Unwillingness to pay them is still more so. I see, in some Resolutions of Town Meetings, a Remonstrance against giving Congress a Power to take, as they call it, the People's Money out of their Pockets, tho' only to pay the Interest and Principal of Debts duly contracted. They seem to mistake the Point. Money, justly due from the People, is their Creditors' Money, and no longer the Money of the People, who, if they withold it, should be compell'd to pay by some Law.

Full Text

Richard Henry Lee to Samuel Adams:

Basic Facts

Author: Richard Henry Lee, a Virginian statesman opposed the Stamp Act and Constitution

Recipient: Samuel Adams, influential Massachusetts politician

Date:March 14, 1785

Summary

Richard Henry Lee, a politician who opposed the Stamp Act, wrote to Samuel Adams, a Massachusetts politician who played a central role in the Boston Tea Party, about the growing concern of the debt and the states' inability to pay the their taxes. Richard Henry Lee expressed his concern on the liberties of people being oppressed by modifying the Articles of Confederation, and also believed that the taxation system under the Articles were just. Lee also feared that America would become as corrupt as Europe by changing the Articles of Confederation.

Original Text

My idea is still that of the Confederation, Fix the sum, apportion it & let every State by its own means, and in its own way faithfully & honestly make its payment. That the now federal mode of apportionment is productive of delay, of great expence, and still liable to frequent change, is certain. And therefore I see no inconvenience in so far altering the Confederation as to make the Rule of Apportionment lie upon the numbers as stated in the recommendation of Congress upon that Subject. But I can never agree that this Body the national government shall dictate the mode of Taxation, or that the collection shall in any manner be subject to Congressional controul. It is said that this will more effectually secure the Revenue—But how so? if a spirit prevails to neglect a duty imposed by the Confederation, may not the same spirit render abortive at any time Acts passed for granting the Impost? Besides that we are depending for the payment of our debts upon uncertainty, when the most certain revenues of the State ought to be appropriated for that purpose. Whilst every good man wishes great punctuality to prevail in the payment of debts, he must at the same time condemn and discourage large importations which impoverish by increasing the balance of trade against us

Full Text

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License