Taxes Post Revolutionary Era

Drafting Articles Of Confederation Stamp

Regarding taxes post revolutionary era, because Americans were fearful of a Federal Government that could be far too strong, in 1781 the Articles of Confederation were implemented, which gave a lot of political power to the States.

At this time, there was still no national tax system and the Federal Government had hardly any responsibilities, and it counted on the States to donate revenue to the national treasury.

In fact, the Articles of Confederation provided the freedom and autonomy to each of the States so they could impose their own taxes - on their own terms.

Constitution Written Over U.S. Flag


In 1789, the Federal Government was provided the power to raise revenues through taxes with the adoption of the Constitution when our founding fathers acknowledged a solid government could not function effectively if it counted on other governments for all of its capital.


The very first line of Article 1, Section 8 of The U.S. Constitution said “The Congress shall have the power, to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”



Ever wary of the potential power of the central government to Replica Currency - Early American History obscure that of the states, responsibility of Federal tax collection was left to each State government.

Thereafter, debts incurred from the Revolutionary War were paid by revenue collected from excise taxes levied by the new Congress on things like sugar, tobacco, alcohol, carriages, auctioned property and certain legal documents.


However, even way back then, social ideas could influence things that were taxed. Case in point; one of the reasons Pennsylvania imposed an excise tax on liquor sales was, to a certain extent, "to restrain persons in low circumstances from an immoderate use thereof."

Property owners lent their support to such targeted taxes because they hoped it might help maintain lower property tax rates for themselves. This is a good example of agenda-based tax policy decisions creating political tensions - even back then.

While a particular social policy was at times the driver of different tax policies early on, the intent of any one policy did not expand to collect taxes for the purpose of balancing incomes and wealth – or to redistribute income and/or wealth.


Regarding the “General Welfare” clause, Thomas Jefferson once wrote: Thomas Jefferson To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his father has acquired too much, in order to spare to others who (or whose fathers) have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, "to guarantee to everyone a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."

Now that there was a new nation, and proper representation of Americans in a democratic government, many citizens were still against – and even resisted – taxes that they thought were not fair or unacceptable.


Please visit our friends at Revolutionary-War-And-Beyond.com at the following page Facts on Thomas Jefferson for more detailed information about Thomas Jefferson. At their revolutionary website, you can also learn a great deal about The Declaration of Independance, The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, our Founding Fathers and much more!

The Father Of Our Country - George Washington

In 1794 in southwestern Pennsylvania, a cluster of farmers physically rallied against the whiskey tax, resulting in Federal troops being sent by President Washington to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion.

This action established a significant precedent that the Federal Government would not waver from enforcing tax revenue collection laws.

However, the Whiskey Rebellion also established that the previous struggle against high or seemingly unfair taxes, which resulted in the Declaration of Independence – did not go away just because a new, representative government was formed.

Map Of America - Printed In England In 1795

The first direct taxes on landowners and owners of houses, estates and slaves were imposed by the Federal Government in the late 1790s, during the conflict with France.

Because these taxes were recurring taxes paid directly to the government by the taxpayer based on the item value, which was the basis for the tax – they were called direct taxes.


The Jefferson Memorial In Washington DC



Federal tax policy in the years that followed evolved based on the critical role of the issue surrounding direct taxes versus indirect taxes.


In 1802, with the election of Thomas Jefferson as President, direct taxes were done away with - and other than excise taxes, there weren’t any internal revenue taxes.









War of 1812 - Reenactment

To pay for the War of 1812, Congress raised some customs duties,implemented new excise taxes, and also raised revenues by issuing Treasury Notes.

These taxes were repealed in 1817 and for 44 years, there was no internal revenue collected by the Federal Government; most of its' income came from public land sales and high customs duties.





Back To "Taxes During Colonial Times"
When looking at taxes during Colonial Times, it was unusual for the single taxpayer to have much contact with the Federal taxing establishment because the lions share of tax revenues resulted from customs duties, tariffs and excise taxes...


NEXT -- "Taxes During The Civil War"
At the time of the Civil War, the Revenue Act of 1861 was passed by the Congress. This resulted in previous excise taxes being reinstated and also forced a personal income tax. Incomes over $800.00 per year were to be taxed at 3 percent...


Source: U.S. Department of Treasury



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