The Ghost of Snapped Shot

Or, welcome to my low-maintenance heck.

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Virginian Taxes, 18th Century edition

The more times change, the more they remain the same. Check out this excerpt from a 1784 letter from Richard Henry Lee, Revolutionary war hero, to James Madison, who was at the time a Delegate in our General Assembly:

The accounts that we daily receive of the powerful emigrations from our State [i.e., Virginia] to Georgia, to North & South Carolina, & from the interior parts to Kentucki, are very alarming. The causes assigned, are two---;the desire of removing from heavy taxes, and the search after land. It certainly becomes our Legislature to consider this point with great attention, and to remove, or lessen the causes that effect the depopulation of the country. Do you not think Sir, that the Taxes might be considerably lessened by funding all our debts, both foreign and domestic---;And then, by imposing such Taxes only as will most punctually pay the interest & sink the principal by very slow degrees and for support of the Civil list? This would satisfy the public creditors, because the certainty of receiving the interest will render the principal vendible on good terms. It seems to me, that by this mode, the tax might be considerably lowerd from its present enormous height. I think that I may venture safely to say, that our Revenue, Certificate, and all other taxes, amount in the aggregate to a heavier taxation than prevails in any part of the world! Upon this circumstance, I find some British writers founding the hope of our depopulation. It surprised me a good deal that our last Assembly did not take up and adopt, for the ease of our fellow Citizens, the Facilities given by Congress in their Act of the 28th of April last. By this Act (which I understand is before the Assembly) one fourth of the federal demand against us, may be discharged with Certificates of interest for money loaned the U.S. or for interest on liquidated debts of the U. S. If these certificates were by law made receivable in the Revenue tax, it would certainly & considerably facilitate the payment of that Tax.


Apparently, as a result of post-war debt in Virginia, we had at the time some of the highest tax rates in the entire world, a fact which the General Assembly was seemingly in no hurry to redress. And, other than the differences in language between then and today, it's pretty clear that there were some pretty acrimonious debates on what level of taxation was even necessary.

On a positive note, it should be said that of the 13 colonies who revolted against Great Britain in our Revolutionary War, Virginia was the only State who paid off her wartime debt in its entirety, after a hefty bit of self-sacrifice.

It just goes to show that there isn't anything going on today that hasn't been dealt with before.

  Ye Olde Dominion

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