Tax history

Important Dates In American Tax History Post-1812 Up to The Civil War

We start today’s journey through tax history the year after the war of 1812 with Great Britain. Congress doubled the tariff schedule to fundraise the war.  But it turns out, trading across oceans is very difficult when your navy is just 18-years-old. Comparatively, the British fleet had the power of being the world’s most powerful seafaring nation.

Photo by Dirk Spijkers on Unsplash

Photo by Dirk Spijkers on Unsplash

It was able to effectively strangle commerce on the eastern seaboard, which made up the entirety of young America’s trade paths with other parts of the world.

1813

Due to the conflict and Congress’ need to raise revenue to continue to fund the war, it levied about $3 million in internal taxes on things like refined sugar, distilled spirits, and carriages. These were designed to be repealed after the war was over. To collect this tax, the federal government offered a 15% tax discount for those states that collected the taxes themselves, which caused many states to take advantage of the arrangement.

1816

With the conflict with the British and French behind them, Congress passed the Tariff Act of 1816, which levied 25% duties on items to encourage local manufacturing.

1819

This was the year of the Panic of 1819, which is the crisis sparked by a drop in world agriculture prices. This caused more protectionist policies to be pushed to keep cheap European agricultural interests from flooding the market.

1820

The house pushed a bill that would enact a 5 percent tariff on cotton, wool, clothing, iron, and hemp. The law was never enacted, but it set the stage for similar laws to be passed. The North was split on its opinions of the tariff, but the South was firmly against it. It was losing its voting power in Congress regionally as the population dropped slightly there and rose slightly above the Mason-Dixon line.

1824

Henry Clay served as speaker of the House this year and appointed John Tod, a die-hard protectionist, to head the Committee on Manufactures. He implemented a 35% tariff on imported iron, wool, cotton, and hemp.  This caused American-produced goods to finally be cheaper than the British goods, which in turn stirred up support in states that had been against protectionist measures in the past.

1828

This year, the tariff on imported goods expanded to cover hemp, wool, fur, flax, liquor, and imported textiles. It was also raised to 50% of the value of the goods. This was good for the north and Ohio valley, but bad for the South. They didn’t get the benefits of manufacturing these products in their region. The reduction of cheap British goods isn’t a positive either, as the South relied on the British to buy their cotton in exchange for those cheap goods.  That cotton was often sold back to the states as finished goods, so the tariffs significantly disrupted this system.

1832

In July, Congress reduced tariff rates slightly, but kept the high rates on products like iron and manufactured cloth. South Carolina passed a Nullification Convention, which declared the tariffs unconstitutional and ceased collecting them in the state.

1833

In response, Jackson passed the Compromise Tariff, which reduced tariffs automatically between 1833 and 1842. Simultaneously, he levied the Force Bill, which said that the president could use force and arms to collect tariffs.

1837

By 1837, an extended economic depression had settled in, driven by a financial panic from the reduction of British investment in the states. The depression lasted until 1843. This caused the Whig Party to gain national support for some of its economic development strategies (which included higher tariffs).

1840

In 1840, the Whigs won the presidential seat and implemented revenue tariffs that were to be partially distributed to the states to build roads and canals.

1842

The Compromise Tariff was abandoned due to the states’ need for revenue and many tariffs were returned to their prior rate or slightly lower than the prior rate.

1846

The Walker Tariff was passed, which slashed all duties to the minimum necessary for revenue. In Britain, Parliament repealed the Corn Laws, which levied tariffs on imported bread. Both measures set the stage for freer world trade.

1848

The custom and commerce programs were running so well that the American government was able to pay off the entirety of its debts in the Mexican War before the Civil War even started.

1850

Slavery was becoming a highly political issue and the Northern and Southern states were growing increasingly polarized. The economy was booming but the interests of the Northern and Southern states grew increasingly misaligned.

1857

Tariffs were lowered even further by the Democratic party, which plunged the nation into an economic panic. Government revenues plummeted 30%, which caused Republicans to demand tariffs be increased.

 

Important Dates In Colonial American Tax History

In the spirit of summer, we’re creating a series containing some of the important dates in US tax history.

blog dates in history

Credit: Matt Briney on Unsplash

Why is this something we talk about in July? Back on July 4, 1776, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, a document that stated the American colonies wouldn’t accept British rule — or taxation.

But that’s just one key date in the history of American taxes. Let’s look at critical years and dates that lead up to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

 1733 Molasses Act

This tax was imposed to keep the American colonies buying from the British West Indies and not the lower cost imported options. The imposition of this act was effective the first year then led to corruption.

 1764 Sugar Act

An extension of the Molasses Act, this act increased the tariff per gallon on molasses. It was enforced by prohibiting vessels from shipping directly to the colonies. Ships would have to unload their cargo, pay tariffs, then reload and proceed to the colonies. It also expanded what the Crown could tax.

 1765 Stamp Act

This act said that every official document in the colonies would need a stamp on it. This was done to solely to increase the revenue of the British government, which caused opposition to emerge.

 1766 Declaratory Act

This act repealed the Stamp Act while also declaring that the American colonies are subordinate to the British Government and so the government had the right to tax them. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well.

 1767 Townshend Acts

This act taxed 72 addition imports including paint, tea, and paper. The revenue raised was to fund the salaries of colonial officers and its administration. The protests from this act eventually caused the Boston Massacre.

 March 5, 1770 – Boston Massacre

What started as a protest of angry American colonists harassing a single British soldier escalated to a bloody conflict where several colonists were shot and killed. This was used to fan the flames of anti-British sentiment.

 1773 Tea Act

This act established that only tea from the East India Trading Company could be sold in the American colonies. The new tea was cheaper, but it hurt independent shop owners, shippers, and smugglers, which is why it caused a backlash.

 December 16, 1773 – Boston Tea Party

Protesters dumped more than 300 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of the 1773 tea act.

 1774 Coercive Acts

The British pass a series of policies designed to reestablish authority over the American colonies. One of the provisions was Boston Harbor would remain closed until the colonist paid the East India Trading Company for the losses of the tea party.

 July 4, 1776

The Declaration of Independence is adopted after days of the discussions and 12 of 13 colonies agreeing to succeed. The actual signing of the Declaration didn’t occur until August 2.

 

Taxation is a large portion of why the American colonies felt it necessary to break away from England. Taxation continues to be a large part of America’s history, especially in the years immediately following the Revolution.

 

We’ll cover that time period next.

 

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