Reconstruction Taxes In The South

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Part of the early second half of Gone With The Wind (which I saw for the first time over the weekend) has to do with carpetbaggers raising property taxes so they could buy up former plantations. I know the movie is far from a history book (the movie didn't even say what prewar taxes were), but it did get me curious about Southern tax policies during Reconstruction. As I recall there was a postwar surge in internal improvements and schools, and of course rebuilding war damage. This presumably required higher taxes to pay for.

Can anyone provide some more information on this subject?
 

Dilba

Corporal
Joined
Jul 30, 2013
Location
Glenmoore, PA
Great question. I haven't a clue, but would also like to know. I look forward to the many informed replies you will surely receive.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Part of the early second half of Gone With The Wind (which I saw for the first time over the weekend) has to do with carpetbaggers raising property taxes so they could buy up former plantations. I know the movie is far from a history book (the movie didn't even say what prewar taxes were), but it did get me curious about Southern tax policies during Reconstruction. As I recall there was a postwar surge in internal improvements and schools, and of course rebuilding war damage. This presumably required higher taxes to pay for.

Can anyone provide some more information on this subject?

Even though 1870 property values in the eleven former Rebel states were less than half the value in 1860, the amount of property taxes paid was four times greater.* That implies an eight-fold increase in the tax rate.

*Merton Coulter The South During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge, LSU Press, 1947), 155-56
 

James_tiberous

Corporal
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
This was the time when Boss Rule was making its way across the country. Massive corruption like during the Grant Administration and Boss Tweed in NY, s a big part of complaining about taxes was the corruption that was rampent everywhere including in the South. White Southerners being taxed by black politicians, some of whom were corrupt? No wonder there was screaming bloody murder over taxes
 
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Location
Elliott Bay
Massive corruption like during the Grant Administration and Boss Tweed in NY, s a big part of complaining about taxes was the corruption that was rampent everywhere including in the South.
At the time, direct taxation by the federal government was unconstitutional. Federal revenues came in the form of customs duties and on spirits. Property taxes were a state and local function. Corruption? I'm shocked, shocked that there was corruption in American politics in the 1860s and 1870s. Shocked.
 
During Presidential Reconstruction (1865-1867) the Southern state governments implemented a heavy, burdensome tax on freedmen to encourage them to work for wages preferably on plantations. Failure to pay the tax would result in vagrancy charges and anyone who paid the unpaid tax was awarded the "vagrant" freedman to labor in lieu of the tax that had been paid. Taxes on properties remained low which protected landowners from rising government costs although planters paid some taxes on properties other than land, but since they were allowed to assess the value of their own buildings, machinery and other non-land type properties they ended up paying far less than was commensurate for their wealth.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
During Presidential Reconstruction (1865-1867) the Southern state governments implemented a heavy, burdensome tax on freedmen to encourage them to work for wages preferably on plantations. Failure to pay the tax would result in vagrancy charges and anyone who paid the unpaid tax was awarded the "vagrant" freedman to labor in lieu of the tax that had been paid. Taxes on properties remained low which protected landowners from rising government costs although planters paid some taxes on properties other than land, but since they were allowed to assess the value of their own buildings, machinery and other non-land type properties they ended up paying far less than was commensurate for their wealth.

Please provide a source.
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Even though 1870 property values in the eleven former Rebel states were less than half the value in 1860, the amount of property taxes paid was four times greater.* That implies an eight-fold increase in the tax rate.

*Merton Coulter The South During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge, LSU Press, 1947), 155-56

Can someone cite a source on this subject that isn't a segregationist?
 
Please provide a source.


"Taxation provided yet another example of the inequitable turn taken by public policy. Before the war, landed property in most Southern states had gone virtually untaxed, while poll taxes and levies on slaves, luxuries, commercial activities, and professions provided the bulk of revenue. As a result, white yeomen paid few taxes, planters paid more, although hardly an amount commensurate with their wealth and income (partly because they generally assessed the value of their own holdings), and urban and commercial interests complained of an excessive tax burden. War and emancipation inevitably increased the demands upon state revenues while the region's poverty made even low tax rates seem a hardship. Under these circumstances, the tax system became a battleground where the competing claims of various classes of Southerners were fought out.59"

Throughout the world, political elites have employed poll or 'head' taxes, which require individuals to obtain cash, to prod self-sufficient peasants to enter the labor market. In Presidential Reconstruction, tax policy was intended, in part, to reinforce the planter's position vis-a-vis labor. Heavy poll taxes were levied on freedmen, encouraging them to work for wages, while those unable to pay were deemed vagrants, who could be hired out to anyone meeting the tax bill. Meanwhile, levies on landed property remained extremely low (one tenth of 1 percent in Mississippi, for example), shielding planters and yeomen from the burden of rising government expenditures. As a result, 'the man with his two thousand acres paid less tax than any one of the scores of hands he may have had in his employ who owned not a dollar's worth of property.' He also paid less than town craftsmen, whose earnings were taxed at rates far higher than real estate. In Mississippi's Warren County, the three largest landowners each paid less than $200 in taxes, while the owner of a livery stable paid nearly $700, a butcher over $200, and a shoemaker $75. In addition, localities added poll taxes of their own, sometimes, in black belt counties, raising the bulk of their revenue in this manner. Mobile levied a special tax of $5 on every adult male 'and if the tax is not paid,' reported the city's black newspaper, 'the chain-gang is the punishment.' With state, county, and local levies, blacks might find themselves paying $15 in poll taxes alone.60"
Reconstruction - America's Unfinished Revolution - 1863-1877, Eric Foner, pp.205-206
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
"Taxation provided yet another example of the inequitable turn taken by public policy. Before the war, landed property in most Southern states had gone virtually untaxed, while poll taxes and levies on slaves, luxuries, commercial activities, and professions provided the bulk of revenue. As a result, white yeomen paid few taxes, planters paid more, although hardly an amount commensurate with their wealth and income (partly because they generally assessed the value of their own holdings), and urban and commercial interests complained of an excessive tax burden. War and emancipation inevitably increased the demands upon state revenues while the region's poverty made even low tax rates seem a hardship. Under these circumstances, the tax system became a battleground where the competing claims of various classes of Southerners were fought out.59"

Throughout the world, political elites have employed poll or 'head' taxes, which require individuals to obtain cash, to prod self-sufficient peasants to enter the labor market. In Presidential Reconstruction, tax policy was intended, in part, to reinforce the planter's position vis-a-vis labor. Heavy poll taxes were levied on freedmen, encouraging them to work for wages, while those unable to pay were deemed vagrants, who could be hired out to anyone meeting the tax bill. Meanwhile, levies on landed property remained extremely low (one tenth of 1 percent in Mississippi, for example), shielding planters and yeomen from the burden of rising government expenditures. As a result, 'the man with his two thousand acres paid less tax than any one of the scores of hands he may have had in his employ who owned not a dollar's worth of property.' He also paid less than town craftsmen, whose earnings were taxed at rates far higher than real estate. In Mississippi's Warren County, the three largest landowners each paid less than $200 in taxes, while the owner of a livery stable paid nearly $700, a butcher over $200, and a shoemaker $75. In addition, localities added poll taxes of their own, sometimes, in black belt counties, raising the bulk of their revenue in this manner. Mobile levied a special tax of $5 on every adult male 'and if the tax is not paid,' reported the city's black newspaper, 'the chain-gang is the punishment.' With state, county, and local levies, blacks might find themselves paying $15 in poll taxes alone.60"
Reconstruction - America's Unfinished Revolution - 1863-1877, Eric Foner, pp.205-206

Despite Foner's remark above that "Heavy poll taxes were levied on Freedmen..." it is not clear that the poll taxes were not also levied on whites. Can you clarify that point beyond what Foner says above?

On pages 208-209 Foner adds, "...the most flagrant of the Black Codes never went into effect."
 
Despite Foner's remark above that "Heavy poll taxes were levied on Freedmen..." it is not clear that the poll taxes were not also levied on whites. Can you clarify that point beyond what Foner says above?

On pages 208-209 Foner adds, "...the most flagrant of the Black Codes never went into effect."

My understanding is that most southern states that had vagrancy laws that specifically mentioned the Black race had those laws repealed by 1866 by the district military commanders or republican governors. I've also read, but cannot provide a source at this moment, that Blacks convicted under the re-enacted vagrancy laws were still awarded to labor for the person who paid their tax lien while Whites who were convicted were exempt from the same provisions if they took an oath of poverty.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
My understanding is that most southern states that had vagrancy laws that specifically mentioned the Black race had those laws repealed by 1866 by the district military commanders or republican governors. I've also read, but cannot provide a source at this moment, that Blacks convicted under the re-enacted vagrancy laws were still awarded to labor for the person who paid their tax lien while Whites who were convicted were exempt from the same provisions if they took an oath of poverty.

"Reacting to public opinion, the army and the Freedman's Bureau suspended the Black Codes before they went into effect."*

* Francis B. Simkins and Charles P. Roland A History of the South 4th Ed. (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1972), 262
 
"Reacting to public opinion, the army and the Freedman's Bureau suspended the Black Codes before they went into effect."*

* Francis B. Simkins and Charles P. Roland A History of the South 4th Ed. (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1972), 262

That's the first time I've heard that. So, this author is claiming the Black Codes were much ado about nothing because they never went into effect?
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
That's the first time I've heard that. So, this author is claiming the Black Codes were much ado about nothing because they never went into effect?

“Mississippi’s [Black Code] was the first and most elaborate. The codes of other states varied widely in scope and character. Virginia’s and North Carolina’s were mild; Georgia and Alabama had few laws regarding Negroes; Arkansas and Tennessee at first passed none whatsoever.”*

"Whatever anyone might have thought about these [Black] codes, the question was in fact academic, for they were never actually put into effect. The Freedmen's Bureau and the United States Army prevented their enforcement..."**

“Eventually military officers suspended much of the Mississippi code and threw out the entire South Carolina code.”***

For clarification, the Mississippi and South Carolina codes were the most restrictive.


*John Ezell The South Since 1865: 2nd Ed. (New York: McMillan Publishing, 1975), 47-8

**Merton Coulter The South During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge, LSU Press, 1947), 40

*** Kenneth Stampp The Era of Reconstruction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), 81
 
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5fish

Captain
Joined
Aug 26, 2007
Location
Central Florida
Can anyone provide some more information on this subject?

Here some tax figures from Alabama after the civil war... taxes were way up on much-reduced property values and the increase in state government cost went up greatly...

To that end, local governments greatly increased property tax rates, resulting in greater revenues despite lower post-war property values. Alabama in 1860, for instance, collected just $530,000 on property with an assessed value of $432 million, compared with more than $1.4 million on property assessed at $156 million by 1870. The average cost of state and local government from 1858 to 1860 was $800,000; by 1868, it exceeded $4 million.

Alabama school system went broke 2874... because of "misrule" ?

By 1874, the Alabama school system was bankrupt, with funds having been lost to mismanagement and fraud. Teachers had to be paid in state notes of dubious value.


Here is the link to Alabama school system ...

http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-2600
 

RobertP

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Location
Dallas
Can someone cite a source on this subject that isn't a segregationist?
I realize this is an older thread but wanted to comment here. Wikipedia does indeed say Merton Coulter was a segregationist. Here’s what the LSU Press, the publisher of his book The South During Reconstruction, says:

E. Merton Coulter
E. Merton Coulter is emeritus professor of history at the University of Georgia. He received the A.B. degree at the University of north Carolina (1913), the M.A. degree (1915) at the Ph.D. degree (1917) at the University of Wisconsin. His teaching career began at Marietta College (Ohio), but in 1919 he moved to the University of Georgia, where he has remained save for several intermissions when he taught in other institutions. Professor Coulter has served as president of the Agricultural History Society and of the Southern Historical Association. He is the author of The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky; College Life in the Old South; William G. Brownlow, Fighting Parson of the Southern Highlands; A Short History of Georgia; Thomas Spalding of Sapelo; John Jacobus Flournoy, Champion of the Common Man in the Antebellum South; Georgia's Disputed Ruins (editor); The Other Half of Old New Orleans (editor); and numerous articles in historical journals.
_______________________________________________________________

If we’re going to dismiss what someone said in 1947 because he might have been a segregationist then we’re going to have to dismiss what anyone in the WW2 chain of command from the CINC to the lowest officer commanding white troops had to say at the time about the conduct of the war because after all it was fought with a segregated military firmly in place. Just sayin’
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
If we’re going to dismiss what someone said in 1947 because he might have been a segregationist then we’re going to have to dismiss what anyone in the WW2 chain of command from the CINC to the lowest officer commanding white troops had to say at the time about the conduct of the war because after all it was fought with a segregated military firmly in place.

There's a big difference between living in a segregated society vs. endorsing segregation and white supremacy.

If someone is in favor of segregation and white supremacy then they are likely to be heavily invested in Lost Cause ideology thus strongly inherently biased against Reconstruction.
 

Red Baron

Private
Joined
Nov 12, 2019
There's a big difference between living in a segregated society vs. endorsing segregation and white supremacy.

If someone is in favor of segregation and white supremacy then they are likely to be heavily invested in Lost Cause ideology thus strongly inherently biased against Reconstruction.
Anyone who can defend reconstruction as anyone more than a joke, obviously has not been in the South. Where are the factories and industry?
 
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