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Slave Taxes

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by ForeverFree, Feb 25, 2017.

  1. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    Slavery was vital to the antebellum southern economy. But this article highlights the importance of slavery as a funding source for government:

    Alabama's slave tax forever warped the state's finances, politics

    As slavery twisted politics and society in Alabama and throughout the South, it also warped the state's finances. For decades, the slave tax was a major pillar of the state's tax system. Historians estimate that at least through the mid-1850s, the tax on the wealth created by the men, women, and children suffering exploitation -- and often, physical and sexual assaults -- was the single biggest revenue source for state government.

    Taxes on slaves weren't limited to Alabama. In a 2003 article, Boston University School of Law professor Kevin Outterson wrote that the slave tax brought in anywhere from 30 percent of public revenues to, in South Carolina, 60 percent. The federal government levied slave taxes from 1798 to 1802, and again from 1813 to 1817, both times to pay for war.​

    "From colonial times to the Civil War, American governments derived more revenues from slave taxes than any other source," Outterson wrote.

    Click on the link for the full article. Of course we know that the end of slavery would be ruinous for the antebellum South. But this provides yet another reason why the South was so keen on protecting the institution after the election of the so-called Black Republican in 1860.

    - Alan
     

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  3. RobertP

    RobertP Major

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    I don't know much about Alabama but in Louisiana property taxes are low not because they were locked in by "slave taxes" and postwar efforts to keep them low but rather because of Political populism, think Huey Long, that calls for industry, severance taxes on oil and gas production, oil and gas royalties on State water bottom property, and the wealthy to carry the burden. Academic studies have traced this cradle to grave mindset back to the French and Spanish days when Louisiana was a poor colony completely supported by its European owner. So it's really more complicated than the author of your article states. Believe it or not, not everything that happens today in the South is the result of African slavery, which no doubt disappoints many.

    For a real world example; I still run the family place in Louisiana which has several owners of the still undivided land. It was a cotton plantation put together by a gg grandfather just several years before the CW and has remained in the family since that time. The agricultural land is taxed at a very low rate amounting to about $15/acre in tax per year. The forest and swampland a good deal less than that. I think that's pretty common in most states where preferential treatment is given in taxing farmland,. But as we the owners were all getting older and trying to decide what to do with the place we opted a dozen years ago to subdivide some of it. Taxes on the subdivided 1/2 acre lots run about $500 each per year and this is not a silk stocking area. So the State gets its money as the land is improved.

    As for the statement near the end of your linked article, "Those revenue shortfalls are one of the lasting legacies of slavery: A state government that struggles to pay its bills", I imagine that could also apply to any number of States that have seen few if any slaves during their history. The argument is absurd.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
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  4. uaskme

    uaskme Corporal

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    I don't think the end of Slavery was as ruinous as the War was. The North was heavily involved in Slavery. It wasn't runious to them to end Slavery. Immigrants were a cheaper workforce. Other parts of the world ended Slavery because it wasn't Labor efficient. The history of the 3/5 clause was based on the theory a Slaves production was only 3/5 of what a Free persons was per Alexander Stevens.

    The truth is both Sections were Racist. Neither Section could decide what to do with Blacks. The South kept their Blacks in Slavery and the Northern Section excluded theirs. That is why they didn't want Blacks in the Territories or any more in the North.
     
  5. E_just_E

    E_just_E 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    This is a pretty interesting concept:

    During Reconstruction, the governments did not try to find a way to substitute for those taxes that were taxes to the wealthy, so more taxation came to the lower and low middle classes, which I suspect added to the public resentment of Reconstruction and directly fed white supremacist violence after the War.
     
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  6. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    Both sections were racist but only one had slavery. And that made all the difference in the world... to the enslaved, at least.

    - Alan
     
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  7. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    RE As for the statement near the end of your linked article, "Those revenue shortfalls are one of the lasting legacies of slavery: A state government that struggles to pay its bills", I imagine that could also apply to any number of States that have seen few if any slaves during their history.

    I don't know if that applies to "any number of states." There is Alabama, and there is everybody else. It has perhaps the most unique constitution in the world. The management of state finances can be laborious as a result. Government policy making there has its own unique form of normal, and does not compare with anybody else.

    - Alan
     
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  8. Gladys Hodge Sherrer

    Gladys Hodge Sherrer Corporal

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    What a twisted web, politics...
     
  9. Rebforever

    Rebforever Captain

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    Joel S. Newman is a professor of law at the Wake Forest University School of Law.

    This article describes federal attempts, both successful and unsuccessful, to tax slavery before 1865. It analyzes the pre-1865 discourse on slave taxes as a form of sin taxes, from a contemporary perspective. Professor Newman would like to thank his colleague, Professor Michael Curtis, and Amanda Branam, WFU Law Class of 2004, for their help.

    http://www.taxhistory.org/thp/readings.nsf/ArtWeb/4AF487C90CA14FB985256E000057B5EB?OpenDocument
     
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