From Slave South to New South: Public Policy in Nineteenth-Century Georgia

By Peter Wallenstein | Go to book overview

17
A TAX BASE WITHOUT SLAVES

IN February 1866, a member of the Georgia General Assembly observed of his colleagues' search for public revenue: "Somebody has got to pay something soon for there is not a dollar in the Treasury. I wish you could see the members walking about the streets with their heads down -- I inquired of Judge Thomas what their heads were down for and he said he supposed they were looking for money."

When legislators at that first postwar session returned to work, their pensive walks in the streets of Milledgeville finished, they enacted laws to help a state government "looking for money." They authorized bond issues greater than the state's entire prewar debt. And they passed a tax law that, compared with those of the 1850s, introduced changes far more dramatic than any produced in subsequent sessions.


After War and Emancipation

War and emancipation transformed public revenue in Georgia. They created new conditions that Democrats and Republicans alike had to contend with in shaping public policy. Tax policy showed fundamental changes between the prewar and postwar periods, but only comparatively minor changes from Presidential Restoration to Congressional Reconstruction or after Bourbon Redemption.

For decades Georgia had sought, occasionally with success, to avoid relying on taxes to finance state spending. In the late 1850s, state tax rates in Georgia were low and declining, even as expenditures rose. And in 1860, the state government derived more income from the Western and Atlantic Railroad than from all taxes combined. With its treasury amply supplied each year, the state had no need for temporary loans. It contracted bonded indebtedness only to invest in the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad, which, lawmakers confidently expected, would soon begin to emulate the Western and Atlantic in reducing the necessity for state taxes.

The Civil War changed all that. The prewar expectation of continuing declines in Georgia's state property tax rate assumed three conditions: that state

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From Slave South to New South: Public Policy in Nineteenth-Century Georgia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Maps, Figures, and Tables ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Society And Politics 7
  • 2 - State Power And Tax-Free Finance 23
  • 3 - The Accommodation Of The Public 32
  • 4 - Tax Upon The Time And Labor Of Our Citizens 40
  • 5 - Creating A New Revenue System 49
  • 6 - What Disposition Shall Be Made Of The Money? 61
  • 7 - Great Objects Of The State's Charity 74
  • 8 - Depriving A Whole Race 86
  • 9 - Rich Man's War 99
  • 10 - Rich Man's Fight 110
  • 11 - Confederate Context 121
  • 12 - Power And Policy 131
  • 13 - Freed Men And Citizens 140
  • 14 - All The Children Of The State 152
  • 15 - Higher Education For A New South 160
  • 16 - Railroads, Debt, And Reconstruction 170
  • 17 - A Tax Base Without Slaves 183
  • 18 - Conscripts, Convicts, And Good Roads 196
  • Epilogue: From Eighteenth Century To Twentieth 208
  • Essay On Primary Sources 215
  • Notes 219
  • Bibliography 257
  • Index 273
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