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

By Peter Wallenstein | Go to book overview

4
TAX UPON THE TIME AND LABOR OF OUR CITIZENS

COMMITTED AS Georgians were to the expansion of state power, they refused to predicate it on greatly increased taxes. Like antebellum Americans elsewhere, they attempted to avoid direct taxation whenever possible. Expenditures varied according to the total amount of revenue available -- tax and nontax -- and in more years than not between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, taxes paid for less than half the state's spending. Nonetheless, revenue had to match expenditures. Whether derived from land sales, investments, or the federal government, nontax revenue fluctuated, so taxation carried varying proportions of the burden of public expenditures. Even when the state borrowed, it had to find the money to service its debt.


State Taxes

The Georgia tax system at midcentury rested directly on the tax act of 1804. That act taxed some property not at all, some according to value, and most at various specific rates regardless of precise value. The tax structures of 1804 and the 1840s were basically identical, except that the state uniformly increased all rates by one-fourth in 1842.1

As might be expected in an agricultural society with roughly half of its wealth invested in slaves, the bulk of state tax revenue came from levies on rural property. In 1849, 49 percent of state property taxes came from the levy on slaves (the characteristic form of planter wealth) and another 20 percent came from agricultural land (owned by yeomen as well as planters). Other important sources included town real estate (14 percent), pleasure carriages (6 percent), and merchants' stock-in-trade (6 percent).2 At that time, Georgia did not tax crops, livestock, furniture, or such occupational necessities as wagons and tools. Nor did it tax income or sales, the staples of its revenue system today. And the only tax on corporations was a tax on bank stock.3

-40-

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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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