Tag Archives: Taxation
At home, fellow-citizens … the suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expences, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes. these covering our land with officers, & opening our doors to their intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation, which, once entered, is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively every article of property & produce.
Thomas Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders sometimes do LESS, not MORE.
The President reported to the Congress on progress made during his first term. After a paragraph devoted to pursuing open and friendly relations with all like-minded nations, he turned his attention to domestic affairs.
Previous administrations had expanded the role of government and the taxes necessary to support it. Jefferson took the opposite position during his first four years, cutting unnecessary offices, expenses, and taxes . No longer were there “internal taxes,” ones levied by the government on its own citizens. Gone as well were the tax collectors interfering with citizens’ personal lives, or “domiciliary vexation.” If those practices were not curtailed, the government’s appetite would eventually tax “every article of property & produce,” i.e. everything you own and everything you make.
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… those who will be satisfied with a government of energy enough to protect persons & property sacredly, will not, I trust, be disappointed: while no effort will be spared to prevent unnecessary burthens to the labouring man.
To William Bingham, July 29, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Self-limiting leaders free their followers from unnecessary burdens.
Bingham (1751-1804) was a very prosperous Pennsylvania businessman and Federalist poltician. As U.S. Senator, he administered the oath of office when Jefferson assumed the Vice-Presidency in 1797.
The previous post contained correspondence between them. Bingham was leaving America for a time after the death of his wife. Though a political opponent, he wished Jefferson success in his Presidency and hoped for America’s continuing prosperity.
Jefferson thanked Bingham for his kind remarks. Those who believed, as he did, that the only function of the national government was a sacred responsibility to protect its people and their property would not be disappointed in his Presidency. The government had to be strong enough to do that but no more. In limiting his administration to that goal, he pledged a very light burden on the laboring man, whose taxes would be necessary to support anything more.