While doing research for my novel, I was looking into some of the repercussions of the Sugar Act of 1764 and found this gem from Samuel Adams (yes, the one that the beer is named after), which he wrote in May of that same year:
“For if our Trade may be taxed why not our Lands? Why not the Produce of our Lands & every thing we possess or make use of? This we apprehend annihilates our Charter Right to govern & tax ourselves – It strikes our British Privileges, which as we have never forfeited them, we hold in common with our Fellow Subjects who are Natives of Britain: If Taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal Representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the Character of free Subjects to the miserable State of tributary Slaves.”
It’s pretty amazing to think that in the years before the American Revolution, land wasn’t taxed, nor was property. In fact, it wasn’t until 1796 that we began to see all sorts of new taxes. By that time, land was taxed in 14 of the 15 states, and over the course of the next 60 years, property taxes became status quo in all of the state constitutions.
While the idea of a tax on sugar or a tax on tea might be strange to us now, the concept of paying a fee for government documents (Stamp Act) or paying taxes on land or property, would have been anathema to our colonial forebears.