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Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Stamp Act

Today is the 245th anniversary of the Stamp Act, apparently. Which reminds me, I've been meaning to comment on how, well, American it is to hate taxes. I'm sure most people "hate taxes" to the extent that folks don't much like money going out, rather than coming in. But Americans have a rich history of really hatin' on taxes, from the colonial era onward. George Washington himself wasn't having the ole' "pay your taxes" spiel by Mother England, and of course the Stamp Act gave rise to a mob. After ratification of the Constitution, Hamilton tried an excise tax on frontiersman, taxing mainly their whiskey, which was used almost as currency at the time. This resulted in armed rebellion, squelched only by the amassing of some twelve thousand soldiers in response. In short, Britain found from the get go, sustained and determined resistance to the paying of taxes. Now, we can debate about whether Americans should rethink this kneejerk resistance to paying Uncle Sam, but it's no argument that it's as American as Apple Pie.

3 comments:

Rebecca said...

Does this mean that we can bring on the tar and feathers? Great for breaking news on CNN.

Erik J. Larson said...

Yes, right. I'm reading an intersting book by historian Paul Johnson (Modern Times, History of the Jews, Intellectuals) called "A History of the American People".

It's a huge tome, but very readable. I'm still in the Colonial Era!

Rebecca said...

Have fun! Paul Johnson is a nice antidote after reading over-populist Zinn--if you dare. I liked this book a lot, but, like most historians, he has a tendency to go over the top with "interpretations." But, I like how he approaches the economic with the social aspects of a certain time period and traces aspects together, as opposed to an event by event basis without a connection (which is how I see most history written). I personally had to choke back a bit with his assessment of Andrew Jackson, but that is my own issue.