Independence National Historical Park. Reprinted by permission.

Ironically, the shutting of courts—less than peaceably—would take place a decade later in Western Massachusetts by the Shays Rebels, to prevent tax sales after post-Revolutionary taxes were substantially increased. See David Szatmary, (Amherst, Mass., 1980).

The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.

“There is no moral foundation for taking taxes by force. Those who pay taxes have not put themselves outside the reasonable relation and therefore you cannot justly compel payment at their hands. The Dissenters were on the right track when they refused to pay church rates, and every measure to which a man objects is a church rate if you have the courage and the logic to see it. Your present plan, Mr. Bramston, is to tread men's objections as mere soil under your feet. It won't do. No plan by which one man treads another man's freedom of action underfoot will do. Besides, Mr. Bramston, can you not see what lies before you in the near future? This unjustifiable power of taking money from others, even from those unborn, has led to such extravagance, such waste, and such heavy burdens that the people everywhere, improving upon the honest methods of the politicians, are beginning to ask the question, 'Granted that, as you teach us, our wishes are the law of right, why should we pay debts we have never incurred?'”


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A collection of scholarly works about individual liberty and free markets.

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“And taxes, Mr. Markham?” asked Angus.

It should be observed that when taxes were converted into voluntary contributions, the great objection that now applies especially to such services as state education and Poor Laws–the injustice of compelling some to pay for others–would be removed, and when once that was the case, a state education or Poor Law system might be continued in certain places and under certain circumstances for a period, so as to give time to the people of each district to organize their own systems of dealing with these great matters. But apart from the objection to compulsory taxation, we have to perceive that no universal system directed by an external and often remote authority can continue healthy or capable of continuous and sustained improvement. There is therefore a great need that state direction should gradually give place to the voluntary associations of men, working in their own self-chosen groups, and competing against each other to discover the best methods.

“All taxes must be voluntary,” said Markham.

Class D–Abolition of restraints which give a character of infallibility to the state, replace the judgment of the individual as regards his own conduct and duties by the judgment of the state, and by the sterilizing effect of physical and external force prevent the development of self-protecting qualities and the transforming influences of moral force

“Voluntary!” said Angus, drawing the longest of breaths.

The power of legislating for us, and of raising a revenue upon the articles of commerce, would be a sufficient degree of slavery. It is absurd to say that Great Britain could not impose heavy burthens on our commerce, without immediately feeling the effect herself. She may enrich herself by reducing us to the most lamentable state of penury and wretchedness. We are already forbid to purchase the manufactures of any foreign countries. Great Britain and Ireland must furnish us with the necessaries we want. Those things we manufacture among ourselves may be disallowed. We should then be compelled to take the manufactures of Great Britain upon her own conditions. We could not, in that case, do without them. However excessive the duties laid upon them, we should be under an inevitable necessity to purchase them. How would Great Britain feel the effects of those impositions, but to her own advantage? If we might withdraw our custom and apply to other nations, if we might manufacture our own materials, those expedients would serve as a refuge to us, and would indeed be a security against any immoderate exactions. But these resources would be cut off. There would be no alternative left us. We must submit to be drained of all our wealth, for those necessaries which we are not permitted to get elsewhere.