I would like to know the difference in the amount Americans were taxed before and after the revolution. Did taxes go up or down (or stay the same)? How did an average citizen's taxation amount change after the revolution?

  • 2
    Related, although unfortunately the answers there decided to use the opportunity to talk about the causes of the American Revolution instead of answering the actual question about actual levels of taxation. Hopefully this won't be a repeat of that. – Semaphore Sep 4 '15 at 12:57
  • 3
    @knut That doesn't rule out the level of taxation being a legitimate inquiry. The causes of the American Revolution should properly be a separate question. – Semaphore Sep 4 '15 at 15:51
  • 2
    Thanks Semaphore, the answers to that question are depressingly off topic. I hope anyone who goes there will flag them as "Not an Answer." – user801899 Sep 4 '15 at 16:15
  • 1
    @T.E.D. "There's an implication when you ask a question that its relevant to something. The AR was not (at least explicitly) over the level of taxation. So what's this relevant to?" Not sure what you mean. It seems relevant to the history of the United States. It seems relevant to determining whether the revolution succeeded by metrics of increasing liberty or not. Plus nothing in history.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask seems to indicate that a question must be "relevant to something." – user801899 Sep 4 '15 at 18:49
  • 1
    It looks like the tax rate before the revolution was, in practice, basically zero. The Sugar Act was widely ignored, and the Stamp Act was withdrawn quickly. According to Wikipedia, Jamaica had the highest Stamp Act revenue of all the colonies at £2,000, so even if the 13 colonies had paid, say, ten times that, it would be less than 2 pence per person per year. – user4139 Sep 4 '15 at 21:39

There was no power under the Articles of Confederation to lay any direct tax on the people immediately following the American Revolution. That power was not granted until the Constitution was written about a decade later (depending on if we're measuring the times by the writing or the ratification).

  • 2
    But the OP didn't ask only about direct taxes. In early America (and for the next century or so), tariffs were the tax that supported the Federal government, and during the confederation, the states. Pre 1789 the states had a mishmash of tariffs, including tariffs between states. After 1789, the constitution abolished tariffs among the states and tariffs were imposed uniformly on imports. So, any answer to this question would have to be on a state-by-state basis. Though in 1794 at least, the tariffs averaged about 15%. – AlaskaRon Dec 7 '15 at 2:00
  • @AlaskaRon - While I can't verify your number, I don't doubt it. I think the two are separate issues though. A subsistence farmer could feasibly avoid tariffs entirely by not selling to a wide market and not buying imported goods. For him, there would be no taxes. – Truth Dec 17 '15 at 12:25

It was very different from place to place. In some locations taxes were non-existent. In others, they were heavy and burdensome. Generally speaking, the closer you were to valuable farmland or colonial centers like Philadelphia or Charlestown, the higher the taxes were.

In general, taxes rose dramatically after the war as the various governments of the former colonies struggled to pay debts and operate without help from England. There was even an armed uprising, called the Whiskey Rebellion, in reaction to one of the many multifarious taxes that were imposed after the war. Another violent uprising against taxation and government policies around the same time was Shay's Rebellion in Massachusetts. One of the more comical taxes of the time was the "Batchelor's tax" imposed on young, unmarried men to punish them for not marrying.

  • Could you post some sources for your first paragraph? It's probably also worth linking the Bachelor Tax wikipedia page. – user801899 Dec 7 '15 at 14:14
  • I question the validity of this answer. The OP asks what taxes were paid by "Americans". As a general term, does it not ask what they paid to the general (federal) government? Local taxes aren't at issue (in my estimation). – Truth Dec 17 '15 at 12:28
  • @Truth There were no federal taxes on individuals at that time. I know that is probably difficult for you to get your head around given the current world we live in. Originally Congress had to get money by import tariffs or by excise taxes such as the Whiskey Tax. The Whiskey Tax was a new thing, which was one reason it caused a rebellion. – Tyler Durden Dec 17 '15 at 12:46
  • @Tyler Durden - But that's what I was getting at - OP asked what taxes were paid (presumably) to the general government. An answer about local taxes is invalid. I would say the correct answer is "none". – Truth Dec 30 '15 at 13:41
  • 1
    @Truth The OP did not restrict his question to Federal taxes, he simply said "taxation amounts". – Tyler Durden Dec 30 '15 at 15:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.