Why the Constitution? The Problem of Taxes and Slavery

UCBHSSP is pleased to co-sponsor with the National Humanities Center, this virtual scholar talk with the Professor Robin Einhorn of the UC Berkeley Department of History.

Despite popular mischaracterizations today, the Constitution was adopted for the purpose of enabling the federal government to tax. Failure after failure during the Revolutionary War resulted not from a general American hostility to taxpaying, but to the peculiar and disabling problems that slavery introduced into tax policy discussions. Debates that were fundamentally about the distribution of tax burdens easily turned into debates about slavery because so much wealth was held in the form of enslaved African Americans — and there was much more of this “wealth” in the South than in the North.

This webinar will examine the relevant clauses of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, along with extracts from and letters about the key debates in the Continental Congress, Philadelphia convention, and some of the state-level ratification conventions (especially Virginia's). American politics in the Revolutionary Era was not anti-tax. It was hamstrung by a peculiar distribution of wealth — one that was based on what nearly everyone involved understood to be a fundamentally immoral institution. 


Thursday, October 18, 2018 - 4:00pm
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October 18, 2018