The Largest Tax Protests in American History

Roni Deutch
June 16, 2009 — 1,580 views  
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There have been many instances throughout United States history where citizens and taxpayers have stood up to revolt against taxes they felt were being unfairly imposed. Recently, we saw the libertarian and conservative inspired "Tea Party" rallies on tax day, but this was neither the first nor the last time we will hear about tax protests. As long as governments are levying taxes, there are always going to be people who do not want to pay them.

The Stamp Act of 1765 After the British victory in the Seven Years War, the British government felt the American colonies should pay off some of the war's debt with a new tax. They chose to tax a wide selection of printed materials, such as stamps, to repay the debt. Since the English bill of rights - the Magna Carta - granted citizens the right to only be taxed with proper consent, the colonists felt the new tax was unfair and revolted. By 1766, the tax was repealed, but not before the British Parliament was given the power to legislate over the colonists in the future, which would lead to the American Revolution.

The Boston Tea Party One of the most famous protests in history, the Boston Tea Party, has become a symbol of American independence. The historic event took place when hundreds of Boston residents dressed as Native Americans and threw hundreds of pounds of East India Trading Company tea bags in to the sea. There were several different reasons they did this, but the most common of which was the lack of colonial representation in the British government.

The Whiskey Rebellion In 1791, during Washington's presidency, taxes were raised in the U.S. on whiskey to pay off a national debt. The Secretary of Treasury at the time (Alexander Hamilton) said it was both a way to raise revenue and to enforce social policy. However, it upset the American public enough to start a tax rebellion that led to a series of violent protests.

Proposition 13 The people of California approved Proposition 13 in 1978, which resulted in a cap on property tax rates in the state, reducing them by an average of 57%. In addition to lowering property taxes, the initiative also contained language requiring a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses for future increases in all state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income tax rates. It also requires two-thirds vote majority in local elections for local governments wishing to raise special taxes. The act of passing the legislation is claimed to be one of the most successful acts of tax protest in American history, and pre-saged the election of Ronald Reagan to the U.S. presidency in 1980.

The Tea Party Protests of 2009 The recent "Tea Party" protests have been called the biggest protest in the country's history. However, there has yet to be any official confirmation on the exact number of participants. Estimates say that roughly 650,000 decided to protest federal taxation on April 15, 2009. The people involved stated many reasons for their protests, including but not limited to out-of-control federal government spending and federal bailouts.

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