A Tax is a Tax

John Dickinson
John Dickinson


In John Dickinson’s Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, he invites his fellow citizens to beware of smokescreens found in the language of legislation. Cut through it, he advises, and get to the basic principle that lays beneath. If IT violates our rights and the constitution, oppose it.

In Letter 4, published in 1765, he writes: “‘There is,’ say these objectors, ‘a material difference between the Stamp Act and the late act for laying a duty on paper, etc. that justifies the conduct of those who opposed the former, and yet are willing to submit to the latter. The duties imposed by the Stamp Act were internal taxes; but the present are external, and therefore the parliament may have a right to impose them.’”

Smokescreen! But Dickinson sees through it: “A ‘tax’ means an imposition to raise money,” which this act does. “Whatever the name,” whether ‘aids, tallages, talks, taxes, subsidies, duties,’ and whether or not one deems it ‘external or internal,’ a tax is still a tax.

Can you picture the conniving strategists in Parliament: “These yokels overthrew our Stamp Tax; alright, let’s call it a “duty” and when they finally figure out what hit ‘em, it will be too late!”

Dickinson, no yokel, caught on early, and exposed it far and wide. “To this I answer, with a total denial of the power of parliament to lay upon these colonies any “tax” whatever.”

The results were electrifying and profound, and contributed much to the legal, moral, and philosophical justification for separation from England.

The congress in New York’s response was a set of resolves which Dickinson dubbed “the American ‘bill of rights.”

Here are four of them:

That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, that NO TAX be imposed on them, except with their own consent, given personally, or by their representatives.

That the people of the colonies are not, and from their local circumstances, cannot be represented in the house of commons in Great Britain.

That the only representatives of the people of the colonies, are the persons chosen therein by themselves; and that NO TAXES ever have been, or can be constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures.

That all supplies to the crown, being free gifts of the people, it is unreasonable, and inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the British constitution, for the people of Great Britain to grant to his Majesty the property of the colonies.

The congress at New York concluded that were they to permit this law to be enforced upon them it would be “destructive to the liberties of the people.” Indeed it would have been – but the British weren’t through yet were they?

Finally, in Letter 4, Dickinson warns of another destructive approach, that “Don’t worry about it!” advice some give, because they figure on coming up with some “creative workarounds”’ – or as we call it today, loopholes in the tax code, or even exemptions for the friends of the party in power! ‘No worry! No worry! Let the bill become law!’

Dickinson reminds us, THIS WE MUST NOT DO, because by accepting the precedent of an unconstitutional tax or law, the government will, with the legal precedent established by our acquiescence, by and by, go after the workarounds or loopholes as well, feeling FULLY JUSTIFIED TO DO SO, and then from there, go on to a great many other things, until last of all, as John Dickinson warned in Letter 2, “American liberty is finished.”

There is a lesson. We should have, but have not VIGOROUSLY opposed ALL infractions upon the Constitution and the inalienable rights of man, including and especially, the very first and slightest violations. Now, burdened by the weight of precedent, and the inevitability of political opportunists seizing the day, our government justifies the unjust, legalizes the illegal, and moves on from gross violation to gross violation of our inalienable rights, our Constitution, and the great and general principles of the moral Law, with an air of kingly arrogance and invincibility, that signals and end to our liberties.

That said, there’s no time like today, to call a fraud a fraud, an unconstitutional tax a tax, a sin a sin, and reverse the trend.

I believe we still can.

FarrellSteve Farrell is the Founder and Editor In Chief of Self-Educated Man, the Founder and Editor In Chief of The Moral Liberal, one of the original pundits at NewsMax.com (1999-2008), and the author of the inspirational novel, Dark Rose.

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