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Part of Hamilton’s Draft of 1787 Act “for Raising Certain Yearly Taxes,” from His One Term in New York’s Legislature
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Two pages of Hamilton’s third draft of a bill for “An Act for Raising Certain Yearly Taxes within This State.” These two pages were retained by the family until acquired by us earlier this year. The balance of Hamilton’s third draft is in the Library of Congress.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON. Autograph Manuscript. c. March 1787. New York. 2 pp.

Inventory #24627       Price: $20,000

Hamilton served a single term in the New York State Assembly, from January 12 to April 21, 1787. The 70-member Assembly met in the Old Royal Exchange in New York City. On February 9, a committee introduced a proposal for a new and more fair system of taxation. “It was agreed on all hands,” the Daily Advertiser summarized Hamilton’s remarks, “that the system heretofore in use was full of defects; both in the view of equality among individuals and of revenue to the state. From the legislature to the assessors, all was conjecture and uncertainty.” He explained that the present system left too much discretion to assessors and supervisors with their individual biases and inclinations. “Equality and certainty are the two great objects to be aimed at in taxation,” Hamilton concluded, and although his system “does not pretend to reach absolute equality,” it would “approach much nearer to equality than the former system” and “leaves nothing to discretion.” He invited the committee, the Assembly, and the Legislature to improve it, but warned, “we could not fall upon a worse system than the present. Any change would be for the better.”[1]

Members of both the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate offered amendments to Hamilton’s bill, and the “Act for raising monies by tax,” that passed on April 11, 1787, was substantially shorter and did not include this text. Rather than imposing duties on specific possessions and implementing detailed reforms, the final act levied a quota on each county in the state to raise a total of £50,000, and made the assessors in each county responsible for determining taxable property and the rates of taxation.[2]

Transcript

21)

Assessor shall leave with each possessor of land his or her bailiff Agent or servant or fix up upon some public place of the dwelling house of such possessor of land his or her bailiff agent or servant, if any there be on the premisses a memorandum in writing of the amount of this tax to the end that each person may be prepared in time to pay the same  And the said tax shall be payable in the several counties at the respective periods hereinbefore limited for the payment of the tax on inhabited dwelling houses, and in the same proportions, and shall be collected to all intents and purposes within the times and in the manner prescribed for the collection of the said tax on inhabited dwelling houses. And the collectors shall have the same powers and shall be chargeable and answerable in the same manner for any default or neglect in respect to the collection of the said tax on lands as in respect to the collection of the said tax on inhabited dwelling houses and shall account for the proceeds thereof to the respective county treasuries within the same times and in the same manner.

            Provided always that with respect to such wood lands as are not in the actual occupation of any person the Assessors of the town ward manor precinct or district wherein such lands lie shall enter and estimate the same according to the best information they can obtain touching the Owner of such lands and the quantities thereof; and the Collectors respectively, if the Owners reside within the town manor precinct or district, after demand of such owners of the amount of the said tax and nonpayment thereof accordingly shall and may have and bring an action of debt in their own names respectively for the recovery thereof with Costs of Just: but inasmuch as mistakes might happen as well in respect to the true Owners of such ?? lands as to the quantity thereof it shall be lawful for the persons upon <bottom of page, continued vertically> whom the land tax shall be charged in respect thereof to discharge himself therefrom in whole or in part as the case may be by his oath to be taken before any Justice of the peace declaring that he is not the owner of such lands or that the quantity whereof he is the owner is less than the quantity supposed specifying the true quantity; whereupon the Collectors respectively shall abstain or desist from prosecuting for the whole amount and shall make such proportional abatements and allowances as the case shall require and shall make a return of the facts to the County treasurer and for his justification shall produce to such County treasurer the affidavits of such persons; and if the Owners of such lands shall

22)

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that [Hamilton’s insertion symbol]/ Page 9

            And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that every collector shall be obliged within twenty days after his election to enter into a bond with one or more sufficient sureties to be approved by the supervisor of the town ward manor precinct or district whereof he is Collector in such sum as the said supervisor shall direct in proportion to the amount of the tax to be collected in such town ward manor precinct or district for the good behaviour of such collector in his office, which bond shall be taken in the name of the County treasurer and be sent or delivered by such supervisor to the said County treasurer. And in case the Collector who has the greatest number of votes shall not find such surety and enter into such bond as aforesaid within the time aforesaid then the candidate or person voted for as collector at the same election if any such there be who has the next greatest number of votes who can or doth find such surety and enter into such bond within twenty days after the said first mentioned twenty days shall be deemed duly elected, that is to say each of the candidates at any election where there are more than one shall be admitted in default of such candidate or candidates who has or have a greater number of votes to give such surety and enter in such bond and shall thereupon be and become duly elected; and in case neither of the said candidates shall within the times aforesaid enter into such bond with such sufficient sureties then the person who hath a plurality of votes shall be the Collector [several lines crossed out]; and shall be allowed in the City and County

Page 23 of the draft in the Library of Congress continues, “of New York Cities of Albany and Hudson six pence in the pound in the Counties of Richmond Kings Queens Suffolk and West Chester Eight pence in the pound and in the Counties of Orange Ulster Columbia Dutchess Albany Montgomery and Washington nine pence in the pound of all the monies by him collected and received.”

Provenance

Descended in the Hamilton family until acquired by us at Sotheby’s, Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts, January 18, 2017.


[1] The Daily Advertiser (New York), February 21, 1787.

[2] “An Act for raising monies by tax,” April 11, 1787, Chap. 77, Laws of the State of New York, Passed at the Sessions of the Legislature Held in the Years 1785, 1786, 1787, and 1788, inclusive, being the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Sessions (Albany, NY: Weed Parsons and Company, 1886), 505-6; Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 4, January 1787 – May 1788 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962), 51–66 (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-04-02-0021-0003).


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