Revenue Revealed: A Race and Class Analysis of Federal Taxation, 1861-1877
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This dissertation examines the American fiscal state during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Due to the exigency of war, the federal government shifted away from a reliance of external taxes, such as tariffs, to a new and untested system of internal taxation. Using congressional tax debates, this dissertation reveals how wartime Republicans used public finance as an arena to engage with societal understandings of race and class. During the first two years of the Civil War, congressional debates focused on whether to treat slaves as people or property within the law. These debates demonstrated how equality before the law became the overriding goal of Republicans in their quest for emancipation. Following the New York City Draft Riots of 1863, class divisions became more readily apparent with the burden of fighting for the war falling on the shoulders of lower-income families while they duty of paying for the war came from the purses of elites. To bolster elites claims of wartime sacrifice that did not include military service, the federal government inserted new class distinctions within tax law that resulted in elites having a much greater tax burden during the war. In the post-war era of emancipation, Congress began to dismantle the Civil War tax system that depended on class distinctions in favor of a tax code stripped of archaic distinctions based on race, such as master and slave, as well as distinctions based on class. Without the arguments of leveling wartime sacrifices based on class, securing racial equality again emerged as the most important goal for Republicans as they retreated from using tax law to mitigate class differences. Ultimately, this dissertation adds to the historiography of the Republican Party— to uncover through federal tax records how the party of emancipation during the Civil War and Reconstruction became the party of big business during the Gilded Age.
New York City Draft Riots