Adams begins this session with facts about taxation being the basis of the Civil War, not slavery. If the British had not taxed the colonies, the colonies would have remained with Britain and slavery would have been ended when Britain ended it.
The thousand year history of the Romans covered everything about taxes. They had a citizens’ war-tax. Rhodes had only a 2% tax, but disappeared when the Romans set up a tax haven nearby. In the Roman Empire Caesar Augustus declared that all would be taxed. He became a successful ruler, bringing peace to Romans. His successors were not that decent. Diocletian declared that no one could move or change work. He made a prison of the Empire. In Russia, you could pay taxes, become a galley slave, or become a serf to a noble. The wisdom of the Chinese was a ten percent tax – called the mandate of heaven. Islam said death or taxes to the infidel. Christianity was the loser to this Muslim offer of tax immunity. No religion has spread so far so quickly.
Medieval taxpayers had God on their side. Excessive tax collections were sins. Magna Carta was about taxes. It protected trade from internal tolls and prohibited excessive tolls at seaports. The concept of the separation of powers came out of Britain. The King could spend but not tax. Congress could tax but not spend.
The Russian Princess Olga “was wiser than all men.” She divided the country into tax districts. Later, Mongols under Genghis Khan shattered the Russian culture with taxation. Ivan the Terrible from Moscow first collected taxes for the Khan, but then declared he had no tax obligations to the Khan. Ivan gained control of Russia.
Queen Elizabeth I was called “Good Queen Bess.” She said she “would rather the money [taxes] was in the pockets of my people than in my treasury.”
Lecture 2 of 10 from Charles Adams' The Rosetta Stone to the US Code: A New History of Taxation.