The Constitution provides “No Capitation, or other direct Tax, shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken…” Art. 1, Sec. 9, Cl. 4.
The Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified in 1789. At that time the undisputed authority for the English-speaking world on the issues of economics, finance and taxation was Adam Smith, author of Wealth of Nations (1776). This book was authoritatively quoted by the Supreme Court in the Hylton Case (1796), the first tax case to come before the nation’s highest court challenging the taxation clauses of the Constitution.
Smith’s authority is noted again almost 100 years later in the opening argument in the landmark Pollock Case (1895): “Every member of that [Constitutional] Convention was familiar with the handbook of statesmen of that age—Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations…”
In Wealth of Nations, Smith explained, “Capitation taxes, so far as they are levied upon the lower ranks of people, are direct taxes upon the wages of labor….”
It is hard to imagine a tax more “direct” than one collected from wages; we work and are taxed according to the amount we earned while working—the tax is assessed and deducted from our paychecks before we see the money.
The Constitution authorizes Congress to levy a direct tax when apportioned. The 16th Amendment did not change the rules Congress must obey in levying a capitation tax. The tax on Americans’ wages is a direct tax. The core issue becomes the definition of the word “income.” (See Brown’s Agenda page 8)
Tax truth advocates believe the collection of income taxes upon the wages and salaries of working Americans is a perversion of the original intent of the 16th Amendment. Rather than publicly address questions regarding the proper and historic definition of “income,” the government refuses to answer our Petitions for Redress of Grievances. (See page 12)
In the book The Legal Process (1994), Albert M. Sacks and Henry M. Hart explained how, “Humpty Dumpty said that words mean whatever you want them to mean. In the world of nonsense he may have been right. But in the world of sense, he was wrong.”
One would have to conclude that the government’s chief legal scholar on the definition of words would have to be Humpty Dumpty as the government has manufactured a new meaning for the word “income.”
In an 1823 letter to Supreme Court Justice William Johnson, Thomas Jefferson made an observation for us to consider as we strive toward tax truth today:
“On every question of the construction of the Constitution, let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in its debates and, instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”
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