Today in History, August 5, 1861:
“This bill is a most unpleasant one. But we perceive no way in which we can avoid it and sustain the government. The rebels, who are now destroying or attempting to destroy this Government, have thrust upon the country many disagreeable things.”
— Thaddeus Stevens, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means speaking on the Revenue Act of 1861, the nation’s first income tax, which was signed into law by President Lincoln on this date.
The law also provided for certain property taxes and levies on imports, which Lincoln feared would be impeded in the Southern ports by seceding states.
The tax was by intent and design temporary, meant to fund the fight to restore the Union in the Civil War. Changes would be made in 1862, and the law would be repealed in 1871.
But the dye had been cast, and the 16th Amendment of 1909/1913 would bring the ever increasing tax back for good.