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Colonial property tax no different than ours

Going on this year, my wife and I will have paid a property tax on the same home for 46 years.

After securing our mortgage from the bank, we obtained clear deed and title. However, if we failed to pay the property taxes, the county could sell it out from under us, regardless of clear deed and title in hand, so I guess it could be said that we are all just squatters.

The difference between the taxes when we first acquired our property to what they are now is considerable, especially after reassessment. And it is those like us that hunkered down and didn’t shuffle our feet through the years, that got hit the hardest.

We weren’t paying our fair share, and the county wasn’t going to wait for us to die.

There always seemed to be something inherently wrong with the property tax, something that went against custom, against tradition and against everything taught in school about Americans’ independent nature.

Several times I attempted to run down the history of the property tax — when and where it occurred, under what conditions and who was responsible for it.

All end up as dead-end searches.

Finally, I got hold of a college level history book covering the American colonial period up to the Civil War, published in 1952 with minor revisions from its original publishing in 1938. It was a good read, and in it was mentioned “Quit-rents,” but there wasn’t any follow-up as to what exactly quit-rents were.

So I punched in quit-rents on the computer and up comes a link to a paper from Oxford University. This paper was also a very interesting read and confined itself to events through American colonial history concerning quit-rents.

It appears quit-rents were the colonial period version of our property tax and were despised by most colonies or reluctantly tolerated by others.

When one lays the history of quit-rents alongside the textbook version of colonial history, it can be seriously concluded that despite English customs and traditions, the quit-rent system of taxation, (i.e. the property tax) was the hot embers of a fire that, with the added weight of more dry kindling in the form of the Stamp Act and the installing of admiralty courts to circumvent trial by jury, would spontaneously ignite into the American revolution.

The colonists correctly realized that the quit-rent system of taxation was going to be the avenue by which the British would reaffirm their authority and place them back under the feudal conditions, which they had sought to escape.

This still doesn’t answer my curiosity of who, what, where and when some crazies in our government reinstated this tyranny on us, but at least it’s now boxed in between now and then.

Fred Albright

Hollidaysburg

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