Abraham Lincoln to William S. Wait, 2 March 18391Vandalia, March 2. 1839Mr William S. WaitSir
Your favour of yesterday was handed me by Mr Dale— In relation to the Revenue law, I think there is something be feared from the argument you suggest, though I hope the danger is not as great as you apprehend— The passage of a Revenue law at this session, is right within itself; and I never despair of sustaining myself before the people upon any measure that will stand a full investigation— I presume I hardly need enter into an argument to prove to you, that our old revenue system, raising, as it did, all the state revenue from non-resident lands, and those lands rapidly decreasing, by passing into the hands of resident owners, whiles the wants, of the Treasury were increasing with the increase of population, could not longer continue to answer the purpose of it's creation—2 That proposition is little less than self-evident— The only question is as to sustaining the change before the people— I believe it can be sustained, because it does not increase the tax upon the "many poor" but upon the "wealthy few" by taxing the land that is worth $50 or $100 per acre, in proportion to its value, insted of, as heretofore, no more than that which was worth no more ^but^ than $5 per acre— This valuable land, as is well known belongs not to the poor, but to the wealthy citizen—
On the other hand, the wealthy can not justly complain, because the change is equitable within itself, and also a sine qua non to a compliance withVerry RespectfullyA. Lincoln
<Page 2>the constitution— If, however, the wealthy should, regardless of the justness of the complaint, as men often do ^are,^ when interest is involved in the question, complain of the change, it is still to be remembered, that they are not sufficiently numerous to carry the elections—
March 2 1839
March 2 1839
2From 1823 to 1838, all of the Illinois property taxes owed by persons residing outside the state (non-resident tax) was allocated for the use of the state government. One-third of the property taxes owed by Illinois residents was also allocated for the state, leaving two-thirds of the resident tax for the use of counties. As land began to pass from the ownership of out-of-state speculators into the ownership of residents, the state’s share of tax revenue had decreased. The 1839 Revenue law was designed to address the increasing revenue needs of the state.
Robert Murray Haig, A History of the General Property Tax in Illinois, Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1914 (Champaign: University of Illinois, 1914), 40-42, 78-79.
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).