Congress to citizens: Only two things are certain, death and taxes.
Citizens to Congress: Agreed -- death to the state that imposes high taxes.
As a country, the people have expressed this sentiment only once, when they declared that government had become destructive
of their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
After winning independence, our founders tried to translate the doctrine of man's rights into legal form. The Constitution
they created included some compromises, one of which gives Congress the power to provide for the "general Welfare of the United
The compromise postponed settling an ongoing debate: How exactly does Congress provide for the general welfare?
Two lines formed: one behind Jefferson, who wanted government to serve as "a guardian of fair play," the other behind Hamilton,
who wanted government to direct our play.
Up until 1860, Jefferson's philosophy largely prevailed. Then the Republican Party got Abraham Lincoln elected president.
Throughout his political career, Lincoln had supported the Hamiltonian philosophy of Henry Clay and the Whigs called the
"American System," which included a national bank, internal improvements, and especially protective tariffs. In naming
it as he did, Clay wrapped the flag around the much-discredited mercantilism of previous centuries -- the very system of abuses
our founders revolted against.
The fact that mercantilism was bad economics made no difference to Lincoln. He was determined to push his plans for
expansion of the country, with government playing a significant role and the South footing most of the bill.
The centerpiece of the Republican Party platform in 1860 was a high protective tariff. In some cases it raised the
existing tariff rate 250 percent. In his first inaugural, Lincoln said, using political jargon, he would wage war against
any state that didn't collect all the money imposed by the tariff. 
He was speaking, of course, to the South. Because of their dependency on foreign manufactured goods, southerners
had been paying 87% of all federal taxes collected, mostly in the form of import duties, even though their population was
only half that of the North. When Lincoln's election looked inevitable, the South prepared to defend itself. Once
again, Americans were willing to secede in resistance to an abusive authority.
We've heard that Lincoln saved the Union and freed the slaves. What we don't usually hear is that the Union he saved
was a repudiation of our founding principle of consensual government. Nor do we hear much about his offer to the South,
in his first inaugural, of passing an amendment that would legalize slavery in southern states forever.  Furthermore, though abolitionist sympathies in the North spread after the publication of "Uncle Tomıs Cabin" in 1852,
most northern newspapers and citizens were in favor of letting the South leave the Union in peace.
Then on March 11, 1861 -- seven days into Lincoln's presidency -- delegates in Montgomery, Alabama adopted a new Confederate
Constitution, which "affirmed that the states were 'sovereign and independent' and omitted a general welfare clause.
The Confederate government could not impose protective tariffs, grant subsidies, or finance internal improvements." 
Almost overnight, many northern editorial writers did an about-face. The South was actually supporting free trade.
It would open its ports to the world and ruin the uncompetitive northern manufacturing interests. The New York Times
economic editor, who had favored peaceful secession, now demanded that the federal government ". . . shut up every Southern
port, destroy its commerce, and bring utter ruin on the Confederate states."
Though his top military commander, Winfield Scott, and most of his cabinet advised against it, Lincoln sent an unarmed
vessel to provision Fort Sumter, knowing the South would likely fire upon it. One northern newspaper reported that for
"three weeks the administration newspapers have been assuring us that Fort Sumter would be abandoned, [but] Mr. Lincoln saw
an opportunity to inaugurate civil war without appearing in the character of aggressor." 
Lincoln ordered his troops to arrest anyone critical of his war and to shut down newspapers editorializing against it.
He even imprisoned most of the 10 newly-elected delegates in Maryland because he suspected them of harboring secessionist
sympathies. "[Secretary of State] Seward famously boasted . . . that he could 'ring a bell' and have a man arrested
in Ohio, New York, or any other state." 
We're told that the South suffered under their philosophy of states' rights, that the centrally-organized North proved
superior during the war. But as soon as war broke out, the South abandoned its constitutional principles and turned
to forced industrialization -- socialism. The Confederate government set up its own arsenals, foundries, powder mills,
textile mills and many other operations. When it did deal with private firms, it dictated prices and profits.
Victory went to the North for several reasons, including the fact that it retained a higher degree of private initiative
than the South. The central planners of the Confederacy squandered resources and brought their people to the brink of
We live today with Lincoln's legacy. We were the only country in the west that needed a war to end slavery.
States rights, and their check against an encroaching central power, died at Appomattox. The idea of keeping government
completely out of our business all but vanished. With the Constitution brushed aside, economic life has become politics
or perish, as most major organizations have set up lobbying headquarters in D.C., diverting still more resources into unproductive
activity. Lincoln created an absolute central government that has spread like cancer, with an insatiable appetite for our
But we have reason to hope. When it comes to taxes, people are far from apathetic, as we saw in the Tennessee Tea
Party of November, 1999.  Carla Howell's campaign for governor of Massachusetts this year is riding on her pledge to repeal the state's income tax.
She rounded up over 75,000 signatures to get the initiative to kill the tax placed on the November ballot. At some point
taxes will reach critical mass for enough people, and talk of secession or repeal might once again begin.
1. Hummel, Jeffrey, 1996, "Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil
War," Chicago: Open Court, p. 237.
2. Abraham Lincoln: First Inaugural Address, "I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution
-- which amendment, however, I have not seen -- has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never
interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. . . . I have no objection
to [this amendment] being made express and irrevocable."
3. Hummel, p. 134.
4. DiLorenzo, Thomas J., 2002, "The Real Lincoln," Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing, p. 120.
5. DiLorenzo, pp. 138-139
6. Hummel, pp. 235-238
7. "Tackling Taxes in Tennessee," Glenn Reynolds, "Thousands of cars circled Capitol Hill, bearing
down on their horns and tying up traffic throughout downtown. Hundreds of protesters occupied the Legislative Plaza, with
many barging into the capitol building itself carrying signs and -- in one case -- a can of tar and a feather pillow."