On this day in 1861, Abraham Lincoln signs the Revenue Act. The Act included the first federal income tax statute, levied to help fund the Civil War.
As a result, a 3 percent tax was levied on annual incomes over $800.
In preparation, President Lincoln sent letters to his cabinet requesting their “opinion in writing whether under the Constitution and existing laws, the Executive has power to collect duties.”
He signed those letters: “Your Obt. Servt A. Lincoln, ” That is, ‘Your Obedient Servant.’
Duty and Duties
On July 4, 1861, President Lincoln spoke to Congress about “[no]… ordinary subject of legislation” regarding the the Civil War:
“Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our liberties as each had then to establish them.
A right result at this time will be worth more to the world than ten times the men and ten times the money. The evidence reaching us from the country leaves no doubt that the material for the work is abundant, and that it needs only the hand of legislation to give it legal sanction and the hand of the Executive to give it practical shape and efficiency. One of the greatest perplexities of the Government is to avoid receiving troops faster than it can provide for them. In a word, the people will save their Government if the Government itself will do its part only indifferently well.”
Referring to himself in the third person, President Abraham Lincoln concluded his message to Congress with this charge:
“In full view of his great responsibility he has so far done what he has deemed his duty. You will now, according to your own judgment, perform yours. He sincerely hopes that your views and your action may so accord with his as to assure all faithful citizens who have been disturbed in their rights of a certain and speedy restoration to them under the Constitution and the laws.
Finally, he echoed Our National Motto and the words from Our National Anthem that inspired Our forthcoming shirt, seen below:
“And having thus chosen our course, without guile and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God and go forward without fear and with manly hearts.”
Lastly, however one regards federal income taxes, Abraham Lincoln’s reverence for the Bible is quite clear:
“In regard to this Great book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”
That quote inspired this shirt: