Reclaiming the Meaning of 'Direct Tax'

86 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2010 Last revised: 20 Feb 2010

Date Written: February 15, 2010


The history of the litigation in the carriage tax case, Hylton v. United States (1796), including the extraordinary steps taken to present a case to the Supreme Court in which the tax would be ratified, suggests that the case was far more important than the simple amount of revenue at stake. This article explores the motivation behind the imposition of the carriage tax, and its defense in Hylton, as a part of the effort s of Hamilton and his fellow Federalists to create a robust federal government. That federal government would include revenue officers whose loyalties were primarily to the federal government not the state governments, and a federal power to tax that was neither limited to excise and other transaction-based taxes nor constrained by the apportionment clause.

Keywords: Direct Tax, power to Tax, Alexander Hamilton, Apportionment, Tax History

JEL Classification: B25, H77, K34, N11

Suggested Citation

Crane, Charlotte, Reclaiming the Meaning of 'Direct Tax' (February 15, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Charlotte Crane (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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