Is there any document (letter, quote) linked to the Founding Fathers that indicates their support for an inheritance tax?

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The Politicus
Feb 21, 2019 03:20 AM 0 Answers
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I recently had someone make the claim that several of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution would have likely agreed with an estate or inheritance tax. This theory was backed up by a few quotes from Jefferson, (who was generally very anti-tax) Madison and Washington. This theory contradicts much of what these men wrote on the general subject of taxation.

The following is a quote that Jefferson liked to cite, to justify this theory:

A power to dispose of estates for ever is manifestly absurd. The earth and the fulness of it belongs to every generation, and the preceding one can have no right to bind it up from posterity. Such extension of property is quite unnatural.

— Adam Smith

Adam Smith: Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue and Arms (1763)

In Jefferson's own words -

I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self evident, "that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living": that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by an individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society.

Jefferson to Madison, Sept 6, 1789

My question is:
What evidence exists that the Founders may have supported or rejected the idea of an inheritance or estate tax? From a Classical Liberal stance based on Natural Rights, would this form of taxation be considered "moral" or "just"?

Answers can include writings, quotes, speeches etc., by the Founders listed above as well as, from others such as Samuel Adams, George Mason, John Jay or others. Any of the signers of the Declaration of Independence or any of the Framers of the Constitution as well as any of the philosophers who influenced them will be considered legitimate sources for making the case.

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