John Adams Appoints Commissioners For the First Slave Census,
Rare and important document signed as President, 15¼ x 9½ in., Philadelphia, 17 July 1798. Appointing commissioners for the state of Connecticut to value land, dwellings and slaves pursuant to the Act of July 1798. Countersigned by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering. Accompanied by an equally rare blank form for the return of taxes in Connecticut based on this Act. The appointment has age toning and mat burns at the edges. A vertical fold separation has been archivally repaired on the verso. Adams' signature is large and bold in brown ink; the Pickering signature is in black ink. The white paper Seal of the United States is completely intact with insignificant loss to a couple of tooth tips at the bottom where they extended beyond the edge of the document.
In 1798 Congress made provisions for the first direct tax on United States citizens. Fearing war with France and needing to build the national defenses, $2 million was to be raised by a tax on property. Commissioners were to be appointed by the President for each state, which was then divided into specific districts. The commissioners were to oversee the valuation of property and the enumeration of slaves. Other officials would then be responsible for collecting the tax. This was the first federal tax on domestic property, as well as the first census and tax of slaves
, who were to be taxed at a rate of 50¢ for each adult slave.
The commissioners named by Adams were Andrew Kingsbury (State Treasurer), Epaphroditus Champion, Subael Abbee, William Heron, and Julius Dening. These were men who were well known and trusted in their respective districts, which was important to building confidence that the tax was fairly and equally applied.
This is a highly unusual and significant document relating to both slavery and federal taxation.
Estimated Value $6,000 - 8,000