Alabama Taxation and Changing Discourse from Reconstruction to Redemption
At their most basic level taxes carry, in the words of Schumpeter ( 1991), “the thunder of history” (p. 101). They say something about the ever-changing structures of social, economic, and political life. Taxes offer a blueprint, in both symbolic and concrete terms, for uncovering the most fundamental arrangements in society – stratification included. The historical retellings captured within these data highlight the politics of taxation in Alabama from 1856 to 1901, including conflicts over whom money is expended upon as well as struggles over who carries their fair share of the tax burden. The selected timeline overlaps with the formation of five of six constitutions adopted in the State of Alabama, including 1861, 1865, 1868, 1875, and 1901. Having these years as the focal point makes for an especially meaningful case study, given how much these constitutional formations made the state a site for much political debate. These data contain 5,121 pages of periodicals from newspapers throughout the state, including: Alabama Sentinel, Alabama State Intelligencer, Alabama State Journal, Athens Herald, Daily Alabama Journal, Daily Confederation, Elyton Herald, Mobile Daily Tribune, Mobile Tribune, Mobile Weekly Tribune, Morning Herald, Nationalist, New Era, Observer, Tuscaloosa Observer, Tuskegee News, Universalist Herald, and Wilcox News and Pacificator. The contemporary relevance of these historical debates manifests in Alabama’s current constitution which was adopted in 1901. This constitution departs from well-established conventions of treating the document as a legal framework that specifies a general role of governance but is firm enough to protect the civil rights and liberties of the population. Instead, it stands more as a legislative document, or procedural straightjacket, that preempts through statutory material what regulatory action is possible by the state. These barriers included a refusal to establish a state board of education and enact a tax structure for local education in addition to debt and tax limitations that constrained government capacity more broadly. Prohibitive features like these are among the reasons that, by 2020, the 1901 Constitution has been amended nearly 1,000 times since its adoption. However, similar procedural barriers have been duplicated across the U.S. since (e.g., California’s Proposition 13 of 1978).
Reference: Schumpeter, Joseph.  1991. “The Crisis of the Tax State.” Pp. 99-140 in The Economics and Sociology of Capitalism, edited by Richard Swedberg. Princeton University Press.
Henricks, Kasey, "Alabama Taxation and Changing Discourse from Reconstruction to Redemption" (2014). Data Sets.