#52 Ancestors Week 15 - "Taxes"

Being an American living in Canada, tax time really grinds my gears. America is the only first world country  that enforces federal taxes on its citizens wherever they live or work. The worldwide tax based on citizenship has been in effect since 1864. During the Civil War people wanted to avoid conscription, so they left the country. In order to punish colonial draft dodgers and discourage others, a law was passed that would compel Americans to pay taxes even if they lived abroad. Over 150 years later, the law is still in effect.

Some of my American ancestors have been paying taxes since before the Revolutionary War. One of the earliest tax documents I found is from the Pennsylvania Tax and Exoneration List (1768 -1801). The year is 1772, three years before the start of the American Revolution. My direct ancestor in the record is William Marr, born March 3, 1732 in Amwell Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey. I'm in a DNA Circle on ancestry.com (along with four other family members) for his son, William Marr  Jr.(1772-1862), so I'm sure he is my 5th great grandfather.

Pennsylvania Tax and Exoneration List 1772
William wasn't a land owner in 1772. You can see he was taxed for 4 horses and 4 cows. Later, he was taxed for various holdings ranging from 10 acres of cleared land &140 acres of wooded land in 1773, to 130 acres in 1789.The property deeds were never recorded, so we'll never know for sure where that land was located.
His wife Ann was listed as Head of Family in the 1790 census, so he must have passed away by then. 

Taxes were one of the major causes of the American Revolution. Most people know about the Boston Tea Party, but the rumblings were there as early as 1764 with the Stamp Act taxes. Thinking of my ancestors lives within the context of their time is one of the things I like about this challenge. History is more interesting when you follow an every day kind of person through the changes.

This Marr family had divided allegiances during the War of Independence. William Sr. served in the Continental Army from 1776-1781. His brothers John and Joseph were Patriots as well, and lived out their lives in Pennsylvania. David joined the militia, but moved to Canada towards the end of his life. On the other hand, brother Lawrence Marr was almost executed for being a Loyalist Spy.

Wed., 4 Nov 1781 Philadelphia, Pa. from newspapers.com

He started out as a supporter of the Colonial Cause, but some time in 1777 he switched allegiances. In 1781 he and John Moody were tasked with stealing some journals from the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Some say the order came from Benedict Arnold himself. The plan was foiled. They were captured and sentenced to die. The Marquis de Lafayette presided over the hearing. Poor John Moody was executed, but Lawrence Jr. was "respited". His father, Lawrence Sr., and a family friend were able to pay 200 pounds to spare Lawrence Jr. on the promise of good behaviour. There's a lot of really good documentation, including a letter John Moody wrote to his brother James just before his execution, compiled here.

So it's another year of filing two tax returns for me. One as a Canadian and another as an American. I just hope Uncle Sam fixes the roads and pays some teacher's salaries with my contribution!

 Boston: Stamp Act Riot, 1765 by Granger

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
Thomas Jefferson  

 Click for 68 American Revolution Sayings


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