Income Tax Amendment
William Jennings Bryan

The taxation of incomes is possible because of an amendment to the Federal Constitution effective Feb. 25, 1913, specifically authorizing such a tax, and the Democratic party deserves a large part of the credit for securing the adoption of this amendment. The revenue law of 1894, passed by the Democratic Congress, contained an income tax provision, a flat rate of two per cent, being assessed against all incomes in excess of $4,000.

This law was declared unconstitutional by a divided court - 5 to 4 - one judge changing his decision between the two hearings of the case. In 1896 the Democratic platform declared in favor of an income tax and the demand was repeated in 1900 and 1908. The platform of 1908 demanded an amendment to the Constitution specifically authorizing an income tax. The Republican platforms during those campaigns were silent on the subject and in the campaign of 1908 the Republican candidate announced his opposition to an amendment, giving as his reason that IT WAS NOT NECESSARY. He contended that an income tax, if needed, could be collected by a statute properly drawn. The Republican candidate was elected and then followed a peculiar situation which illustrates the influence of unexpected circumstances. The Democrats in the Senate took the President at his word and prepared an income tax amendment to the Aldrich Bill and secured the support of enough Progressives to insure its adoption. To defeat a STATUTORY income tax, Senator Aldrich prevailed upon President Taft to recommend THE VERY CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT WHICH HE HAD DECLARED UNNECESSARY, and the Democrats, already committed to an amendment, accepted this solution of the situation and the amendment was submitted.

The Republican leaders did not expect the amendment to be ratified. President Taft made no effort to secure ratification and THE PRESENT REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE, MR. HUGHES, THEN GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK, SENT A MESSAGE TO THE LEGISLATURE PROTESTING AGAINST RATIFICATION. But to the surprise of Republican leaders, the states ratified the amendment and it is now a part of the constitution, its validity being attested by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court. Here is a great reform which has made it possible to transfer a large per cent. of Federal taxation from consumption to incomes - from the overburdened masses to those who have been escaping their fair share of the expense of government.

The Democratic party, having labored to secure the amendment, has been prompt to take the advantage of the opportunity it offers to do justice to the common people in the matter of taxation. Surely the Democratic party deserves the gratitude of the public for its sturdy defense of their rights and interests. PRESIDENT WILSON, THEN GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY, WAS ONE OF THE STATE EXECUTIVES WHO OFFICIALLY URGED THE RATIFICATION OF THE INCOME TAX AMENDMENT.


Democratic Campaign Text Book 1916, page 374