Lincoln Giveth, and Lincoln Taketh Away

If you’re an American reading this, your income taxes are due today.  Lincoln, of course, famously instituted the income tax into law, but did you know that your two day “tax holiday” this year is due to Abe as well?  Turns out DC shuts down for Emancipation Day, which commemorates an event most of us have long forgotten: The purchased emancipation of DC’s slaves, in 1862.  Harold Holzer wrote this nifty little summary, and it’s worth a read. (Assuming, of course, you haven’t got taxes to finish… or start?)

So the future “Great Emancipator” kept the D.C. freedom bill on his desk, unsigned, for two long days – delaying, he confided, until one Kentucky congressman could spirit his own aged servants back to his home state, where slavery remained lawful. This very newspaper reported “turbulence and disorder” throughout Washington, with “slave-hunters chasing up their dark-skinned chattels, to remove them, into Maryland and Virginia” before emancipation could be approved…

Yet the mere fact that a Congress and a president had worked together to end generations of pro-slavery tradition somewhere resonated with breathtaking power in April 1862. No doubt the excitement owed much to the venue: the national capital. It did not seem to matter that only 3,000 were liberated in Washington while millions remained in chains nationwide. As Frederick Douglass predicted: “Kill slavery at the heart of the nation, and it will certainly die at the extremities. This looks small, but it is not so. It is a giant stride toward the grand result.”

Tax holiday inspired by freedom –

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