When Parliament resorted to excise taxation during the Civil Wars, they had intended it as a temporary expedient for financing what they understood as the extraordinary expenses of funding the war against the king. Permanent settlement of the excise was unthinkable. Yet amidst common law objections to excise taxation, both Hobbesian arguments about state sovereignty and rehabilitations of the civil law of merchants were available to pro-excise pamphleteers as independent justifications for Parliament’s imposition of the tax. These discourses evolved into the theory of compensatory taxation advocated by William Petty in 1662. Taken together, these print polemics point to a native discourse on the tax state that significantly pre-dates the late eighteenth-century contributions made by Adam Smith. The Interregnum’s experiment with excise taxation provides both the impulse and the context for a significant shift in attitudes towards the public revenue as a whole.
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