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Conservative Corner: Predatory practices

With Reconstruction, the period shortly after the War Between the States, Southern States were being oppressed. The property owners were oppressed by “carpet-baggers,” “scallywags,” and other nefarious elements. Oppressed through tax collections! Gov. Ames One of the biggest plunderers against the South was Yankee General Adelbert Ames, of Maine. He had become “Governor” of Mississippi, and would later become their “U. S. Senator.” Right to Work Ames and his crew invented a new process, for Mississippi, for wringing more money from the impoverished people. It was called a privilege tax, and imposed an annual contribution to the tax collector of sums varying from a few dollars to a few thousands for the privilege of pursuing a reputable occupation. A story by the New York Sun, of April 14, 1875, fully explored the scheme. “Almost every imaginable mode of gaining a livelihood, except farming and preaching, is included in the list of occupations which render a person liable to the payment of the (annual) privilege tax; and in order to make its victims pay up promptly, it is provided that any person exercising any of the privileges enumerated in the bill without first paying the tax shall be fined, or imprisoned, or both, at the discretion of the court. “The law also provides that no suit shall be maintained in any court in the State to enforce the payment of any claims that may accrue to any person on account of any business subject to the privilege tax if the person bringing the suit has failed to pay this extortionate imposition.” “The act to regulate the tax on privileges, and to provide a uniform license system,” was written up in the Weekly Clarion, of Jackson, Mississippi, on March 11, 1875. PRIVILEGE TAX This was considered a shakedown system, to regulate and control, Southerners. It was like buying a ride on your own horse. To work, that is, be productive, you had to: 1. get permission (permits); 2. be second-guessed (plans); 3. register (make official); 4. get approval (consent); before you were able to 5. be compliant, that is, be able to do that which you thought you had a God given right to do. Occupation Tax And of course, all this paperwork, required by the carper-bagger “law,” necessitated a staff of paper shufflers, and a place for storing the records. Bureaucrats have to have a bureaucracy. And that doesn’t come cheap! Permits to Trade Of course, the carpet-bagger Ames, from Maine, didn’t create this system out of thin air. Senator Francis Blair, of Missouri, alluded to what might have been its predecessor: “Permits to Trade.” The February 28, 1864 New York Times page 5, records his Congressional statement on the Federal shakedown. “A more profligate administration than that of the treasury department never existed in any country; the country was redolent with the fraud and corruption of the agents. Again and again, Permits to Trade, were sold to the highest bidder and recently in Baltimore, a permit was given to a notorious blockade-runner, whose vessels had more than once been seized.” Gen. Ben Butler The Sun article goes further, and says: “If Ames only lives long enough, he will doubtless become as popular in Mississippi as his father-in-law, Ben Butler, became in Louisiana.” General Ben Butler was the notorious “Beast Butler,” of New Orleans fame. Known for stealing silverware, and taking money from the embassies of foreign countries, his notoriety was even spoken of in Parliament, in London.

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