Taxation of Women * March 17, 1778
My Dear Sister,
. . . You complain that widows are not represented, and that being temporary possessors of their estates ought not to be liable to the tax. The doctrine of representation is a large subject, and it is certain that it ought to be extended as far as wisdom and policy can allow; nor do I see that either of these forbid widows having property from voting, notwithstanding it has never been the practice either here or in England. Perhaps 'twas thought rather out of character for women to press into those tumultuous assemblages of men where the business of choosing representatives is conducted. And it might also have been considered as not so necessary, seeing that the representatives themselves, as their immediate constituents, must suffer the tax imposed in exact proportion as does all other property taxed, and that, therefore, it could not be supposed that taxes would be laid where the public good did not demand it. This, then, is the widow's security as well as that of the never married women, who have lands in their own right, for both of whom I have the highest respect, and would at any time give my consent to establish their right of voting. . . . When we complained of British taxation we did so with much reason, and there is great difference between our case and that of the unrepresented in this country. The English Parliament nor their representatives would pay a farthing of the tax they imposed on us but quite otherwise. Their property would have been exonerated in exact proportion to the burthens they laid on ours. Oppressions, therefore, without end and taxes without reason or public necessity would have been our fate had we submitted to British usurpation. . . . I believe there is no instance in our new government of any unnecessary placemen, and I know the rule is to make their salaries moderate as possible, and even these moderate salaries are to pay tax. But should Great Britain gain her point, where we have one placeman we should have a thousand and pay pounds where we pay pence; nor should we dare to murmur under pain of military execution. This, with the other horrid concomitants of slavery, may well persuade the American to lose blood and pay taxes also rather than submit to them. . . .
I am, My dear Sister,
Most sincerely and affectionately yours,