The Revenue Act of 1853

The march of prosperity in San Francisco, as seen in its population increase, its many new buildings, and the extraordinary prices commanded at the sale of its waterfront lots, was not stopped by the aborted waterfront extension swindle, but there was another legislative measure seriously advocated by Governor Bigler and successful in obtaining a sufficient vote to insure its passage, that was calculated to do, and in fact did for a time, a great deal of damage to the city. This was the Revenue Act of May 18, 1853, or those provisions that operated principally on and appear to have been aimed specifically at the city’s businesses.

John Bigler

Among those provisions was a license fee of one thousand dollars on every auctioneer in San Francisco plus a tax of one per cent if the goods auctioned were personal property and one-half per cent if real estate; a license fee of ten cents on every one hundred dollars of business transacted by bankers, or dealers in exchange, stocks, gold dust or bullion, or common carriers of gold dust or bullion; and perhaps most onerous was a tax of sixty cents on every one hundred dollars of consigned goods which were defined as any personal property brought or received within the state for sale and which were owned by any person who did not live in California.

Banks on Montgomery Street 1851

These impositions were in addition to the ordinary taxes on property and since they applied almost exclusively to San Francisco they were regarded as exceedingly unjust and oppressive. The tax on consigned goods alone was estimated to impose a burden of three hundred thousand dollars a year on the commerce of the city while the licenses on the auctioneers of personal property, not counting real estate, would be an additional one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. The tax on bankers would be so onerous as to practically put a stop to their business.

 

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