U.S. SUPREME COURT HAD STRUCK DOWN A DIRECT TAX IN 1895
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 2, 2011) — On May 21, 1895, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a direct tax on personal income was unconstitutional as a result of the case of Pollock v. Farmers‘ Loan and Trust Company. The lawsuit had been precipitated by the 1894 Income Tax Act. The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision stated that a “direct tax” on the “income of real and of personal property” was “unconstitutional and void.”
The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act, also passed in 1894, sought to lower tariffs, which were the major source of revenue for the federal government at the time, and impose a 2% tax on incomes which surpassed $4,000 annually. However, over 600 amendments were added to the original bill, which reportedly diluted its intended effect.
Wikipedia reports that the Supreme Court’s decision of 1895 was later “nullified” “by Amendment XVI to the US Constitution.” Another report states that “…in 1894 Congress enacted a flat rate Federal income tax, which was ruled unconstitutional the following year by the U.S. Supreme Court because it was a direct tax not apportioned according to the population of each state. The 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913, removed this objection by allowing the Federal government to tax the income of individuals without regard to the population of each State.”
Can a U.S. Supreme Court decision be “nullified?” Can a law passed by Congress be declared unconstitutional by a court?
The Supreme Court’s decision was based on the premise that “Congress cannot impose a duty or tax upon personal property, or upon income arising either from rents of real estate or from personal property, including invested personal property, bonds, stocks, and investments of all kinds, except by apportioning the sum to be so raised among the States according to population, it practically decides that, without an amendment of the Constitution — two-thirds of both Houses of Congress and three-fourths of the States concurring — such property and incomes can never be made to contribute to the support of the national government.”
The 16th Amendment reads:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
It reportedly took more than three years for three-quarters of the states to ratify the amendment to the Constitution. However, there are numerous reports that the amendment was never ratified by enough states for it to have passed. Then-Secretary of State Philander Knox declared the amendment ratified on February 15, 1913 even though he might have possessed evidence that some states had changed the proposed language, creating many different versions of the amendment put forth by Congress.
Wikipedia’s summary of the 16th Amendment states that all arguments against its proper ratification, which allegedly occurred in 1913, and constitutionality have been “rejected in every court case where they have been raised and have been identified as legally frivolous.”
Can a law declared unconstitutional in 1895 be constitutional in 1913 and beyond? Does the federal government have the right to sue someone who questions its validity on the grounds that he made “false statements?”
Mr. Bill Benson reported that he scrutinized the documents in the possession of various state legislatures and that the 16th Amendment had not been ratified by the required 36 states to have been enacted. Devvy Kidd reported that Benson had presented the evidence he had gathered of non-ratification by the states to a court, “thereby proving his statements were true, not false and fraudulent.”
Others have been brought up on charges of tax evasion for having claimed that the 16th Amendment did not receive proper ratification.
Exactly two years ago today, a scheduled hearing arising from a motion for contempt was canceled by the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, and Benson’s attorney, Jeffrey Dickstein, had drafted a Writ of Certiorari to be submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the 16th Amendment.
The two websites provided by Dickstein in his announcement of September 2, 2009 are not functional as of August 28, 2011. A video posted on November 16, 2009 and produced by the Continental Congress 2009 depicts Dickstein discussing the IRS and taxation of the American population. During the interview, Dickstein asserts that lawyers are not taught the Constitution in law school and that “There is no Constitution anymore. It’s just an idle word; it doesn’t exist.”
An earlier video from 2007 describes Dickstein as a “constitutional freedom lawyer who has been involved in the tax honesty and freedom movement for 25 years or so.”
A January 12, 2010 article in Republic Magazine states that the federal government filed suit against Bill Benson for “‘falsely’ telling people the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution was not ratified and therefore they are not required to file an income tax return.” There is also an audio of slightly more than 90 minutes containing Dickstein’s explanation of the Benson case which also urges listeners to contact their members of Congress about the “real issue” of the 16th Amendment. During the audio, a caller to the show asked if the case could be heard by a grand jury.
Dickstein explains that he was working on two cases: one in which he represented Bill Benson, and one in which he represented Mark and Claudia Hirmer of Florida. He published an overview of the 16th Amendment’s history here.
A “Daniel B. Evans” has compiled a list of refutations of “tax protesters,” including Jeffrey Dickstein.
An entry powered by “Wikidot” claims that Dickstein was convicted of “criminal contempt,” which was a misdemeanor, regarding his representation of the Hirmers. However, an attorney review service appears to contradict that claim if describing the same “Jeffrey Dickstein.”
A January 21, 2010 blog entry on Rep. Ron Paul’s website written by Dickstein reported:
The denial of the petition for writ of cert in the Benson case has ended that case. The criminal trial of the Hirmers is scheduled to commence on March 1st. I am currently preparing for trial. The trial is expected to last between three and six months.
On April 22, 2010, Dickstein reported that following the trial, the Hirmers were convicted of money laundering by a jury and subsequently jailed. He added:The message is perfectly clear. The federal government will absolutely not tolerate American’s speaking out against the government, and has no problem ignoring the First, Fifth and Sixteenth Amendments. Dissidents are to receive kangaroo court trials and only the most skilled lawyers will avoid being jailed for representing their clients.
Dickstein successfully represented Joe Banister, who had been brought up on charges of tax evasion in 2005. Banister has described himself as “a former IRS Criminal Investigation Division Special Agent who learned of serious constitutional questions relating to the federal income tax and the federal banking and monetary systems.” On February 25, 1999, Banister had written a resignation letter to the IRS in which he claimed that the agency posed “very serious threats to our freedom and our Constitution.”
A CNN article editorialized that it was “sad to say” that Banister had researched Devvy Kidd’s work and agreed with her conclusion that the 16th Amendment had not been properly ratified. The author concludes with a stinging accusation of a serious crime directed at Banister’s unnamed childhood Catholic priest with no evidence and an issuing of his own mandate for Banister to be “Somebody who pays his taxes and plays by the rules, even when those rules don’t seem fair.”
Banister appears to have gone into private consulting as an entrepreneur since resigning from the IRS. He was acquitted of four charges of tax evasion, and the jury was reported to have stated that “They were surprised that the government did not have real evidence.”
The Post & Email has contacted Atty. Dickstein to inquire if he has any further actions pending in regard to the 16th Amendment.
Editor’s Note: Many thanks to reader Creg Maroney for providing helpful background information and links for this article which facilitated its writing.
Bill Benson and Red Beckman co-authored the book about the 16th Amendment The Law That Never Was. Beckman has been active in the freedom movement for decades and is a frequent guest on the internet radio show Walls in Our Minds hosted by Terry Dodd. Beckman is the author of two books of his own, one of which bears the same title as the radio broadcast.