General Genealogy · Historic Events

Have You Ever Wondered Who’s to Blame for Income Taxes?

Sewell Boutwell was the son of Jonathan Boutwell and Abigail Eames. He was born 5 Jul 1774 in Reading, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Sewell married Rebecca Marshall on the 23rd of Mar 1815. Rebecca was the daughter of Jacob Marshall and Mary Richardson. Sewell and Rebecca had at least 6 children, one of them being George Sewall Boutwell, the first commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

George Sewall Boutwell was born in 1818 in Brookline, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts. It appears that he was the second George Sewall born to Sewall and Rebecca. George married Sarah Adelia Thayer on the 8th of Dec 1841 in Groton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Sarah was born in Hollis, Hillsboro County, New Hampshire, on the 13th of Oct 1813. She was the daughter of Nathan Thayer and Hannah Jewett.

George and Sarah had two children: a daughter, Georgianna Adelia, born 18 Mar 1843, and a son, Francis Marion, born 26 Feb 1847. Both were born in Massachusetts. From 1850 to 1900, the family is listed in the census in Groton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. From 1860 to 1880, both children lived with George and Sarah in Groton.

In 1850, George’s occupation is listed as trader. George’s occupation is Lawyer from 1860 to 1900. However, in 1880 he is listed as both farmer and lawyer. In 1860, George’s real estate was valued at $10,000. And, in 1870, his real estate is valued at $24,000. In 1870, Francis is listed as a Merchant. And, in 1880 he is listed as a Patent Lawyer. There is a change for the family in 1880. They had one female servant living with them. In 1900, we find George, Sarah, and Georgianna living in Groton with 4 servants. Sarah was listed as having 2 children, 2 living. Georgianna was listed as single.

While we learn a great deal from Census records, there is more to George’s tale than what the census reveals. At one time, he worked as a teacher is Shirley, Massachusetts. Then, he moved to Groton, Massachusetts where he began work in the mercantile trade. In 1841, he was Postmaster of Groton. By 1842, he had begun a successful political career. He was first elected as a Massachusetts State Representative in 1842. He was also on the state’s banking commission.

In 1850, he became Governor of Massachusetts. The election was settled by the Senate as no candidate won a majority. One website reveals that although George studied law and passed the bar, he never began a law career. However, his occupation is listed as lawyer from 1860 to 1900. His congressional biography also states that he practiced law in Washington, DC.

By 1862, it was clear that President Lincoln had to come up with money to fund the army in the civil war. In 1862, Lincoln and the Congress decided to establish a Commissioner of Internal Revenue. George S. Boutwell was selected as the first Commissioner. He held the post from 1862 to 1863.

In 1869, he was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by Ulysses S. Grant. He held the post until 1873. After his stint as Secretary of the Treasury, he went back to the Senate. In 1872, the income tax law was repealed. There was an attempt to revive it in 1894, but this was an unpopular move. The Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional and it was repealed.

Sarah (Thayer) Boutwell died in 1903. George died soon after on the 27th of Feb 1905. During his life, George S. Boutwell held many positions in public service. For two years, he helped the war effort by being the First Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Sources:
1. 1850 US Census, Middlesex County, Groton, stamped page no. 19. Entry for George S. Boutwell.
2. 1860 US Census, Middlesex County, Groton, page 117. Entry for George S. Boutwell.
3. 1870 US Census, Middlesex County, Groton, page 47. Entry for George S. Boutwell.
4. 1880 US Census, Middlesex County, Groton, ED 365, page 35. Entry for Geo. S. Boutwell.
5. 1900 US Census, Middlesex County, Groton, ED 762, sheet 11B. Entry for George S. Boutwell.
6. IGI (www.familysearch.org). Birth entry for George Sewall Boutwell. Source Call No. 0873746.
7. IGI (www.familysearch.org.) Entry for George Sewall Boutwell and Sarah Adelia Thayer. File Number 184783.
8. IGI (www.familysearch.org) Entry for Sewall Boutwell and Rebecca Marshall. File Number 456778.
9. Interactive State House Website: http://www.mass.gov/statehouse/massgovs/gboutwell.htm
10. Answers.com. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. 6th Edition. Columbia University Press : 2003. Entry for George S. Boutwell. http://www.answers.com/topic/george-s-boutwell.
11. U.S. Treasury, Biography of Secretary, George S. Boutwell. http://www.ustreas.gov/education/history/secretaries/gsboutwell.html
12. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: Boutwell, George Sewall.
13. Tax History Project: Chase’s Recommendation for Boutwell, 3 Jul 1862 (original letter and transcription). http://www.taxhistory.org/boutwell/boutwell.htm

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