National Single Tax League and Party, 1890-1934

Collection Overview

Title: National Single Tax League and Party, 1890-1934

Predominant Dates: 1916-1924

Arrangement: I. The National Single Tax League, 1917-1934; The National Single Tax Party, 1919-1926; Material from other National Organizations

Biographical Note

The first nation-wide single tax organization formed in 1890 at a national convention of single taxers held at New York’s Cooper Union. At this convention, which Henry George attended, Louis F. Post was selected as Chairman of the Single Tax League of the United States.  Other officers included August Lewis who served as treasurer and George St. John, as secretary.  The convention attendees determined that the Single Tax League of the United States would be a representative body, with one member from each state and territory.  The stated purpose of the League included “to incorporate its economic views in law through political action” and also to lobby “the single tax on ethical grounds.” According to Arthur Nichols Young’s 1916 biography of the single tax movement, the League “proved to be an organization mainly on paper.”

No major attempts to form another national organization of single taxers occurred until 1907 when the American Single Tax League was established at a national conference held in November of that year.  Bolton Hall served as President, Charles H. Ingersoll as Treasurer, and John J. Murphy as Secretary.  In 1909, the newly formed Joseph Fels Fund Commission began working with the American Single Tax League to raise money for various single tax campaigns at the national and local levels.  Shortly thereafter, the work of the Fels Fund eclipsed that of the American Single Tax League, which appears to have disbanded sometime in 1910.

Following the death of her husband Joseph in 1916, Mary Fels suggested the formation of a new national organization to take the place of the Joseph Fels Fund.  The National Single Tax League was formed at the Sixth National Single Tax Convention held in Niagara Falls, NY in August 1916. A National Committee, composed of officers elected by the entire membership, carried out most of the work of the National Single Tax League.  Daniel Kiefer, formerly of the Fels Fund, served as the first Chairman of the National Committee.  In 1917, the National Single Tax League began publishing a monthly Bulletin to serve as its official organ.

In 1918, the National Committee came under harsh criticism from Joseph Dana Miller (editor of the Single Tax Review) and other prominent single taxers who felt that the League had not done enough to support the political efforts underway at the state and local levels to enact the single tax. In a stridently worded editorial published in the May-June issue of the Review, Miller called for the formation of a new national body:

Now that this movement in a sense must begin all over again, and because we are in a serious time, yet a time fraught with opportunity, the National League is a positive obstacle in the way.  Real work is beginning and this real work must no longer be hampered by activities which are purely fiction, by a paper organization whose chief purpose has been to collect funds to circulate “flimsies,” and to glorify favorites, to starve out local work, and to spend the money of Single Taxers with reckless prodigality. And never in the Bulletin or elsewhere, it may be said, furnishing Single Taxers with detailed statements of expenditures.

In August 1918, the National Committee of the National Single Tax League accepted the resignation of Daniel Kiefer—who the Review also accused of harboring “pro-German leanings”—and elected Professor Lewis Jerome Johnson of the Massachusetts Single Tax League, as Chairman.

Despite the change in leadership, Miller and others continued to call for a new national organization and at a national convention held in June 1919, the National Single Tax Party was formed and adopted a National Single Tax Platform, excerpted here:

Man is dependent upon the earth, of which his body is made and to which it inevitably returns…

When he has access to this source of natural abundance and freedom to retain the products of his industry and skill he is a free man.  The essential condition of right human relationship begins in the equal opportunity of all men to the use of land…

The parent of all monopolies is the private appropriation of the rent of land.  Other monopolies exist because this fundamental crime against human rights is permitted to endure…

In order to carry into effect these principles, which underlie the Single Tax, we demand laws appropriating the full rent of land and other natural opportunities to the use of the National, State, County, and Municipal governments to be used for governmental expenses and for the common welfare, this rent to be collected on all land according to its rental value. We demand that no portion of this rent be permitted to remain in private hands…

We call upon all men who have a love of country in their hearts and a desire that our nation may be established in prosperity and justice and who believe in equal rights to all and special privileges to none, to join this party, take part in its councils and assist in its work; to the end that the principles enunciated in this platform may be established in our laws.

In addition to a national Platform, the new Party also adopted a series of resolutions, including a “pledge to the Negro equality of opportunity under the Single Tax” and “the enforcement of all rights guaranteed to all people under the Constitution of the United States.”

In July 1920, the National Single Tax Party held its second annual convention where it nominated Robert C. Macauley for President in the upcoming election.  Macauley previously ran for Governor of Pennsylvania in 1918 as the Single Tax Party candidate and also served as chairman of the Pennsylvania Single Tax Party.

Sometime in the 1920s, Frederic C. Howe replaced Professor Johnson as Chairman of the National Single Tax League and Frank Stephens of Arden, DE became Secretary.  The League formally endorsed the work of the Single Tax Party at a convention held in 1921.

In 1924, the Single Tax Party became the Commonwealth Land Party and selected William J. Wallace of New Jersey as its nominee for President and John C. Lincoln of Cleveland for Vice-President. In 1926, the Commonwealth Land Party sent a delegation to the International Single Tax Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark hosted by the Henry George Association of Denmark.

Although it is unclear when the National Single Tax League or the Commonwealth Land Party officially disbanded, the historical record on the activities of both groups appears to culminate in the early 1930s.

References

“Single-Tax Advocates: A Very Enthusiastic Meeting at Cooper Union,” The New York Times (Sept. 3, 1890), 2.

Arthur Nichols Young, The Single Tax Movement in the United States (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1916), 248.

“Proposed Single Tax League Constitution,” The Single Tax Review 17 (March-April 1917), 99-103.

“Wanted: A New National Organization,” The Single Tax Review 18 (May-June 1918), 72-73.

“First Annual Convention of the Single Tax Party of the United States” The Single Tax Review 19 (July-August 1919), 105-112.

Collection Content

Series One: The National Single Tax League, 1917-1923

Rev. L.M. Powers to Herbert Munn, March 25, 1916
Daniel Kiefer to Maxwell Green, October 12, 1916
Frederick Shattuck to Daniel Kiefer, October 17, 1916
Notification Committee to Friend of the Single Tax Cause, January 31, 1917
Daniel Kiefer to Alexander Mackendrick, February 24, 1917
Daniel Kiefer to National Single Tax League Member, March 31, 1917
Daniel Kiefer to Alexander Mackendrick, May 8, 1917
Frank Stephens to Miss Colles, April 16, 1930
Invitation to the National Single Tax Convention, October 8-10, 1934

Undated
Constitution of the National Single Tax League, with Explanation
Frank Stephens, Proposal to further the activities of the NSTL
Louis F. Post, The Prophet of San Francisco. (Published by the NSTL)
Louis F. Post, Institutional Causes of Crime. (Published by the NSTL)
Thomas Shearman, The Single Tax and the Farmer. (Published by the NSTL)
Committee of the NSTL, “To the Disciples of Henry George”

National Single Tax League Photograph

National Single Tax League Bulletin, Vol. 1 (1917) – Vol. 6 (1922)

Series Two: The National Single Tax Party, 1919-1924

Platform of the Single Tax Party, June 28, 1919
National Platform adopted at the National Convention, July 12, 1920
Photograph of Robert C. Macauley and Richard C. Barnum, 1920

Commonwealth Land Party (formerly National Single Tax Party)

James Bruce Lindsay to Singletaxers, Copenhagen 1926
International Single Tax Conference Brochure, 1926
Corrinne Carpenter to Faithful Follower, May 8, 1926
Commonwealth Land Party to Fellow Single Taxers, May 26, 1926

Undated
A Message to Landlords
National Single Tax Party Campaign Brochure
Photograph of the National Convention (original on display at the Henry George Birthplace)
Commonwealth Land Party Campaign Advertisement
Single Tax Party of New Jersey, Declaration of Principles
Commonwealth Land Party of New Jersey Campaign Statement
Benjamin C. Marsh, Taxation of Land Values in American Cities. (Published by the CLP)
LeBaron Goeller, The Greatest Discovery of Modern Times. (Published by the CLP)

Series Three: Material from other National Organizations

Single League of the United States, Platform Adopted September 3, 1890
Annual Report of the American Single Tax League, 1908