Attacking Property of Tax Collectors Puts Shoe on Other Foot

I gave some examples of attacks directed at tax offices, I gave some further examples of attacks on the apparatus of taxation, and I gave some examples of how some tax resistance campaigns used particularly humiliating violent attacks against individual tax collectors to deter them and discourage their colleagues.

Today I’ll give some further examples of terrorism and intimidation directed at tax collectors — this time by means of attacks on their homes and property.

  • Bailiffs, the officials responsible for seizing goods from Poll Tax rebels in Thatcher’s Britain, were targeted in this way. In one case, the home of a bailiff company’s chief was surrounded by protesters, who, finding that the target of their protest was not at home, “had a look at his double garage — the door was open. … Well, there wasn’t a car inside, but there was a mountain bike, fishing tackle, clothes, bottles of wine, garden equipment. In fact, the place was chock-a-block. A mock auction was held in front of the press. Anyway, his possessions ended up strewn all over the garden, and slogans were daubed across the back of his wall: ‘Fuck off bailiff, we’ll be back!’ The police arrived about five minutes after we had gone. We heard that Mr. Roach [the bailiff company chief] was escorted home later that night in a police car. It’s good to give people like that a taste of their own medicine.”
  • “a party of armed men in disguise made an attack in the night upon the house of a collector of revenue who resided in Fayette County, but he happening to be from home, they contented themselves with breaking open his house, threatening, terrifying, and abusing his family.”
  • This tactic was used frequently during the Rebecca Riots in Wales, for example:
    • “A plantation belonging to Timothy Powell, Esq., of Pencoed (a magistrate active against Rebecca), was fired… and four acres were burnt.”
    • A crowd of some 7–800 Rebeccaites surrounded the home of tithe collector Rees Goring Thomas and fired guns through the windows at the terrified occupants. “[P]arts of the walls were so thickly marked with shots and slugs that scarcely a square inch was free from them, while the windows and curtain were thickly perforated… There were in all fifty-two panes of glass broken in five windows. … While these outrages were carried on at the house, several of the mob forced open the door, and entered the beautiful walled garden adjoining the house, where they committed devastations of a most disgraceful character. Nearly all the apple trees and wall-fruit trees of different kinds, were entirely destroyed, being cut to pieces or torn up from the roots. The various plants and herbs with which the garden abounded were all destroyed, and a row of commodious greenhouses, extending from one side of the garden to the other, was attacked, and a large quantity of glass broken with stones.”
    • That same crowd then attacked the home of a game warden, firing a blank directly into the face of his wife. “They then broke the clock, a very good one, an old pier-glass which had been handed down for several generations, the chairs, table, and all the little furniture the poor people possessed. They also carried away the gamekeeper’s gun, and 10s. or 12s. worth of powder and shot, and previous to leaving took from the drawers all the clothes of the family, which were torn, trodden upon, and partly burnt. They then left the place, after firing several times. Several of the painted doors, leading from the road to the plantation, were destroyed by the Rebeccaites.”
  • During the French Revolution, in Baignes, the home of the director of the excise “is devastated and his papers and effects are burned; they put a knife to the throat of his son, a child six years of age, saying, ‘Thou must perish that there may be no more of thy race.’ ”
  • In , French tithe resisters “wearing disguises sacked the granary of the tithe collector, and no witnesses could be found to testify against them.”
  • In Naples, in , “the populace began to attack the houses of those whom they knew had, by farming tolls or in any other way, become rich at the expense of the people. … [T]he houses were emptied: first that of the cashier of taxes, Alphonso Vagliano. Beautiful household furniture, plate, pictures, everything that could be found was dragged into the streets, thrown together in a heap and burnt; and when one of the people wanted to conceal a jewel, he was violently upbraided by the rest,” because the point was terroristic vandalism, not looting. “All the rich and noble persons who were concerned in the farming of tolls, as well as all members of the government, saw their houses demolished. … Above forty palaces and houses were consumed by the flames on , or were razed to the ground…”
  • During the French Gabelle Riots of mobs roamed the streets setting fire to tax collectors’ houses.”