Errors and Favoritism in Collecting Taxes in Colonial Pennsylvania

Dateline: Philadelphia, 1694. An audit spotted the public malfeasance. What was to be done? Great for looking at money equivalence from province to county. A county tax table is included.

The tax assessors undervalued their own and friends’ estates so the taxes would be lower on a penny per pound.


26 May 1694

The Council:

Benjamin Fletcher (a non-Quaker)

Wm. Markham, Lt. Governor (another non-Quaker)

Andrew Robeson, Robert Turner, Patrick Robinson, William Clark, all esquires

Modernized transcription begins:

The committee appointed by his excellency the 23rd May instant [1694] to inspect the execution of the Act of Assembly granting the penny per pound, reported to his Excellency in Council that having examined the several rates of the [respective] counties did find and in most of the counties there have been great errors and partiality [favoritism] committed by the assessor in undervaluing their own and other s’ estates, whereby the whole amounts to £760.16.2 money of Pennsylvania; in money of New York to about £700; in English money about £560;

Which £60 may come short in the salaries for collecting the same and in runaways, so that the net produce [amount] may be about £500, English money.

The rates of the several counties, with what is paid to the Receiver General and what is in arrears:


£ S D £ S D £ S D
County of Philadelphia 314 11 11 242 0 0 72 11 11
County of New Castle 143 15 0 000 0 0 143 15 00
County of Sussex 101 01 9 45 0 0 arr. 56 01 09
County of Kent, Rated 88 paid 02 10 61 8 4 26 14 06
County of Chester 65 09 07 58 1 0 6 19 7
County of Bucks 48 04 01 000 0 0 48 4 1
700 16 2 406 9 4 354 6 10


And the said committee likewise humbly offer to his excellency in council that warrants [to] be forthwith issued to the [respective] collectors of the several counties, requiring them that they speedily send up their arrears, which was accordingly ordered.

Transcription ends.

The first set of columns is the money that the auditors claim should have been collected; the second set is what was actually collected; and the third set of columns is the differences between the first two sets of columns. In other words, the collectors owed the Council the third set of columns.

The reason for the difference is undervaluing the estates and showing partiality towards friends.


Pennsylvania Owes William Penn Money!


Minutes of the Provincial Council, vol. 1, 1683-1700, (Jo. Severns and Co. 1852), pp. 461-62.

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