Treasury Departments, Rateable Property, 1649-1881 | State Archives Catalog
This series consists of records pertaining to the rating of property values for the purpose of estimating the portion of each town’s taxes owing to the state treasury. The records cover the period from the mid-seventeenth to the late nineteenth century, with significant gaps.
The beginnings of regular taxation in Rhode Island have been traced back to the late 1650s, that is, soon after the four original towns (Warwick, Plymouth, Newport, and Providence) came together to form a more centralized and representative form of government, with an agreed upon set of laws (Acts and Orders of 1647.) The 1647 charter assured the towns that they would continue to exercise control over "fines, forfeitures and amercements" but left open the possibility that local revenues might eventually be turned over to the colonial government. To raise revenue to finance its operations, to repay bills of credit, and to meet the financial costs of war, Rhode Island relied heavily on the taxation of property. During the seventeenth century, the legislature set targets, and directed each town to set rates for the collection of their allotted share of the burden. Compliance and collection, as the colony records show, was another matter. From time to time, for the purposes of establishing each town and city's rate of tax contributions to the treasury, the colony, and then the state, examined the accuracy, consistency, and fairness of current property values and contributions of each city and town.(The colony also drew revenue from the taxation of liquor and tonnage, and from lotteries.)
Acts and Orders, 1647
Alvin Rabushka, Taxation in Colonial America (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 2008.)