As I was reading through one of my colonial resources, I was surprised to discover The Bachelor Tax! My first thought was, They actually put a tax on bachelorhood? Turns out, indeed, they did!
Life in colonial America was difficult. Families and communities depended on each other for survival. The challenge of forming new towns, farming the land, and learning basic survival skills were often more than the colonists could handle. Communities desired marriages as soon as young people were of age so they could make their own way and be less of a burden to families. The more children they produced, the more free workers they had to help on the farms and to go into trade.
Men who were unattached from the responsibility of caring for a wife and family were thought to be too easily enticed into mischief. They were less likely to be significant contributors to society and the economy. Therefore, a tax on bachelorhood was established in several colonial communities to help entice young men into marriage. In addition to the Bachelor Tax, unmarried men were treated with other inequalities to induce them to marry. Laws were created to limit their freedom.
Positive incentives were also established to encourage matrimony. For example, in Connecticut bachelors were not permitted to have their own homes. In Salem, North Carolina, single men couldn't own land or a home. They were required to live at the Single Brothers House until they married. It was the same for the women, they stayed in the Single Sisters House until they married. They were not allowed to live at home with their parents after they reached the age of fourteen. In New England married couples were rewarded with land grants.
While marriage customs varied from religion to religion, marriage laws also varied from state to state, as well as from county to county within states. Were you aware of the Bachelor Tax? Do you know if your state or city once initiated a Bachelor Tax?
Courting Customs in America by George Rice