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Death of a Patriot

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Irwin Schiff passed away on Friday, chained to his hospital bed. In this tribute to his life, Peter Schiff shares his personal thoughts about his father, a true American hero.

My father, Irwin A. Schiff, was born Feb. 23rd 1928, the 8th child and only son of Jewish immigrants, who had crossed the Atlantic twenty years earlier in search of freedom. As a result of their hope and courage, my father was fortunate to have been born into the freest nation in the history of the world. But when he passed away on Oct. 16th, 2015 at the age of 87, a political prisoner of that same nation, legally blind and shackled to a hospital bed in a guarded room in intensive care, the free nation he was born into had itself died years earlier.

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My father had a life-long love affair with our nation’s founding principals and proudly served his country during the Korean War, for a while even having the less than honorable distinction of being the lowest ranking American soldier in Europe. While in college he became exposed to the principles of Austrian economics through the writings of Henry Hazlitt and Frederick Hayek. He first became active in politics during Barry Goldwater’s failed 1964 presidential bid. His activism intensified during the Vietnam Era when he led local grass root efforts to resist Yale University’s plans to conduct aid shipments to North Vietnam at a time when that nation was actively fighting U.S. forces in the south. Later in life he staged an unsuccessful write-in campaign for governor of Connecticut, then eventually lost the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination to Harry Brown in 1996.

In 1976 his beliefs in free market economics, limited government, and strict interpretation of the Constitution led him to write his first book The Biggest Con: How the Government is Fleecing You, a blistering indictment of the post New Deal expansion of government in the United States. The book achieved accolades in the mainstream conservative world, receiving a stellar review in the Wall Street Journal, among other mainstream publications.

But my father was most known for his staunch opposition to the Federal Income Tax, for which the Federal Government labeled him a “tax protester.” But he had no objection to lawful, reasonable taxation. He was not an anarchist and believed that the state had an important, but limited role to play in market based economy. He opposed the Federal Government’s illegal and unconstitutional enforcement and collection of the income tax. His first book on this topic (he authored six books in total), How Anyone Can Stop Paying Income Taxes, published in 1982, became a New York Times best seller. His last, The Federal Mafia; How the Government Illegally Imposes and Unlawfully Collects Income Taxes, the first of three editions published in 1992, became the only non-fiction and second-to-last book to be banned in America. The only other book being Fanny Hill; Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, banned for obscenity in 1821 and 1963.

His crusade to force the government to obey the law earned him three prison sentences, the final one being a fourteen-year sentence that he began serving ten years ago, at the age of 77. That sentence turned into a life sentence, as my father failed to survive until his planned 2017 release date. However, in actuality, the life sentence amounted to a death sentence. My father died from skin cancer that went undiagnosed and untreated while he was in federal custody. The skin cancer then led to a virulent outbreak of lung cancer that took his life just more than two months after his initial diagnosis.

The unnecessarily cruel twist in his final years occurred seven years ago when he reached his 80th birthday. At that point the government moved him from an extremely low security federal prison camp in New York State where he was within easy driving distance from family and friends, to a federal correctional institute, first in Indiana and then in Texas. This was done specially to give him access to better medical care. The trade off was that my father was forced to live isolated from those who loved him. Given that visiting him required long flights, car rentals, and hotel stays, his visits were few and far between. Yet while at these supposed superior medical facilities, my father received virtually no medical care at all, not even for the cataracts that left him legally blind, until the skin cancer on his head had spread to just about every organ in his body.

At the time of his diagnosis in early August of this year, he was given four to six months to live. We tried to get him out of prison on compassionate release so that he could live out the final months of his life with his family, spending some precious moments with the grandchildren he had barely known. But he did not live long enough for the bureaucratic process to be completed. Two months after the process began, despite the combined help of a sitting Democratic U.S. congresswoman and a Republican U.S. senator, his petition was still sitting on someone’s desk waiting for yet another signature, even though everyone at the prison actually wanted him released. Even as my father lay dying in intensive care, a phone call came in from a lawyer and the Bureau of Prisons in Washington asking the prison medical representatives for more proof of the serious nature of my father’s condition.

As the cancer consumed him, his voice changed and the prison phone system no longer recognized it, so he could not even talk with family members on the phone during his finale month of life. When his condition deteriorated to the point where he needed to be hospitalized, government employees blindly following orders that kept him shackled to his bed. This despite the fact that escape was impossible for an 87 year old terminally ill, legally blind patient who could barely breathe, let alone walk.

Whether or not you agree with my father’s views on the Federal Income Tax, or the manner by which it is collected, it’s hard to condone the way he was treated by our government. He held his convictions so sincerely and so passionately that he continued to espouse them until his dying breath. Like William Wallace in the final scene of Braveheart, an oppressive government may have succeeded in killing him, but they did not break his spirit. And that spirit will live on in his books, his videos, and in his children and grandchildren. Hopefully his legacy will one day help restore the lost freedoms he died trying to protect, finally allowing him to rest in peace.

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20 thoughts on “Death of a Patriot

  1. HenryR says:

    Please accept my heartfelt condolences, Peter. All of us who understand the aims and aspirations of the Constitution share your grief and stand shoulder to shoulder with you. May you live long enough to see the United States free itself of the IRS.

  2. Kris says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s passing, Peter. And I’m especially sorry at how cruelly he was treated toward the end of his life. You have my deepest sympathies. It is times like these that leaves me infuriated and embarrassed by those we’ve elected.

  3. Ray Dodson says:

    I do not personally know Peter Schiff nor did I know his father Irwin Schiff. However, I have read some of Irwin Schiff’s writings and am presently reading two of his books. This man Irwin was brilliant and I can’t encourage people enough to read his books. Only one problem with reading his books. You will come away so damn angry at our government. We as so called free people are being fleeced in so many ways it makes me sick at my stomach. Even more sickening is we can’t do a damn thing about it, and Irwin Schiff is an excellent example of a PATRIOT that tried to do something and the government killed him. When you are sent to prison for writing books how can you possibly claim this is a free country. I don’t care what the book or books is about or if they are fiction or non fiction they fall under the FIRST AMENDMENT period. When our government does this kind of crap it makes me as an american very fearful and you should be also. Our government has gotten so large and so out of control we better be very fearful. Should you not know your history, I advise you to look up Hitler. I will say only one more thing.
    I am so sorry for Peter Schiff and the whole Schiff family.
    I am sure I would have enjoyed knowing Irwin Schiff. He was an excellent writer and a great PATRIOT and I am sure he will be missed. God Bless the Schiff Family.

  4. Massimo Ciumaga says:

    Dear Mr. Schiff,
    Thank you for all the work that you do for what is ethical and just. I wish to offer my condolences for the passing of your father and a patriot. I will keep him in my prayers.

  5. Rick Nagby says:

    Please pass on to Mr. Peter Schiff and his family my sincerest condolences and how sorry I am and how sorry the country should be for the loss of his father. He was truly a great man and a patriot with more courage and guts than I (a former Marine) and most people will ever have. I am an avid Peter Schiff listener and have followed his father’s plight for years. We may all end up in prison as well for trying to be free and Irwin Schiff will give me the courage to endure that eventuality.

  6. bj says:

    I am so sorry about your dear father. What horrible treatment he received–actually there was no treatment.
    He loved his country and gave the supreme sacrifice of his own life.
    Please know that I am praying for comfort for all of your family.

  7. Bruce Brigham says:

    Peter and family:

    Sorry to hear about Irwin Schiff’s passing. A great man with true beliefs for a country he so loved that treated him so badly. Our forefathers will welcome him with open arms and say “nice try”.

    Bruce Brigham

  8. justin says:

    Sorry for your loss and the loss to our nation. Our thoughts are with you. Keep up your good work, with it he will never be forgotten.

  9. Zebram says:

    RIP Irwin Schiff. One of the true patriots of our country.


    Dear Mr. Peter Schiff,
    I am 58 year old, your Father visited my parents’ home when I was young. They were members of JBS. And I stopped paying my federal income taxes for ten years based on many of your father’s ideas.
    What a great honor to have such a brave Father, you should be very proud of him. It is not where you die, it is how you die.
    Respectfully yours,

  11. John Howard says:

    That was a beautiful tribute to your father! I remember hearing him interviewed on the radio as early as the late 70s. Likewise, I follow your own videos and interviews and economic analysis. My own father passed 45 years ago when I was a teen, andof course I still think about him. You were fortunate to have your father for so much of your life. My wife and I share your loss. Be well.

  12. v says:

    I am so profoundly sorry for your loss. I prayed for your father at times. No words of comfort, I’m sure, but you, as your father’s son, will keep his memory alive, and his message. Once again, my condolences.

  13. Arlene says:

    Irwin Schiff was a great man of courage and conviction. I admired him for speaking out and standing his ground. May God bless him and keep him and may God console his family knowing he was admired by many.

  14. Alberto says:

    My sincerest condolences to the Schiff family for their loss. No one should be treated in this manner, but alas, Mr. Schiff is at peace.
    God Family Country

  15. Potpourri says:

    […] Peter Schiff on the death of his father, […]

  16. Jordan says:

    Irwin Schiff – A true American hero!

  17. Major.Freedom says:

    Peter, we will all die one day, but you can be proud and you can always remember that while the government broke your dad’s body, they never broke his spirit.

    Nothing anyone could ever do will ever change that.

  18. Antonio Germano says:

    Dear Peter and Schiff family,

    My sincerest condolences on the passing of your very brave and patriotic father. His imprisonment was one of the greatest tragedies and travesties of American history.

    I was introduced to him by his first book, The Biggest Con. Until I read that book, I thought I knew everything there was to know about America and our system of government. Boy, was I mistaken. I realized that I was a true believer in more than one cherished myths, and his book, among others, started me on my journey toward true freedom.

    I thank God every day for men like Irwin Schiff and the others still living and fighting to free men’s minds from self-appointed prisons, and fighting to deprive the State of its unearned legitimacy.

    I have read a couple of his other books since the first one, and I am a better person for having read them.

    We may not achieve the things we want in this life, but there is real virtue in righteous struggle for a righteous cause, and his cause was righteous. And, he left a legacy and an example for others to follow.

    Irwin Schiff, RIP.

  19. Judy says:

    Very sad to learn of your father’s passing. I love to listen to him on youtube-so inspiring!
    Ashamed at the way he was treated. Am praying for peace for your family as you go thru this period of grief.

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