Volume 1 — Appendix
[Section 7 — Powers of Congress (cont.)]
We shall now resume our enquiry into the powers the exercise of which, is by
the constitution confided to the congress of the United States. Most of these we
have had occasion to enumerate in the course of our examination into the
distribution of power between the federal and state governments. This
examination we shall now resume more at large; another object of our further
enquiry will be, how, these powers are adjusted and to whom confided, in other
governments, particularly that of Great Britain: this will lead us frequently to
resume our parallel, and I trust, it will scarcely be found, that upon a fair
comparison, the superiority can in any instance be denied to the constitution of
the United States.
6. The powers of congress are the next subject to which our enquiries are to
be directed; these are in general legislative yet in some few instances, they
extend also to other subjects, which fall under the executive department in most
1. Congress is authorised to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and
excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence, and general
welfare of the United States 149: but
all duties, imposts, and excise shall be uniform throughout the United States
and no capitation; or other direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to
the census, or enumeration, before directed to be taken: nor shall any tax or
duty be laid on articles exported from any state 150.
The principle upon which the right of taxation is founded, is here shortly
expressed; viz. "To pay the debts and provide for the common defence, and
general welfare of the United States." For since the government is bound to
defend the lives and fortunes of the citizen, which protection cannot be
afforded, unless the government be furnished with adequate supplies for that
purpose, it is but reasonable that the individual should, on his part,
contribute his proper proportion thereof 151.
On the other hand, since the citizen is on no other account obliged to pay
taxes, or undergo any other public burthen, but as they are necessary to defray
the expences of the state, it ought to be the singular care of the government to
draw no further supplies than the exigences of the public require; and to see
likewise that the citizens be as little as possible incommoded with the charges
they are forced to put them to; and moreover, that the public impositions be
laid in just and fair proportions, without favouring and exempting of one, to
the defrauding or oppression of another 152.
Such are the principles which the constitution establishes, by requiring that
direct taxes should be "according to the census;" and that indirect
taxes, viz. duties, imposts; and excises should be "uniform"
throughout the United States.
The distinction which the constitution thus creates between direct taxes,
and others, renders an enquiry into the grounds and nature of that distinction
The author of the treatise upon political economy defines a tax, to be "a
certain contribution of fruits, service, or money imposed upon the individuals
of a state 153." He adds; "this
definition may include, in general, all kinds of burthens which can possibly be
imposed, whether under the name of tribute, tythe, tally, impost, duty, gabel,
custom, subsidy, excise, or any other.
As this definition includes the several species of burthens which the
congress are authorized to impose, it may be proper to see in what manner the
same author distinguishes them .... This he does into three classes: 1. Those
upon alienation, which he calls proportional; 2. Those upon possessions, which
he calls cumulative, or arbitrary; 3. Those exacted in service, as in the
militia, on the roads, &c.
1. A proportional tax is paid by the buyer, who intends to consume, at the
time of the consumption; and is consolidated with the price of the commodity.
Two requisites are necessary to fix this tax upon any one first, he must be
a buyer; secondly he must be a consumer.
Examples of this tax are all excises, customs, (viz. duties on imposts or
exports) stamp duties, postage, coinage, and the like.
2. A cumulative or arbitrary tax may be known; 1. By the intention; which
is, to affect the possessor in such a manner; as to make it difficult for him to
augment his income in proportion to the tax he pays: 2. By the object when
instead of being laid on any determinate piece of labour, or consumption, it is
made to affect past, and not present, gains; 3. By the circumstances, under
which it is levied; which imply no transition of property from hand to hand
Examples of cumulative taxes, are land taxes, poll taxes, window taxes,
duties upon coaches, servants, &c.
The taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, mentioned in the constitution of
the United States, appear naturally to fall under a similar division, and the
words direct, and indirect, may consequently be substituted for the terms
cumulative and proportional, used by that author.
It is the nature of a cumulative (or direct tax) to affect the possessions,
income, and profit, of every individual, without suffering it to be in their
power to draw it back again in any way whatever. A proportional, (or indirect
tax) on the contrary may be said to be paid voluntarily; being paid by a
voluntary purchaser, who is also a consumer 155.
This distinction it is conceived may be illustrated by the following
example: If a tax be laid upon wheels, so that every person in the state shall
be liable to pay a certain sum in proportion to the number of carriages he has
for his convenience this, according to the author last mentioned, would be a
cumulative, or direct tax; but if a similar tax be collected in the hands of the
wheel-wright, it would be a proportional, or indirect tax: in the first case; he
who pays the tax upon the carriages, which he keeps for his convenience, cannot
possibly draw the tax back again, after he has once paid it, by any means
whatever; in the second, the wheel-wright only advances the tax, but is repaid
by the purchaser who buys it for his convenience: inasmuch as he advances the
price of his wheels, in proportion to the duty or tax, he has paid upon them
Supposing this to be the true distinction to be taken between direct and
indirect taxes, a correspondent distinction in the mode of imposing the tax
should be adopted; if, for example, the last mentioned tax is to be levied upon
the person who uses the carriage for his convenience; this being a direct tax,
the whole sum required to be raised thereby, must first be apportioned among the
several states; but the tax itself, need not be uniform throughout the state; if
it be levied on the wheelright, the tax becomes an indirect one, and must be
uniform throughout the states; but there need not be any previous apportionment
of the quotas of the several states 157.
Whilst the constitution of the United States was under consideration,
objections were offered in this state, and in some others, against the power of
direct taxation, thereby granted to congress. One of the amendments proposed by
the convention of this state, was, "That when congress shall lay direct
taxes or excises, they shall immediately inform the executive power of each
state, of the quota of such state according to the census by the constitution
directed, which is proposed to be thereby raised; and if the legislature of any
state shall pass a law, which shall be effectual for raising such quota, at the
time required by congress, the taxes and excises laid by congress shall not be
collected in such state." This amendment was passed over in silence by
congress; but the exercise of the right of direct taxation, which it was
intended to qualify, has never yet been exerted; and probably will not, so long
as any other expedient can be fallen upon to raise money for the support of the
government 158. Not only Virginia, but
Massachusetts, South Carolina, New-York, and North-Carolina, concurred in
expressing a disapprobation of this part of the constitution. It may, however,
be doubted, whether there is as much reason for the objection, as the concurring
sense of five such considerable states induces a supposition that there may be
in it's favour. The power of taxation seems indispensably necessary to
constitute an efficient government, and appears inseparable from the right of
deciding upon any measure, which requires the aconstitution to carry it into
effect. By the same article of the constitution we shall find, that congress
have power to declare war, and to raise and support armies. What could this
declaration avail without the further power of procuring the means for their
support? The effects of paper emissions, lotteries, loan-offices, impressments,
and requisitions from the states, the occasional expedients, and ultimate
resources of a feeble confederacy, had been sufficiently seen, and felt during
the revolutionary war. How often were the sinews of government unstrung; how
often were it's operations stopped in the most critical conjunctures how few of
them were carried into vigorous effect, from the imbecility of the federal
government, and the deranged state of the finances of the union? .... Nor is the
mode proposed by the amendment, altogether free from objection: the states might
pass laws apparently effectual, for the purpose of raising the sum required, and
yet the execution of those laws be so retarded by the delinquency of collectors,
as to render the suspension of the act of congress a matter no longer
reconcilable to the pressing emergencies of the government. In this case, the
government must either be deprived of it's resources, or the citizens he doubly
burthened. Was there an instance where the requisitions of the revolutionary
congress were strictly complied with, both as to the time of payment, and the
quantum required? Were not arrears upon arrears continually the subject of their
demands from the respective states? If this was the case during the struggle for
independence, what may not be apprehended upon other occasions? It will be
alledged, perhaps, that the quotas of the several states were not adjusted upon
equal principles by the confederation: that each state supposed, and even
complained, that it had already contributed more than it's proper quota; and
that this may well account for their tardiness in complying with the
requisitions of congress. This, it is true, was the ostensible excuse with most
of them: but it is no less true that the states who were under-rated, or who
were actually in arrears, were not less positive, or vehement, in their
complaints of the inequality of the burthen, than those who had reason and
justice on their side; consequently they were not less tardy in complying with
any new requisition. If the experience of former evils ought to make us wise,
the United States have surely derived sufficient information from this source.
It is observable, that the objection only goes to the exercise of the right
of direct taxation; and the imposition of excises; all other indirect modes of
taxation seem to be given up without a question: but if the necessity of
investing congress with a power to impose taxes be admitted, it may be
questioned, whether more numerous, and important objections may not be offered
against indirect, than direct taxation, as a source of revenue in a free state.
If, on the one hand, indirect taxation may be considered as least burthensome in
the mode of collection, on the other hand it may be remarked, that the increase
of burthen upon the consumer, who ultimately pays every indirect tax, is
probably more than an equivalent for this convenience; which is moreover fully
counterbalanced by that unavoidable inequality of burthens, resulting from
indirect taxes, which it should be the object of direct taxation to avoid.
Indeed, if equality of taxation be desirable, the only mode by which it can be
obtained, seems to be by direct taxes, imposed in the mode prescribed by the
constitution. It was, perhaps, impracticable to fix the ratio of direct taxes,
in any just proportion, by reference to any particular species of property, even
land, that kind of property, which, of all others, is most susceptible of such
an adjustment, being of very unequal value, although perfectly equal in quality,
and produce, in different parts of the United States. And this circumstance,
alone, appears to afford a sufficient reason against uniformity, in the
imposition of direct taxes. The attempt was made under the confederation to
apportion the burthens of the union among the states, according to the value of
all lands within each state, granted to, or surveyed for any person, with the
buildings and improvements thereon 159.
But congress, by their act of April 18, proposed to the states to rescind that
part of the articles of confederation, and in lieu thereof, to adopt precisely
the same mode which the present constitution establishes. A bill to that effect
was passed in this state
160; but whether the proposal was
favourably received by the other states, I am not informed. It appears then to
be somewhat extraordinary, that the opposition to direct taxation was so strong
in Virginia, where the proportion proposed, had already received the approbation
of her legislature. A proportion established by reference to labour, the
original source of wealth, may be considered as the best medium, by which to
ascertain the rate of actual wealth; and if it be remembered, that two-fifths of
the slaves in the southern states are thrown out of the calculation, we should
conclude that they could not reasonably be dissatisfied with the ratio thereby
One of the objections to the power of direct taxation most strongly insisted
on, was, that a representative of Massachusetts, or Georgia, could not be a
proper judge of the most fit objects of taxation in Virginia; this objection,
however, the constitution seems to have guarded against effectually, by
requiring that the sum to be raised by direct taxes should be apportioned among
the several states in the first instance. What motive, then, could
representative from Massachusetts, or from Georgia, have for opposing any mode
of raising the tax in Virginia, which might be proposed by the representatives
from that state? As the sum to be contributed by the state would be previously
fixed, it could neither be augmented nor diminished by the mode of collection:
of this, the members from the several states might he considered as tconstitutiones, respectively. Uniformity not being required by the constitution to be
observed in the imposition of direct taxes, the tax in New-England might be a
poll-tax, in Pennsylvania a land-tax, and in South Carolina a tax on slaves, if
those modes, respectively, should be recommended byconstitutionntatives of those
states, without either violating the constitution, or disadvantage to any other
state. In the imposition of such taxes; therefore, congress might pursue the
system of each State, respectively, within that state 162.
The inequality of indirect taxes, among states, as well as among individuals, is
perfectly unavoidable 163. It may in
time become so great as to shift all the burthens of government from a part of
the states, and to impose them, exclusively, on the rest of the union. The
northern states, for example, already manufacture within themselves, a very
large proportion, or perhaps the whole, of many articles, which in other states
are imported from foreign parts, subject to heavy duties. They are consequently
exempted, in the same proportion, from the burthen of duties paid on these
articles. Hence a considerable inequality already exists between the
contributions from the several states; this inequality daily increases, and is
indeed daily favoured, upon principles of national policy: for whenever any
species of manufacture becomes considerable in the United States, it is
considered proper to impose what are called protecting duties, upon foreign
articles of the same kind. Nor does the matter rest here; for several American
manufactures are now subject to an excise 164:
this species of tax, though advanced by the manufacturer, is paid by the
consumer, as has been already shewn: consequently, the duty upon every excised
commodity is in fact paid by that state where it is consumed, whilst the
manufacturing state is not only exempt from the burthen, but enriched by it.
This inequality is no otherwise to be avoided but by direct taxes. The same
disproportion also obtains among individuals of the same state where it operates
as a tax on luxury, it may be considered in a beneficial light; but there are a
thousand instances where a tax upon consumption will produce an inequality of
burthens, though the tax should operate only upon the necessaries, and not the
luxuries of life: a person in health may dispense with many comforts which a
sick man stands in the utmost need of; he can better afford to pay a tax on what
he consumes; but the sick man must either pay an additional tax, or perish
because he cannot afford it. Indirect taxes, therefore, not unfrequently impose
the burthen upon those who are least able to sustain it; a direct tax on the
contrary may always be apportioned according to the means of defraying it.
It seems agreed among political writers, that another objection to indirect
taxes arises from the tax being so interwoven with the price, that the consumer
blends them together, and is thus rendered ignorant of the burthens imposed upon
him by the government. This is conceived to be peculiarly dangerous in a free
government, and utterly incompatible with that responsibility, which ought to
subsist between the representative and his constituents; whose burthens are thus
imperceptibly increased, to the great hazard of their liberties, whenever the
government shall thus insensibly acquire an independent revenue; the source and
amount of which may be equally unknown to the generality of the people. If, for
example, a duty of 10 per cent. ad valorem, he imposed upon any foreign
article imported, or upon any domestic manufacture made for sale in the United
States, the duty is in a very few years entirely forgotten, being wholly lost in
the price of the article, in the consumer's estimation; an additional 5 per
cent. is laid; this, like the former, is equally forgotten, and blended with
the price in a few years more. This may be repeated at no very distant periods,
till the duty is doubled, trebled, or quadrupled, and the effect still be the
same: in another generation the same experiment may be repeated with like
success, and each succeeding generation undergo the like additional burthens,
until it would require the most consummate skill in political arithmetic to
calculate the amount; whereas, if direct taxes were increased in the like
proportion, every individual would at once perceive from what source this
additional burthen arose, and would be led to enquire for what reason he was
subjected to it. Hence it would seem to be the interest of every freeman, in a
free state, that his taxes should be imposed in such manner as to be subject to
his immediate observation; since whatever inconvenience he may thereby sustain,
must be amply recompensed by the security thus afforded to his liberty.
The power of imposing direct taxes, excises, and duties, except on imports
or exports, is one of those, in which, according to our distribution, the United
States and the individual states possess concurrent authority. It was
apprehended by the opposers to the constitution, that this power in the congress
would, like Aaron's rod, swallow up that of the state legislatures
165. The government must be wholly
corrupted whenever this happens; so long as the taxes imposed by the federal
legislature are limited to constitutional purposes, it is impossible that the
states should be without a revenue sufficient to support their civil lists.
Beyond that object, so long as the federal government is properly administered,
the states can have no urgent occasion for any revenue
The abuse of the powers of government should be guarded against by the
constitution as far as possible. The purposes for which any grievous tax can,
with any shadow of necessity, be imposed by the federal legislature, must be the
raising and supporting armies. Appropriations for that purpose are limited to
two years. The duration of congress is limited to the like period. Would not a
new election strike at the root of the evil? If it should not, the people must
resort to first principles. Even annual elections would probably be an
insufficient protection against such a constitutionity, as could not be curbed
by these provisions in the constitution."
Excises, the second branch of revenue which created an alarm in the minds of
the opposers of the constitution, are defined to be an inland imposition,
usually paid upon the retail sale of a commodity 167.
It appears, however, that they are generally imposed on manufactures, and paid
by the manufacturer
168, who advances the price of his
commodity in proportion. The author of the commentaries on the laws of England
acknowledges, that the rigour and arbitrary proceedings of excise laws; seems
hardly compatible with the temper of a free nation 169
.... This observation, founded on the experience of a nation whose accumulated
debts, financial embarrassments may have driven them to it's adoption, it might
have been expected, would have co-operated with the clamours of a considerable
part of the union, against the admission of such a principle of taxation into
the constitution, to deter congress from an immediate resort to an experiment of
it's effects upon the minds of their constituents. It is said that this mode of
taxation is familiar to the New England states, and that it is by no means
obnoxious to the people there. This circumstance probably paved the way for its
reception in congress; in this state it was a perfect novelty, constitution the
subject of one of the amendments, proposed to the constitution. The arguments in
favour of this, as an economical mode of taxation, abstractedly considered,
appear to be much in its favour; it being alledged, that the charges of levying,
collecting, and managing the excise duties in England, are considerably less in
proportion, than in any other branches of the revenue
170. This may be true in a country
abounding in manufacturing towns; but in a country where the objects of the
excise are few, and those dispersed over an immense tract of country, it is
perhaps demonstrable from the number of salaried officers employed in the
collection, that a smaller portion of the excise, than of any other tax goes
into the treasury of the United States. The giving salaries to these officers is
an irrefragable proof of this position: for if the tax to be collected were so
considerable, as that a moderate per centage would afford a sufficient
compensation to the collectors, for their trouble, there would be no need of
resorting to salaries, which may perhaps amount to fifteen, or twenty per cent,
in some places, and in others, prove almost commensurate with the tax itself
171. On the other hand, it must be
acknowledged, that the excise contributes in some measure to restore the balance
arising from the inequality produced by duties on foreign imports and this, not
only among individuals, but in a small degree among the states; the
manufacturing states being thereby subject to some portion of the tax on
consumption: but this last benefit can only last so long as each state shall
manufacture for its own consumption, only; and it will be entirely lost, and
even become doubly oppressive, whenever the manufactures of one part of the
union, are exported from thence and consumed in the other states. Excises will
then operate as the most burthensome species of impost, on those parts of the
union, where consumption takes place.
Duties and imposts, in their common acceptation mean those takes which
merchants are compelled to pay upon merchandize imported, or exported, from any
state, and which have in many countries obtained the general name of customs;
probably from the usual and constant demand made of them for the use of the
princes, state, or government. But in the constitution of the United States they
seem to have obtained a more extensive signification, and were probably intended
to comprehend every species of tax, or contribution, not included under the
ordinary terms, taxes and excises. Taken in the general and comprehensive sense,
the states respectively possess the power of imposing them, concurrently with
the federal government, with the single exception of customs, or duties upon
imports or exports; the right of imposing which, is either exclusively vested in
the congress of the United States, or can only be exercised by the respective
states with the assent of congress, except what may be absolutely necessary for
executing their inspection laws: and the nett produce of all duties and imposts
laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of
the United States; and all such laws are subject to the revision and control of
the congress; nor can any state without the consent of congress lay any duty on
tonnage 172. Frequent instances have
occurred where the assent of congress has been given to acts of the state
legislatures, made for especial purposes, such as erecting piers, appointing
health officers, deepening the navigation, &c.
In February 1781, the congress of the United States made a proposal to the
several states to authorize congress to impose a duty of five per cent. ad
valorem, on certain goods, wares and merchandizes, (such as wines and ardent
spirits, &c.) and on all prizes and prize goods, which might be imported, or
brought, into the United States. The legislature, at their next session, passed
an act, in conformity thereto 174.
Several of the states as was afterwards alledged, neglected to pass similar
laws, and their unanimous consent was requisite 175,
under the existing articles of confederation, to give effect to such an
important change in the system; in consequence of which, the act of this state
was suspended, by a law passed at the ensuing session 176,
until the several states in the union should concur in adopting the measure: it
has been said that the non-concurrence of a single state, (and that, one of the
smallest in the union,) prevented the proposition from taking effect; but this
is not the reason, assigned by the legislature of this state, for repealing
their act of assent. An ill timed jealousy at that period, had crept into the
legislature, who declared by their act of October, 1782, c. 137. "That the
permitting any power, other than the general assembly of the commonwealth to
levy duties or taxes upon the citizens of this state, within the same, is
injurious to it's sovereignty, and may prove destructive of the rights and
liberties of the people;" for which reason they repeated the act of the
preceding year, by which the concurrence of the state was yielded to the
proposed measure. In the month of April 1783, the proposition was new modelled
by congress, and again presented to the states, for their assent and
concurrence; and was a second time acceded to by the state of Virginia, in the
month of October, in the same year, but, with a suspending clause, until the
other states, in the union, should likewise, concur in the proposed concession
177. The preamble to this act recites,
that congress had recommended to the several states as indispensably necessary
to the restoration of public credit, and to the punctual and honourable
discharge of the public debt, to invest the United States in congress assembled
with a power to levy, for the use of the United States, certain duties upon
goods imported into the said states from any foreign part, for the period of
twenty-five years. The powers thereby granted were moreover guarded by a number
of provisoes and restrictions, and limited to a period, barely sufficient to
answer the purpose of reviving the confidence of the creditors of the union ....
Yet this measure like the former, miscarried for the want of the unanimous
concurrence of the states, so cautious were they at that time, in their
concessions of power to the federal government. It was at this session,
likewise, (Oct. 1783 178,) that the
legislature of Virginia, passed an act to authorize the congress of the United
States to adopt certain regulations respecting the British trade; the object of
which was to authorize that body to prohibit the importation of the growth or
produce of the British West-India Islands, in British vessels; or, to adopt any
other mode which might most effectually tend to counteract the designs of Great
Britain, with respect to the American commerce, so long as the growth or produce
of any of the United States of America should be prohibited from being carried
to those islands, by any other than British subjects, in British built ships,
owned by British subjects, and navigated according to the laws of that kingdom.
This measure, which, if it had been adopted would have operated to the exclusive
benefit of the navigating states, likewise failed, from the same causes as the
two former. When peace was concluded with Great Britain a commercial rivalship
very soon began to manifest itself among the several states, but between none
more remarkable than Maryland and Virginia, to both which the waters of the
Chesapeake, and the Potowmac, were as a common high-way. Scarcely a session of
the general assembly passed over in either state, without some change in the
duties upon imports, and tonnage, with a view to counteract some law, or
regulation, of the other. Various attempts were made to produce an uniformity in
their custom-house systems, but without effect. At this period, likewise, the
inefficiency of the federal government began to excite loud clamours, as we have
had occasion to mention, elsewhere. The want of an uniform system of commercial
regulations, among the states, and the total want of funds, in the hands of
congress, for the discharge of the continental debt, as well foreign, as
domestic, convinced every one of the propriety of investing congress with power
over these subjects, and gave rise to the measures already mentioned elsewhere.
Hence, no opposition was ever made, to these branches of the authority of
congress, when the question respecting the adoption of the constitution of the
United States was agitated.
All duties and imposts (as contradistinguished from direct taxes) and all
excises, as we have seen, must be uniform throughout the United States
179, by which means the principle of
equality, as far as the nature of the subject will admit, is still adhered to in
the constituticonstitution -->. A candid review of this part of the federal constitution,
cannot fail to excite our just applause of the principles upon which it is
founded. All the arguments against it appear to have been drawn from the
inexpediency of establishing such a form of government, rather than from any
defect in this part of the system, admitting that a general government was
necessary to the happiness and prosperity of the states, individually. This
great primary question being once decided in the affirmative, it might be
difficult to prove that any part of the powers granted to congress in this
clause, ought to have been altogether withheld: yet being granted, rather as an
ultimate provision in any possible case of emergency, than as a means of
ordinary revenue, it is to be wished that the exercise of powers; either
oppressive in their operation, or inconsistent with the genius of the people, or
irreconcilable to their prejudices, might be reserved for cogent occasions,
which might justify the temporary recourse to a lesser evil, as the means of
avoiding one more permanent, and of greater magnitude 180.
149. C. U. S. Art. 1. Sec. 8.
150. C. U. S. Art. 1. Sec. 9.
151. Spavan's Puffendorf, vol.
II. p. 330.
152. Spavan's Puffendorf, vol.
II. p. 283.
153. Stuart's Political Economy,
vol. II. p. 485.
154. Stuart's Political Economy,
vol. II. p. 485.
155. Ibid. p. 496.
156. Stuart's Pol. Economy, Vol.
1, p. 520. ... For a variety of examples to illustrate the distinction here
made, the student is referred to the same book. Art. taxes.
157. The preceeding investigation of
this subject, was made about two years before congress passed the act imposing
duties upon carriages for the conveyance of persons. The tax was opposed in
Virginia as unconstitutional, because the sum to be raised thereby was not first
apportioned among the states. A suit was brought in the federal court in
Virginia; the judges were divided in opinion, and the case, by consent, was
carried to the supreme federal court; it was there decided that the tax was not
direct; and consequently that no apportionment was necessary. United States
vs. Hylton. The editor's reasoning upon this subject, must therefore be
regarded by the student as merely hypothetical, and speculative.
158. Direct taxes have been more than
once proposed in congress: but the strenuous opposition to them leaves reason to
believe that a maritime war, alone, will overcome the repugnance to them.
Happily for America, if this repugnance should always operate so strongly, as to
make her avoid such an occasion for them.
But since the preceding was written, congress have imposed
a direct tax of two million of dollars. See L. U. S. 5. Cong. c. 86, and 92.
126. 6 Cong. c. 3. See Note 33. p. 313. of the first Book of the Commentaries
.... part 2.
159. Confederation, Art. 8.
160. May, 1784, c. 31.
161. See Federalist, No. 54.
162. See Federalist, No. 36.
163. Ibid. No. 35.
164. See L. U. S. 2. Cong. c. 32. 3.
Cong. c. 51. 108. But since this was written the excise laws have all been
repealed. 7 Cong. 1 Sess. c. 19.
165. "Though the law for laying a
tax for the use of the United States would be supreme in its nature, and could
not legally be opposed or controled, yet a law for abrogating or preventing the
collection of a tax laid by the authority of a state, unless upon exports or
imports; would not be the supreme law of the land, but an usurpation of power
not granted by the constitution."
Federalist, No. 33.
The inference upon the whole is, that under the proposed
constitution the individual states would retain an independent and uncontrolable
authority to raise revenue to any extent, of which they may stand in need, by
every kind of taxation, except duties on imports and exports."
Ibid, No. 33, vol. I. p. 205.
166. "As to the suggestion of
double taxation, the answer is plain. The wants of the union are to be supplied
in one way or another: if it be done by the authority of the federal government,
it will not be done by that of the state governments. The quantity of taxes to
be paid by the community must be the same in either case." Ibid.
No. 36. vol. I. p. 225.
167. 1 Blacks. Com. 318.
168. Ibid. 320.
170. Blacks. Com. 318, which
appears however to be a mistatement. See Christian's Edi. in a note to p. 318.
1. Blacks. Com.
171. What is said above was the result
of conjecture but a report of the secretary of the treasury to the house of
representatives, dated December 18, 1801, places the subject beyond the
uncertainty of conjecture. "It will appear, says the secretary, from a
statement annexed, that whilst the expences of collection on merchandize and
tonnage, which are defrayed out of the revenue do not exceed four per cent,
those on the permanent internal duties amount to almost twenty per cent. This is
an inconvenience which, on account of the great number of individuals on whom
the duties are raised, and of their dispersed situation throughout the whole
extent of the United States, must, more or less attach to the system of internal
taxation, so long as the wants of government shall not require any considerable
extention, and the total amount of revenue shall remain inconsiderable."
172. C. U. S. Art. 1. §. 10.
173. See L. U. S. 5. Cong. c. 38, and
39, with many others.
174. May 1781, c. 2. the title occurs in
the chancellor's revisal, p. 140.
175. Articles of confederation and
perpetual union, Art. 13.
176. L. V. November, 1781. c. 9.
177. Ibid. October, 1783. c. 218
178. L. V. October, 1783. c. 5.
179. C. U. S. Art. 1, Sec. B.
180. It seems to have been upon this
principle that all the internal taxes (except that arising from the
post-office,) were repealed by an act of 7. Cong. 1. Session, c. 19)
Next Section | Previous
Section | Contents |
Constitution Society Home Page