Monday, January 18, 2010

The Dangers of Unlimited Taxation

During the ratification debates that took place between the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention and the final ratification of the Constitution, many Americans debated the merits and demerits of the proposed new government. The Articles of Confederation had multiple defects and the new Constitution sought to remedy the lack of power to lay and collect taxes. Under the Constitution, "The Congress shall have Power 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; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States." Article 1, Section 8.

One of the debates during the ratification period foreshadowed the current state of affairs in the country. The original system of federated powers between the states and general government has been supplanted by a system where the states are mere appendages of the general government. One need look no further than states like California looking to the federal government for a bailout due to its inability to manage its internal budget and accomplish the mandates placed upon it by the general government.

In the New York Journal, from December 27, 1787, an article titled "Brutus" VI was published. In it, the author argued that the power granted the general government would ultimately make the states dependent upon the general government.

The article states:

"It is an important question, whether the general government of the United States should be so framed, as to absorb and swallow up the state governments? or whether, on the contrary, the former outh not be confined to certain defined national objects, while the latter should retain all the powers which concern the internal police of the states."

"In my last number I called your attention to this subject, and proved, as I think, uncontrovertibly, that the powers given the legislature under the 8th Section of the 1st article, had no other limitation than the discretion of the Congress. It was shewn, that even if the most favorable construction was given to this paragraph, that the advocates for the new constitution could wish, it will convey a power to lay and collect taxes, imposts, duties, and excises, according to the discretion of the legislature, and to make all laws which they shall judge proper and necessary to carry this power into execution. This I shewed would totally destroy all the power of the state governments."

"There is no way, therefore, of avoiding the destruction of the state governements, whenever the Congress please to do it, unless the people rise up, and with a strong hand, resist and prevent the execution of constitutional laws. The fear of this, will, it is presumed, restrain the general government, for some time, within proper bounds; but it will not be many years before they will have a revenue, and force, at their command, which will place them above any apprehensions on that score."

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful primary source find. We were warned repeatedly. "Necessary and proper"- Madison defined it, and yet we ignore his words. Strict constructionism will save us, loose and "living" and we shall lose our republic.