« ForrigeFortsett »
to the States, with whom alone rested its final acceptance or rejection.
In Congress, as we learn from the valuable notes of Mr. Jefferson, the discussion turned chiefly on those articles which determined the proportion, or quota of money, which each State should furnish to the common treasury, and the manner of voting in Congress. The first of these articles was, in the original draft, expressed in these words.
“Art. XI. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence, or general welfare, and allowed by the United States assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex, and quality, except Indians not paying taxes, in each colony—a true amount of which, distinguishing the white inhabitants, shall be triennially taken and transmitted to the Assembly of the United States."
Mr. Chase moved that the quotas should be fixed, not by the number of the inhabitants of every condition, but by that of the “white inhabitants.” He admitted that taxation should always be in proportion to property; that this was, in theory, the true rule; but that, from a variety of difficulties, it was a rule which could never be adopted in practice. The value of the property in every State could never be estimated justly and equally. Some other measures for the wealth of the state must, therefore, be devised, some standard referred to, which would be more simple. He considered the number of inhabitants a tolerably good criterion of property, and that this might always be obtained. He therefore thought it the best mode that we could adopt, with one exception only: he observed that negroes are property, and, as such, cannot be distinguished from the lands or personalities held in those States where there are few slaves; that the surplus of profit which a Northern farmer is able to lay by, he invests in cattle, horses &c., whereas a Southern farmer lays out the same surplus in slaves. There is no more reason, therefore, for taxing the Southern States on the farmer's head, and on his slave's head, than the Northern ones on their farmers' heads and the heads of their cattle; that the method proposed would, therefore, tax the Southern States on their numbers and their wealth conjunctly, while the Northern would be taxed on numbers only; that negroes,
in fact, should not be considered as members of the state more than cattle, and that they have no more interest in it.
Mr. JOHN ADAMS observed, that the numbers of people are taken by this article, as an index of the wealth of the State, and not as subjects of taxation; that, as to this matter, it was of no consequence by what name you called your people, whether by that of freemen or of slaves ; that in some countries the laboring poor are called freemen, in others they were called slaves ; but that the difference as to the state was imaginary only. What matters it whether a landlord, employing ten laborers on his farm, give them annually as much money as will buy them the necessaries of life, or give them those necessaries at short hand? The ten laborers give as much wealth to the state, increase its exports as much in the one case as the other. Certainly five hundred freemen produce no more profits, no greater surplus for the payment of taxes, than five hundred slaves. Therefore the state in which are the laborers called freemen, should be taxed no more than that in which are those called slaves. Suppose, by an extraordinary operation of nature or of law, one half of the laborers of a state could, in the course of one night, be transformed into slaves; would the state be made poorer or less able to pay taxes ? That the condition of the laboring poor in most countries—that of the fishermen, particularly, of the Northern States—is as abject as that of slaves. It is the number of laborers which produces the surplus for taxation, and numbers, therefore, indiscriminately, are the fair index to wealth; that it is the use of the word "property" here in its application to some of the people of the state which produces the fallacy. How does the Southern farmer procure slaves ? Either by importation, or by purchase from his neighbor. If he imports a slave, he adds one to the number of laborers in his country, and proportionally to its profits and ability to pay taxes. If he buys from his neighbor, it is only a transfer of a laborer from one farm to another, which does not change the annual produce of the state, and therefore should not change its tax; that if a Northern farmer works ten laborers on his farm, he can, it is true, invest the surplus of ten men's labor in cattle; but so may the Southern farmer working ten slaves; that a state of one hundred thousand freemen can maintain no more cattle than one of one hundred thousand slaves, therefore they have no more of that kind of property. That a slave may, indeed, from the custom of speech, be more properly called the wealth of his master, than the free laborer might be called the wealth of his employer; but as to the state, both were equally its wealth, and should therefore equally add to the quota of its tax.
Mr. HARRISON proposed, as a compromise, that two slaves should be counted as one freeman. He affirmed that slaves did not do as much work as freemen, and doubted if two effected more than one; that this was proved by the price of labor—the hire of a laborer in the Southern colonies being from £8 to £12, while in the Northern it was generally £24.
Mr. Wilson said that if this amendment should take place, the Southern colonies would have all the benefit of slaves, whilst the Northern ones would bear the burden ; that slaves increase the profits of a state, which the Southern States mean to take to themselves; that they also increase the burden of defence, which would, of course, fall so much heavier on the Northern; that slaves occupy the places of freemen and eat their food. Dismiss your slaves, and freemen will take their places. That other kinds of property were pretty equally distributed through all the colonies ;—there were as many cattle, horses, and sheep in the North as the South, and South as the North ; but not so as to slaves ; ---that experience has shown those colonies have been always able to pay most which have the most inhabitants, whether they be black or white; and the practice of the Southern colonies has always been to make every farmer pay poll taxes upon his laborers, whether they be black or white. He acknowledged that freemen work the most; but they consume the most also. They do not produce a greater surplus for taxation. The slave is neither fed nor clothed so expensively as a freeman. Again, white women are exempted from labor generally, but negro women are not, In this, then, the Southern States had advantage as the Article now stands. It has sometimes been said that slavery is necessary because the commodities they raise would be too dear for market if cultivated by freemen ; but now it is said chat the labor of the slave is the dearest.
Mr. Payne urged the original resolutions of Congress, to proportion the quotas of the States to the number of souls.
Dr. WITHERSPOON was of opinion that the value of land and houses was the best estimate of the wealth of a nation, and that it was practicable to obtain such a valuation. This is the true barometer of wealth. The one now proposed was imperfect in itself, and unequal between the States. It has been objected that negroes eat the food of freemen, and therefore should be taxed ! horses also eat the food of freemen; therefore, they also should be taxed. It had been said, too, that in carrying slaves into the estimate of the taxes the State is to pay we do no more than those States themselves do, who always take slaves into the estimate of the taxes the individual is to pay. But the cases were not parallel. In the Southern colonies slaves pervade the whole colony; but they do not pervade the whole continent. to the original resolution of Congress to proportion the quotas according to the souls, it was temporary only, and related to the moneys heretofore omitted; whereas we are now entering into a new compact, and therefore stand on original ground.
The result of this interesting discussion was that on the 1st of August the proposed amendment was rejected, and the original Article adopted by the votes of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, against those of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina. Georgia was divided. The arguments convinced none on either side, as the vote sufficiently proves. The Southern delegates, however, yielded gracefully to the desire of the majority; nor was there much further opposition offered to the Article on the part of the Southern legislators before whom the plan of confederation was afterwards laid for ratification or rejection.
The other article was in these words:
“ Art. XVII. In determining questions each colony shall have one yote."
It was debated on July 30th and 31st, and on the 1st of August.
Mr. CHASE observed that this article was more likely to divide the colonies than any other proposed in the draft then under consideration. That the larger colonies had threatened they would not confederate at all if their weight in Congress should not be equal to the numbers of people they added to the Confederacy; while the smaller ones declared against a union if they did not retain an equal vote for the protection of their rights. That it was of the utmost consequence to bring the parties together; as, should we sever from each other, either no foreign power will ally with us at all, or the different States will form different alliances, and thus increase the horrors of those scenes of civil war and blood. shed which in such a state of separation and independence would render us a miserable people. That our importance, our interests, our peace, required that we should confederate, and that mutual sacrifices should be made to effect a compromise of this difficult question. He was of opinion the smaller colonies would lose their rights if they were not, in some instances, allowed an equal vote; and therefore, that a discrimination should take place ainong the questions which should come before Congress. That the smaller States should be secured in all questions concerning life or liberty, and the greater ones in all respecting property. He therefore proposed that in votes relating to money the voice of each colony should be proportioned to the number of its inhabitants.
Dr. FRANKLIN thought that the votes should be so proportioned in all cases. He took notice that the Delaware counties had bound up their delegates to disagree to this article. He thought it very extraordinary language to be held by any State that they would not confederate with us unless we would let them dispose of our money. Certainly if we vote equally we ought to pay equally; but the smaller States will hardly purchase the privilege at this price. That had he lived in a State where the representation, originally equal, had become unequal by time and accident, he might have submitted rather than disturb government; but that we should be very wrong to set out in this practice when it is in our power to establish what is right. That at the time of the union between England and Scotland, the latter had made the objection which the smaller States now do; but experience had proved that no unfairness had ever been shown them; that their advocates had prognosticated that it would again happen as in times of old that the whale would swallow Jonah ; but he thought the prediction reversed in event, and that Jonah had swallowed the