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nor then until Congress shall have first made a requisition upon the states," &c.
State of Virginia.—When Congress shall lay direct taxes or excises, they shall immediately inform the executive powerof each state of the quota of such state, according to the census herein 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."
State of New-York." That the Congress will not lay direct taxes within this state; but when the moneys arising from the impost and excise shall be insufficient for the public exigencies, nor then until Congress shall first have made a requisition upon this state to assess," &c.
State of North Carolina.—“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 herein directed, which is proposed to be thereby raised, and if the legislature of any state shall pass a law which shall be etiectual for raising such quota at the time required by Congress, the taxes and excises laid by Congress shall not be collected in such state."
State of Rhode Island.—“ In cases of direct taxes, Congress shall first make requisition on the several states to assess,” &c.
We now bring our extracts to a close, with the full belief that enough, and more than enough, has been produced to satisfy every unprejudiced mind of the true intent and meaning of the grant of powers of taxation to the United States.
Let it be borne in mind that throughout our revolutionary war, the United States, in their aggregate capacity, were under the necessity of incurring debts without sufficient funds to meet the payment of them; that these United States constantly represented to the people the national exigencies, and the necessity of investing the nation, in its corporate capacity, with powers to levy taxes or imposts, for the purpose, and as it was uniformly expressed, for the sole purpose of defraying the expenses and paying the debts of the nation ; that the people as constantly refused, for six successive years, to listen to any sug. gestion on the subject, until at length they were assured that the affairs of the United States were arrived at that crisis, beyond which it was impossible, under existing circumstances, for the union to continue ; that public credit was at its lowest ebb; and that the only means to preserve the national character and national existence was to empower Congress to levy taxes for the payment of these debts, for which the public credit had
been solemnly pledged. Under these circumstances, and in this situation of affairs the constitution of the United States was adopted. We do not hear of any other inducement offered ; we insist that there was not any other; and we challenge the production of any proof of any other inducement for this same people to grant to the national legislature the powers of taxation, than that so repeatedly and urgently set forth in Congress, namely, the absolute necessity of enabling them to supply themselves with the means of paying the debts and providing for the common defence and general welfare. Is it not an outraye upon our understanding, upon common sense, to tell us that a whole people who even at the hazard of again being reduced under British domination, refused this license to Congress, should afterwards, and within the same year, grant the same Congress greater powers than they had ever asked or ever thought of! powers of determining whether a given method of honestly exchanging commodities between man and man, private individuals, and American citizens within the United States, is agreeable to their views of propriety or policy. If the constitution had explicitly required such a grant, does any one believe that the people would have knowingly consented to it? But it may be said that this means is resorted to, not for the sake of interference between American citizens in their mutual deal. ings, but in order to close this vent to British and other foreign commodities. This same principle, without extending it an
. iota beyond such a construction, empowers Congress to destroy the judicial system in order to prevent the foreign owner from supporting his legal rights in a Court of justice, or to lay a tax of ninety-nine per cent. on the rents of ware-houses to prevent the storing of British fabrics.
It is true that Congress are constituted the sole judges of what is for the general welfare or not—they may, if they think fit, provide for the common defence and public welfare by giving Mr. Henry 40,000 dollars for state secrets, or by building castles to be converted into gardens, or by constructing steam frigates, to be used afterwards for hospitals,-for the obvious meaning of the constitution is that of all these things, Congress shall be the sole and absolute judges. But the meaning of the constitution is equally obvious, that Congress shall have no power whatever directly or indirectly, to intersere between two American citizens, one of whom has money and the other cloth, and say to the first, it is contrary to the general welfare for you to offer your money for the cloth, and we shall take effectual measures to prevent it. But perbaps it will be contended, that it is of no great consequence
whether Congress have the right very clearly invested in them, as long as their acts are governed by a sound discretion. That for example in the present case the long list of petitioners is a proof that auctions are pernicious, and that a system which so many deprecate must be an evil. We have already admitted that auctions under certain circumstances are an evil, but we are not prepared to admit that the number of petitioners is a proof of the evil. There is no doubt that almost every house owner in the city of New York might be prevailed upon to petition Congress to impose a tax of ten per cent. upon all farther building in cities where the houses exceeded a certain number. They could represent, plausibly enough, that the farther increase of houses is a serious evil; that houses do not now pay an adequate rent for the capital expended ; that there are already more than are occupied, &c. &c. A much greater list of grievances might be enumerated against printing ; and some Jack Cades may arise and procure thousands of petitioners for a tax of ten, twenty, or fisty per cent. to be laid on the sale of books and newspapers. If the number of yards of signatures is to influence the deliberations of Congress, it is no sketch of fancy that supposes the possibility of these things. Much has been urged too on the ground that on these points Congress will exercise a sound discretion. If we suppose that the members of Congress are men of the greatest and most disinterested virtue and integrity, we suppose quite as much as is true. Of the whole number of representatives we may safely say that the greater part are indifferent as to the fate of the auction bill; and this is as good an example as any. Men who are ignorant of a subject, or indifferent about it, will undoubtedly be influenced by those who are not ignorant and indifferent; and these are precisely the persons most interested, and consequently least likely to exercise a soundness of discretion. Witness the late discussions on the Tariff. Can we reasonably expect them to exercise a virtue which we seem to despise, by voluntarily yielding the solitary check we now possess over them?
It may be farther obiected to us, that Congress may constitutionally lay a tax in order to pay the debts, &c., of the United States, and that, if it should operate as prohibitory, it is an accidental result of the law for which they are not responsible. But we insist that the law is to be judged by its effects; and if these are in any way unconstitutional, the law must be so likewise. The late decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Gibbons v. Ogden, on the question of Steamboats, is a case precisely in point. Besides the Vol. II, No. VIII.
same construction would justisy almost any prohibition whatsoever. Once sanction this principle-give to Congress the right of prohibition, and the freedom of the people subsists only by the frail and precarious tenure of a legislator's wisdom, or å statesman's caprice.
(Sire of the silver bow, and sounding sheath!)
Which, at the wing'd steed's touch (so bards recount)
Of him who worships thee with purer heart,
Than tbey to whom alone thou dost imparı
Or plash of pebbly brook, with bubbling gush
Till at the clanking of the Roman's chain,
Broke, upseduced, the Tyrant's yielded blade,