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3. To appoint the collectors of and direct the mode of accounting for taxes imposed according to the requisitions of Congress.
4. To recognize the independence of and admit into the federal union any part of one or more of the United States with the consent of the dismembered state.
5. To stipulate in treaties with foreign nations for the establishment of consular power, without reference to the states individually.
6. To distrain the property of a state delinquent in its assigned proportion of men and money.
7. To vary the rules of suffrage in Congress, taking care that in questions for waging war, granting letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace, concluding or giving instructions for any alliance, coining money, regulating the value of coin, determining the total number of land and sea forces, and allotting to each state its quota of men or money, emitting bills of credit, borrowing money, fixing the number and force of vessels of war, and appointing a commander-inchief of the army and navy-at least two-thirds of the United States shall agree therein.
Resolved, That a committee be appointed to prepare a representation to the several states of the necessity of these supplemental powers, and of pursuing, in the modification thereof, one uniform plan.
(b) The most serious difficulty that confronted Congress was the raising of a revenue to defray the expenses of government and discharge the interest on the public debt. The requisition system broke down completely. On October 30, 1781, Congress asked for eight million dollars; by January, 1783, less than half a million had been received. Of six million called for between 1782 and 1786 only one million was paid. In 1787 New Jersey not merely neglected but positively refused to raise any part of the amount apportioned to her. To remedy this situation two revenue amendments were submitted to the states. The first of these, February 3, 1781, was as follows:
Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states as
indispensably necessary, that they vest a power in Congress to levy, for the use of the United States, a duty of five per cent. ad valorem, at the time and place of importation, upon all goods, wares, and merchandise, of foreign growth and manufacture, which may be imported into any of the said states from any foreign port, island, or plantation, after the 1st day of May, 1781; except arms, ammunition, clothing and other articles imported on account of the United States, or any of them; and except wool cards and cotton cards, and wire for making them; and also except salt, during the war.
Also a like duty of five per cent. on all prizes and prize goods, condemned in the court of admiralty of any of these states as lawful prize.
That the moneys arising from the said duties be appropriated to the discharge of the principal and interest of the debts already contracted, or which may be contracted, on the faith of the United States, for supporting the present war.
That the said duties be continued until the said debts shall be fully and finally discharged.
(c) This amendment received the assent of all the states except Rhode Island, which made the following objections to it:
1st. That the proposed duty would be unequal in its operation, bearing hardest upon the most commercial states, and it would press peculiarly hard upon that state which draws its chief support from commerce.
2nd. That the recommendation proposes to introduce into that and the other states officers unknown and unaccountable to them and so is against the Constitution of the state.
3rd. That by granting to Congress a power to collect moneys from the commerce of these states, indefinitely as to time and quantity, and for the expenditure of which they are not to be accountable to the states they would become independent of their constituents; and so the proposed import is repugnant to the liberty of the United States.
(d) A lengthy reply to these objections was drawn up by Hamilton in closing which he spoke as follows:
It is certainly pernicious to leave any government in a situation of responsibility disproportioned to its power.
The conduct of the war is intrusted to Congress, and the public expectation turned upon them, without any competent means at their command to satisfy the important trust. After the most full and solemn deliberation, under a collective view of all the public difficulties, they recommend a measure which appears to them the corner-stone of the public safety; they see this measure suspended for near two years; partially complied with by some of the states; rejected by one of them, and in danger, on that account, to be frustrated; the public embarrassments every day increasing; the dissatisfaction of the army growing more serious; the other creditors of the public clamoring for justice; both irritated by the delay of measures for their present relief or future security; the hopes of our enemies encouraged to protract the war; the zeal of our friends depressed by an appearance of remissness and want of exertion on our part; Congress harassed; the national character suffering, and the national safety at the mercy of events.1
(e) Another serious weakness of the Articles was their failure to give Congress exclusive control of foreign commerce. So great had the inconvenience from this source become by April, 1784, that the following report was adopted by Congress:
The trust reposed in Congress renders it their duty to be attentive to the conduct of foreign nations, and to prevent or restrain, as far as may be, all such proceedings as might prove injurious to the United States. The situation of commerce at this time claims the attention of the several states, and few objects of greater importance can present themselves to their notice. The fortune of every citizen is interested in the success thereof; for it is the constant source of
1 This reply was sent out to the States with the second revenue amendment in 1783 which was so drawn as to obviate as far as possible Rhode Island's objections to the first. These papers were accompanied by an able Address to the States on the condition of the revenue, also by Hamilton. Nevertheless, New York this time refused to ratify.
wealth and incentive to industry; and the value of our produce and our land, must ever rise or fall in proportion to the prosperous or adverse state of trade.
Already has Great Britain adopted regulations destructive of our commerce with her West India Islands. There was reason to expect that measures so unequal, and so little calculated to promote mercantile intercourse, would not be persevered in by an enlightened nation. But these measures are growing into a system. It would be the duty of Congress, as it is their wish, to meet the attempts of Great Britain with similar restrictions on her commerce; but their powers on this head are not explicit, and the propositions made by the legislatures of the several states render it necessary to take the general sense of the Union on this subject.
Unless the United States in Congress assembled shall be vested with powers competent to the protection of commerce, they can never command reciprocal advantages in trade; and without these, our foreign commerce must decline, and eventually be annihilated. Hence it is necessary that the states should be explicit, and fix on some effectual mode by which foreign commerce not founded on principles of equality may be restrained.
That the United States may be enabled to secure such terms, they have
Resolved, That it be, and it hereby is, recommended to the legislatures of the several states, to vest the United States in Congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, with power to prohibit any goods, wares, or merchandise, from being imported into, or exported from, any of the states, in vessels belonging to, or navigated by, the subjects of any power with whom these states shall not have formed treaties of commerce.
Resolved, That it be, and it hereby is, recommended to the legislatures of the several states, to vest the United States in Congress assembled for the term of fifteen years, with the power of prohibiting the subjects of any foreign state, kingdom, or empire, unless authorized by treaty, from im
porting into the United States any goods, wares, or merchandise, which are not the produce or manufacture of the dominions of the sovereign whose subjects they are.
Provided, That to all acts of the United States in Congress assembled, in pursuance of the above powers, the assent of nine states shall be necessary.
9. THE RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION.
No more momentous question has ever come before the people of the United States for decision than that presented when the work of the Federal Convention was submitted for their approval or rejection. The evil consequences which were likely to have followed upon the adoption of the latter alternative and the good results which have flowed from the acceptance of the first, now seem to weigh as an overwhelming argument for the ratification of the Constitution. Nevertheless the struggle in the several State conventions was long and bitter. In none was the contest waged more fiercely nor the issue held longer in doubt than in New York, where the Federalists were led by Alexander Hamilton and the Anti-Federalists by Governor George Clinton. Mr. Judson Landon has thus summarized the arguments of these protagonists: 1
We do not oppose a Union; indeed, we desire one, said the Anti-Federalists; we have one under the Articles of Confederation; defective, we grant; not in its principles, but somewhat so in the details of execution. We are willing to amend these so as to allow Congress to levy and collect the tax to meet its requisitions, if the state should not voluntarily pay them. Why ask for more? Why make this untried experiment of a great central government, acting directly upon the people, and compelling both states and people to yield obedience to laws which are to be, in the execution of the powers conferred, the supreme law of the land, any state law or act to the contrary notwithstanding? Then, when there are any disputes as to whether the nation or the state has the right to act, the national, not the state, court has the right to decide, and our fears tell us how that decision will always be made. You are creating a great central power, which, if it desires so to encroach upon the rights of the states
1 Reprinted by special permission of Houghten, Mifflin and Company.