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derive no benefit from, the Mississippi? How shall we retain it? By retaining that weak government which has hitherto kept it from us? Is it thus that we shall secure that navigation? Give the government the power of retaining it, and then we may hope to derive actual advantages from it. Till we do this, we cannot expect that a government which hitherto has not been able to protect it, will have the power to do it hereafter. Have we attended too long to consider whether this government would be able to protect us? Shall we wait for further proofs of its inefficacy? If on mature consideration, the constitution will be found to be perfectly right on the subject of treaties, and containing no danger of losing that navigation, will he still object? Will he object because eight States are unwilling to part with it? This is no good ground of objection.
He then stated the necessity and probability of obtaining amendments. This we ought to postpone until we come to that clause, and make up our minds whether there be any thing unsafe in this system. He conceived it impossible to obtain amendments after adopting it. If he was right, does not his own argument prove that in his own conception, previous amendments cannot be had? for, sir, if subsequent amendments cannot be obtained, shall we get amendments before we ratify? The reasons against the latter do not apply against the former. There are in this State, and in every State in the Union, many who are decided enemies of the Union. Reflect on the probable conduct of such men. What will they do? They will bring amendments which are local in their nature, and which they know will not be accepted. What security have we that other States will not do the same. We are told that many in the States were violently opposed to it. They are more mindful of local interests. They will never propose such amendments as they think would be obtained. Disunion will be their object. This will be attained by the proposal of unreasonable amendments. This, sir, though a strong cause, is not the only one that will militate against previous amendments. Look at the comparative temper of this country now, and when the late Federal Convention met. We had no idea then of any particular system. The formation of the most perfect plan was our object and wish. It was imagined that the States would accede to, and be pleased with, the proposition that would be made them. Consider the violence of opinions, the prejudices and animosities which have been since imbibed. Will not these operate greatly against mutual concessions, or a friendly concurrence? This will, however, be taken up more properly another time. He says, we wish to have a strong, energetic, powerful government. We contend for a well-regulated democracy. He insinuates that the power of the government has been enlarged by the convention, and that we may apprehend it will be enlarged by others. The convention did not, in fact, assume any power.
They have proposed to our consideration, a scheme of government which they thought advisable. We are not bound to adopt it, if we disapprove of it. Had not every individual in this community a right to tender that scheme which he thought most conducive to the welfare of his country? Have not several gentlemen already demonstrated that the convention did not exceed their powers? But the Congress have the power of making bad laws, it seems. The Senate, with the President, he informs us, may make a treaty which shall be disadvantageous to us; and that, if they be not good men, it will not be a good constitution. I shall ask the worthy member only, if the people at large, and they alone, ought to make laws and treaties. Has any man this in contemplation? You cannot exercise the powers of government personally yourselves. You must trust to agents. If so, will you dispute giving them the power of acting for you, from an existing possibility that they may abuse it? As long as it is impossible for you to transact your business in person, if you repose no confidence in delegates, because there is a possibility of their abusing it, you can have no government; for the power of doing good is inseparable from that of doing some evil.
We may derive from Holland lessons very beneficial to ourselves. Happy that country which can avail itself of the misfortunes of others which can gain knowledge from that source without fatal experience! What has produced the late disturbances in that country? The want of such a government as is on your table, and having in some measure, such a one as you are about to part with. The want of proper powers in the government, the consequent deranged and relaxed administration, the violence of contending parties, and inviting foreign powers to interpose in their disputes, have subjected them to all the mischiefs which have interrupted their harmony. I cannot express my astonishment at his high-colored eulogium on such a government. Can any thing be more dissimilar than the relation between the British government and the colonies, and the relation between Congress and the States? We were not represented in Parliament. Here we are represented. Arguments which prove the impropriety of being taxed by Britain, do not hold against the exercise of taxation by Congress.
Let me pay attention to the observation of the gentleman who was last up, that the power of taxation ought not to be given to Congress. This subject requires the undivided attention of this House. This power I think essentially necessary; for without it there will be no efficiency in the government. We have had a sufficient demonstration of the vanity of depending on requisitions. How, then, can the general government exist without this power? The possibility of its being abused is urged as an argument against its expediency. To very little purpose did Virginia discover the defects
vite them by our weakness to attack u they not do it? If we add debility t present situation, a partition of America take place.
It is, then, necessary to give the gover that power, in time of peace, which the sity of war will render indispensable, we shall be attacked unprepared. The e ence of the world, a knowledge of huma ture, and our own particular experience confirm this truth. When danger shall upon us, may we not do what we were d point of doing once already--that is, app dictator? Were those who are now frie this constitution less active in the defen liberty, on that trying occasion, than thos oppose it? When foreign dangers come not the fear of immediate destructio foreign enemies, impel us take a most dang step? Where, then, will be our safety? may now regulate and frame a plan tha enable us to repel attacks, and render a rence to dangerous expedients unnecessary we be prepared to defend ourselves, ther be little inducement to attack us. But defer giving the necessary power to the g government till the moment of danger a The prosperity and happiness of the people we shall give it then, and with an unsp depend on the performance of these great and hand. America, like other natics, may important duties of the general government. posed to war. The propriety of giving Can these duties be performed by one State? power will be proved by the history o Can one State protect us, and promote our hap-world, and particularly of modern rep piness? The honorable gentleman who has I defy you to produce a single instance gone before me, Governor Randolph, has shown requisitions on several individual States, that Virginia cannot do these things.* How, posing a confederacy, have been honestly then, can they be done? By the national gov- plied with. Did gentlemen expect to see ernment only. Shall we refuse to give it power punctuality complied with in America to do them? We are answered, that the they did, our own experience shows the powers may be abused; that, though the Con- trary. gress may promote our happiness, yet they may prostitute their powers to destroy our liberties. This goes to the destruction of all confidence in agents. Would you believe that men who had merited your highest confidence would deceive you? Would you trust them again after one deception? Why then hesitate to trust the general government? The object of our inquiry is, Is the power necessary, and is it guarded? There must be men and money to protect us. How are armies to be raised? Must we not have money for that purpose? But the honorable gentleman says that we need not be afraid of war. Look at history, which has been so often quoted. Look at the great volume of human nature. They will foretell you that a defenceless country cannot be secure. The nature of man forbids us to conclude that we are in no danger from war. The passions of men stimulate them to avail themselves of the weakness of others. The powers of Europe are jealous of us. It is our interest to watch their conduct, and guard against them. They must be pleased with our disunion. If we in
in the old system; to little purpose, indeed, did | she propose improvements; and to no purpose is this plan constructed for the promotion of our happiness, if we refuse it now, because it is possible that it may be abused. The confederation has nominal powers, but no means to carry them into effect. If a system of government were devised by more than human intelligence, it would not be effectual if the means were not adequate to the power. All delegated powers are liable to be abused. Arguments drawn from this source go in direct opposition to the government, and in recommendation of anarchy. The friends of the constitution are as tenacious of liberty as its enemies. They wish to give no power that will endanger it. They wish to give the government powers to secure and protect it. Our inquiry here must be, whether the power of taxation be necessary to perform the objects of the constitution, and whether it be safe, and as well guarded as human wisdom can do it. What are the objects of the national government? To protect the United States, and to promote the general welfare. Protection, in time of war, is one of its principal objects. Until mankind shall cease to have ambition and avarice, wars will arise.
* See the speech of Governor Randolph, at page 165 of
the first volume of this work.
We are told that the confederation ca us through the war. Had not the enthu of liberty inspired us with unanimity, tha tem would never have carried us throu It would have been much sooner termi had that government been possessed of du ergy. The inability of Congress, and the ure of States to comply with the constitu requisitions, rendered our resistance less cient than it might have been. The wea of that government caused troops to be ag us which ought to have been on our side prevented all resources of the community being called at once into action. The ext readiness of the people to make their u exertions to ward off solely the pressing da supplied the place of requisitions. When came solely to be depended on, their inu was fully discovered. A bare sense of du a regard to propriety, is too feeble to in men to comply with obligations. We de ourselves if we expect any efficacy from t If requisitions will not avail, the govern must have the sinews of war some other Requisitions cannot be effectual. They w productive of delay, and will ultimately b efficient. By direct taxation, the neces
of the government will be supplied in a peaceable manner, without irritating the minds of the people. But requisitions cannot be rendered efficient without a civil war-without great expense of money, and the blood of our citizens. Are there any other means? Yes, that Congress shall apportion the respective quotas previously, and if not complied with by the States, that then this dreaded power shall be exercised. The operation of this has been described by the gentleman who opened the debate. He cannot be answered. This great objection to that system remains unanswered. Is there no other argument which ought to have weight with us on this subject? Delay is a strong and pointed objection to it.
We are told by the gentleman who spoke last, that direct taxation is unnecessary, because we are not involved in war. This admits the propriety of recurring to direct taxation if we were engaged in war. It has not been proved that we have no dangers to apprehend on this point. What will be the consequence of the system proposed by the worthy gentleman? Suppose the States should refuse?
The worthy gentleman who is so pointedly opposed to the constitution, proposes remonstrances. Is it a time for Congress to remonstrate or compel a compliance with requisitions, when the whole wisdom of the Union, and the power of Congress are opposed to a foreign enemy? Another alternative is, that, if the States shall appropriate certain funds for the use of Congress, Congress shall not lay direct taxes. Suppose the funds appropriated by the States, for the use of Congress, should be inadequate; it will not be determined whether they be insufficient till after the time at which the quota ought to have been paid; and then, after so long a delay, the means of procuring money, which ought to have been employed in the first instance, must be recurred to. May they not be amused by such ineffectual and temporizing alternatives from year to year, until America shall be enslaved? The failure in one State will authorize a failure in another. The calculation in some States that others will fail, will produce general failures. This will, also, be attended with all the expenses which we are anxious to avoid. What are the advantages to induce us to embrace this system? If they mean that requisitions should be complied with, it will be the same as if Congress had the power of direct taxation. The same amount will be paid by the people.
It is objected, that Congress will not know how to lay taxes, so as to be easy and convenient for the people at large. Let us pay strict attention to this objection. If it appears to be totally without foundation, the necessity of levying direct taxes will obviate what the gentleman says; nor will there be any color for refusing to grant the power.
The objects of direct taxes are well understood: they are but few; what are they? Lands, slaves, stock of all kinds, and a few other arti
cles of domestic property. Can you believe that ten mer, selected from all parts of the State, chosen because they know the situation of the people, will be unable to determine so as to make the tax equal on, and convenient for, the people at large? Does any man believe that they would lay the tax without the aid of other information besides their own knowledge, when they know that the very object for which they are elected is to lay the taxes in a judicious and convenient manner? If they wish to retain the affections of the people at large, will they not inform themselves of every circumstance that can throw light on the subject? Have they but one source of information? Besides their own experience-their knowledge of what will suit their constituents
they will have the benefit of the knowledge and experience of the State legislature. They will see in what manner the legislature of Virginia collects its taxes. Will they be unable to follow their example? The gentlemen who shall be delegated to Congress will have every source of information that the legislatures of the States can have, and can lay the taxes as equally on the people, and with as little oppression as they can. If, then, it be admitted that they can understand how to lay them equally and conveniently, are we to admit that they will not do it, but that in violation of every principle that ought to govern men, they will lay them so as to oppress us? What benefit will they have by it? Will it be promotive of their re-election? Will it be by wantonly imposing hardships and difficulties on the people at large, that they will promote their own in-. terest, and secure their re-election? To me it appears incontrovertible that they will settle them in such a manner as to be easy for the people. Is the system so organized as to make taxation dangerous? I shall not go to the various checks of the government, but examine whether the immediate representation of the people be well constructed. I conceive its organization to be sufficiently satisfactory to the warmest friend of freedom. No tax can be laid without the consent of the House of Representatives. If there be no impropriety in the mode of electing the representatives, can any danger be apprehended? They are elected by those who can elect representatives in the State legislature. How can the votes of the electors be influenced? By nothing but the character and conduct of the man they vote for. What object can influence them when about choosing him? They have nothing to direct them in the choice but their own good. Have you not as pointed and strong a security as you can possibly have? It is a mode that seems an impossibility of being corrupted. If they are to be chosen for their wisdom, virtue, integrity, what inducement have they to infringe on our freedom? We are told that they may abuse their power. Are there strong motives to prompt them to abuse it? Will not such abuse militate against
their own interest? Will not they and their friends feel the effects of iniquitous measures? Does the representative remain in office for life? Does he transmit his title of representative to his son? Is he secured from the burden imposed on the community?
will be sufficiently energetic and operative in a small territory, will be feeble when extended over a wide-extended country. The gentleman tells us there are no checks in this plan. What has become of his enthusiastic eulogium on the American spirit? We should find a check and To procure their re-election, it will be neces- control, when oppressed from that source. In sary for them to confer with the people at large, this country, there is no exclusive personal and convince them, that the taxes laid are for stock of interest. The interest of the commutheir good. If I am able to judge on the sub-nity is blended and inseparably connected with that of the individual. When he promotes his own, he promotes that of the community. When we consult the common good, we con
ject, the power of taxation now before us is wisely conceded, and the representatives are wisely elected.
The honorable gentleman said that a govern-sult our own. When he desires such checks as ment should ever depend on the affections of these, he will find them abundantly here. the people. It must be so. It is the best sup- They are the best checks. What has become port it can have. This government merits the of his eulogium on the Virginia constitution? confidence of the people, and, I make no doubt, Do the checks in this plan appear less excellent will have it. Then he informed us again of the than those of the constitution of Virginia? If disposition of Spain with respect to the Missis- the checks in the constitution be compared to sippi, and the conduct of the government with the checks in the Virginia constitution, he will regard to it. To the debility of the confedera- find the best security in the former. tion alone may justly be imputed every cause of complaint on this subject. Whenever gentlemen will bring forward their objections, I trust we can prove that no danger to the navigation of that river can arise from the adoption of this constitution. I beg those gentlemen that may be affected by it, to suspend their judgment till they hear it discussed. Will, says he, the adoption of this constitution pay our debts? It will compel the States to pay their quotas. Without this, Virginia will be unable to pay. Unless all the States pay, she cannot. Though the States will not coin money, (as we are told,) yet this government will bring forth and proportion all the strength of the Union. That economy and industry are essential to our happiness, will be denied by no man. But the present government will not add to our industry. It takes away the incitements to industry, by rendering property insecure and unprotected. It is the paper on your table that will promote and encourage industry. New Hampshire and Rhode Island have rejected it, he tells us. New Hampshire, if my information be right, will certainly adopt it. The report spread in this country, of which I have heard, is, that the representatives of that State having, on meeting, found they were instructed to vote against it, returned to their constituents without determining the question, to convince them of their being mistaken, and of the propriety of adopting it.
The temple of liberty was complete, said he, when the people of England said to their king, that he was their servant. What are we to learn from this? Shall we embrace such a system as that? Is not liberty secure with us, where the people hold all powers in their own hands, and delegate them cautiously, for short periods, to their servants, who are accountable for the smallest mal-administration? Where is the nation that can boast greater security than we do? We want only a system like the paper before you, to strengthen and perpetuate this security.
The honorable gentleman has asked if there be any safety or freedom, when we give away the sword and the purse. Shall the people at large hold the sword and the purse without the interposition of their representatives? Can the whole aggregate community act personally? I apprehend that every gentleman will see the impossibility of this. Must they, then, not trust them to others? To whom are they to trust them, but to their representatives, who are accountable for their conduct? He represents secrecy as unnecessary, and produces the British government as a proof of its inutility. Is there no secrecy there? When deliberating on the propriety of declaring war, or on military arrangements, do they deliberate in the open fields? No, sir. The sh government affords secrecy when necessary, and so ought every government. In this plan, secrecy is only used when it would be fatal and pernicious to publish the schemes of government. We are threatened with the loss of our liberties by the possible abuse of power, notwithstanding the maxim, that those who give may take away. It is the people that give power, and can take it back. What shall restrain them? They are the masters who give it, and of whom their servants hold it.
The extent of the country is urged as another objection, as being too great for a republican government. This objection has been handed from author to author, and has been certainly misunderstood and misapplied. To what does it owe its source? To observations and criticisms on governments, where representation did not exist. As to the legislative power, was it ever supposed inadequate to any extent? Extent of country may render it difficult to execute the laws, but not to legislate. Extent of country does not extend the power. What
He then argues against the system, because it does not resemble the British government in this-that the same power that declares war has
not the means of carrying it on. Are the people of England more secure, if the Commons have no voice in declaring war? or are we less secure by having the Senate joined with the President? It is an absurdity, says the worthy member, that the same man should obey two masters, that the same collector should gather taxes for the general government and the State legislature. Are they not both the servants of the people? Are not Congress and the State legislature the agents of the people, and are they not to consult the good of the people? May not this be effected by giving the same officer the collection of both taxes? He tells you that it is an absurdity to adopt before you amend. Is the object of your adoption to amend solely? The objects of your adoption are union, safety against foreign enemies, and protection against faction-against what has been the destruction of all republics. These impel you to its adop- He then proceeded to say, the causes of war tion. If you adopt it, what shall restrain you are removed from us; that we are separated by from amending it, if, in trying it, amendments the sea from the powers of Europe, and need shall be found necessary? The government is not be alarmed. Sir, the sea makes them neighnot supported by force, but depending on our free bors to us. Though an immense ocean divides will. When experience shall show us any in-us, we may speedily see them with us. conveniences, we can then correct it. But What dangers may we not apprehend to our until we have experience on the subject, amend- commerce! Does not our naval weakness inments as well as the constitution itself, are to vite an attack on our commerce? May not the try. Let us try it, and keep our hands free to Algerines seize our vessels? Cannot they and change it when necessary. If it be necessary every other predatory or maritime nation, pilto change government, let us change that gov- lage our ships and destroy our commerce, ernment which has been found to be defective. without subjecting themselves to any inThe difficulty we find in amending the confed- convenience? He would, he said, give the eration will not be found in amending this con- general government all necessary powers. If stitution. Any amendments, in the system any thing be necessary, must be so to call before you, will not go to a radical change; a forth the strength of the Union when we may plain way is pointed out for the purpose. Áll be attacked, or when the general purposes of will be interested to change it, and therefore America require it. The worthy gentleman all exert themselves in getting the change. then proceeded to show that our present exiThere is such a diversity of sentiment in human gencies are greater than they will ever be again. minds, that it is impossible we shall ever concur in one system till we try it. The power given to the general government over the time, place, and manner of election, is also strongly objected to. When we come to that clause, we can prove it is highly necessary, and not dangerous. The worthy member has concluded his observations by many eulogiums on the British constitution. It matters not to us whether it be a wise one or not. I think that, for America at least, the government on your table is very much superior to it. I ask you if your House of Representatives would be better than it is, if a hundredth part of the people were to elect a majority of them. If your Senators were for life, would they be more agreeable to you? If your President were not accountable to you for his conduct,-if it were a constitutional maxim, that he could do no wrong,would you be safer than you are now? If you can answer, Yes, to these questions, then adopt the British constitution. If not, then, good as that government may be, this is better. The worthy gentleman who was last up, said the confederacies of ancient and modern times were not similar to ours, and that consequently
reasons which applied against them, could not be urged against it. Do they not hold out one lesson very useful to us? However unlike in other respects they resemble it in its total inefficacy. They warn us to shun their calamities, and place in our government those necessary powers, the want of which destroyed them. I hope we shall avail ourselves of their misfortunes, without experiencing them. There was something peculiar in one observation he made. He said that those who governed the cantons of Switzerland were purchased by foreign powers, which was the cause of their uneasiness and trouble. How does this apply to us? If we adopt such a government as theirs, will it not be subject to the same inconvenience? Will not the same cause produce the same effect? What shall protect us from it? What is our security?
Who can penetrate into futurity? How can any man pretend to say that our future exigencies will be less than our present? The exigencies of nations have been generally commensurate to their resources. It would be the utmost impolicy to trust to a mere possibility of not being attacked, or obliged to exert the strength of the community. He then spoke of a selection of particular objects by Congress, which he says must necessarily be oppressive; that Congress, for instance, might select taxes, and that all but landholders would escape. Cannot Congress regulate the taxes so as to be equal on all parts of the community? Where is the absurdity of having thirteen revenues? Will they clash with, or injure, each other? If not, why cannot Congress make thirteen distinct laws, and impose the taxes on the general objects of taxation in each State, so as that all persons of the society shall pay equally, as they ought?
He then told you that your continental government will call forth the virtue and talents of America. This being the case, will they encroach on the power of the State governments? Will our most virtuous and able citi