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THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION.
PREVIOUS to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, steps for the formation of a confederated government, by and between the colonies, were taken. A common danger seems to have impressed them with the necessity of a union for the common defense. On the 11th of June, 1776, some three weeks prior to the adoption of the Declaration, a committee of one from each colony was raised for the purpose of preparing a plan of government. The committee soon after made a report, but it was not finally adopted by Congress till the 15th of November, 1777.
It was at the same time resolved by Congress that the Articles of Confederation, as they were called, should be presented to the legislature of each colony; and, if ratified, then their Delegates in Congress should, in that body, approve the same. The colonies seem to have been singularly tardy in ratifying the articles. They were not ratified by Maryland till the 30th of January, 1781; New Jersey and Delaware also withheld their consent till some time during the year 1779; and it was not till after a circular-letter by Congress had been sent to the legislatures of the several colonies, appealing in the most patriotic terms to their love of country and to their sense of common danger, that. the Articles of Confederation were adopted by the whole of the thirteen colonies. From that time they took the name of States, a name more sovereign and independent in signification. They were no longer colonies-dependencies of Great Britain.
JEFFERSON'S NOTES OF DEBATE ON CON
FEDERATION. On Friday, July 12, 1777, the committee appointed to draw the Articles of Confederation reported them, and on the 22d, the house resolved themselves into a committee to take them into consideration. On the 30th and 31st of that month, and 1st of the ensuing, those articles were debated 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 expressed, in the original draft, in these words:
“ART. XI. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States assembled, sball 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 account 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 inhabitants of every condition, but by that of the “white inhabitants." He admitted that taxation should be always 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 as a tolerably good criterion of property, and that this might always be obtained. He therefore thought it the best mode which we could adopt, with one exception only; be observed that negroes are property, and as such, cannot be distinguished from the lands
or personalties held in those States where there are few slaves; that the surplus of profit wbich 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 North ern ones on their farmer's heads and the heads of their cattle; that the method proposed would therefore tax the Southern States according to 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 slaves ; that in some countries, the laboring poor are called freemen, in others they are 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 add 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 the laborers of a State could, in the course of one night, be transformed into slaves, would the State be made the poorer, or the 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 prodace the surplus for taxation; and numbers, therefore, indiscriminately, are the fair index to wealth ; that it is the use of the word "property" here, and its application to some of the people of the State, which produce the fallacy. How does the Southern farmer procure slaves ? Either by importation, or by purchase from bis neighbor. If he inports a slave, he adds one to the number of laborers in his country, and, proportionably, 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 employers; 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 slayes 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 defense, which would of course fall so much the heavier on the Northern ; that slaves occupy the places of freemen, and eat their food. Dismiss your slaves, and freemen will take their places. It is our duty to lay every discouragement on the importation of slaves; but this amendment would give the just rium liberorum to him who would import slaves; 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 North ; but not so as to slaves; that experience has shown that 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 farme: pay poll taxes upon all his laborers, whether they be blauk or white. He acknowledges, indeed, that freemen work the most, but they consume the most also. They do not produce a greater surplus for taxation. The slave is no.ther fed nor clothed so expensively as a freeman. Again, wbite women are exempted from labor generally, but
negro wowen are not. In this, then, the Southern States have an adventage, 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 that the labor of the slave is the dearest.
Mr. Payne arged the original resolution of Congress, to proportion the quotas of the States to the number of souls.
Dr. Witherspoon was of opinion that the value of lands 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 is imperfect in itself, and uneqnal between the States. It has