Mr. [William] GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, one great objection with me is this:If we advert to. . . . . [the] democratical, aristocratical, or executive branch, weshall find their powers are perpetually varying and fluctuating throughout thewhole. Perhaps the democratic branch would be well constructed, were it not forthis defect. The executive is still worse, in this respect, than the democraticbranch. He is to be elected by a number of electors in the country; but theprinciple is changed when no person has a majority of the whole number ofelectors appointed, or when more than one have such a majority, and have anequal number of votes; for then the lower house is to vote by states. It isthus changing throughout the whole. It seems rather founded on accident thanany principle of government I ever heard of. We know that there scarcely everwas an election of such an officer without the interposition of foreign powers. Two causes prevail to make them intermeddle in such cases: - one is, to preservethe balance of power; the other, to preserve their trade. These causes haveproduced interferences of foreign powers in the election of the king of Poland. All the great powers of Europe have interfered in an election which took placenot very long ago, and would not let the people choose for themselves. We knowhow much the powers of Europe have interfered with Sweden. Since the death ofCharles XII, that country has been a republican government. Some powers werewilling it should be so; some were willing her imbecility should continue;others wished the contrary; and at length the court of France brought about arevolution, which converted it into an absolute government. Can America be freefrom these interferences?France, after losing Holland, will wish to makeAmerica entirely her own. Great Britain will wish to increase her influence bya still closer connection. It is the interest of Spain, from the contiguity ofher possessions in the western hemisphere to the United States, to be in anintimate connection with them, and influence their deliberations, if possible. I think we have every thing, to apprehend from such interferences. It is highlyprobable the President will be continued in office for life. To gain his favor,they will support him. Consider the means of importance he will have bycreating officers. If he has a good understanding with the Senate, they willjoin to prevent a discovery of his misdeeds. . . .
Some time before a Convention of the United States was held, I mentioned ina paragraph which was published in one of the Charlestown papers, that it wouldbe acting wisely in the formation of a constitution for a free government, toenact, that the electors should recall their representatives when they thoughtproper, although they should be chosen for a certain term of years; as a rightto appoint (where the right of appointing originates with the appointees)implies a right to recall. As the persons appointed are meant to act for thebenefit of the appointees, as well as themselves, they, if they mean to act fortheir mutual benefit, can have no objection to a proposal of this kind. But ifthey have any sinister designs, they will certainly oppose it, foreseeing thattheir electors will displace them as soon as they begin to act contrary to theirinterest. I am therefore glad to find that the state of New York has proposedan amendment of this kind to the federal constitution, viz: That thelegislatures of the respective states may recall their senators, or either ofthem, and elect others in their stead, to serve the remainder of the time forwhich the senators so recalled were appointed. I wish this had been extended tothe representatives in both houses, as it is as prudent to have a check over themembers of one house as of the other.
First. To detail the particulars comprehended in the general terms, taxes,duties, imposts and excises, would require a volume, instead of a single piecein a newspaper. Indeed it would be a task far beyond my ability, and to whichno one can be competent, unless possessed of a mind capable of comprehendingevery possible source of revenue; for they extend to every possible way ofraising money, whether by direct or indirect taxation. Under this clause may beimposed a poll tax, a land tax, a tax on houses and buildings, on windows andfireplaces, on cattle and on all kinds of personal property. It extends toduties on all kinds of goods to any amount, to tonnage and poundage on vessels,to duties on written instruments, newspapers, almanacks, and books. Itcomprehends an excise on all kinds of liquors, spirits, wines, cider, beer,etc. , and indeed takes in duty or excise on every necessary or conveniency oflife, whether of foreign or home growth or manufactory. In short, we can haveno conception of any way in which a government can raise money from the people,but what is included in one or other of these general terms. We may say thenthat this clause commits to the hands of the general legislature everyconceivable source of revenue within the United States, Not only are these termsvery comprehensive, and extend to a vast number of objects, but the power to layand collect has great latitude; it will lead to the passing a vast number oflaws, which may affect the personal rights of the citizens of the states, exposetheir property to fines and confiscation, and put their lives in jeopardy. Itopens a door to the appointment of a swarm of revenue and excise collectors toprey upon the honest and industrious part of the community, [and] eat up theirsubstance. . . .
The time is nearly at hand, when you are called upon to render up thatglorious liberty you obtained, by resisting the tyranny and oppression of Georgethe Third, King of England, and his ministers. The first Monday in April is theday appointed by our assembly, for you to meet and choose delegates in eachcounty, to take into consideration the new Federal Government, and either adoptor refuse it. Let me entreat you, my fellows, to consider well what you areabout. Read the said constitution, and consider it well before you act. I havedone so, and can find that we are to receive but little good, and a great dealof evil. Aristocracy, or government in the hands of a very few nobles, or RICHMEN, is therein concealed in the most artful wrote plan that ever was formed toentrap a free people. The contrivers of it have so completely entrapped you,and laid their plans so sure and secretly, that they have only left you to doone of two things - that is either to receive or refuse it. And in order to bringyou into their snare, you may daily read new pieces published in the newspapers,in favor of this new government; and should a writer dare to publish any pieceagainst it, he is immediately abused and vilified.
Should future circumstances, contrary to our expectations, require that furtherpowers be transferred to the union, we can do it far more easily, than get backthose we may now imprudently give. The system proposed is untried. Candidadvocates and opposers admit, that it is in a degree, a mere experiment, andthat its organization is weak and imperfect. Surely then, the safe ground iscautiously to vest power in it, and when we are sure we have given enough forordinary exigencies, to be extremely careful how we delegate powers, which, incommon cases, must necessarily be useless or abused, and of very uncertaineffect in uncommon ones. By giving the union power to regulate commerce, and tolevy and collect taxes by imposts, we give it an extensive authority, andpermanent productive funds, I believe quite as adequate to present demands ofthe union, as excises and direct taxes can be made to the present demands of theseparate states. The state governments are now about four times as expensive asthat of the union; and their several state debts added together, are nearly aslarge as that of the union. Our impost duties since the peace have been almostas productive as the other sources of taxation, and when under one generalsystem of regulations, the probability is that those duties will be veryconsiderably increased. Indeed the representation proposed will hardly justifygiving to congress unlimited powers to raise taxes by imposts, in addition tothe other powers the union must necessarily have. It is said, that if congresspossess only authority to raise taxes by imposts, trade probably will beoverburdened with taxes, and the taxes of the union be found inadequate to anyuncommon exigencies. To this we may observe, that trade generally finds its ownlevel, and will naturally and necessarily heave off any undue burdens laid uponit. Further, if congress alone possess the impost, and also unlimited power toraise monies by excises and direct taxes, there must be much more danger thattwo taxing powers, the union and states, will carry excises and direct taxes toan unreasonable extent, especially as these have not the natural boundariestaxes on trade have. However, it is not my object to propose to exclude congressfrom raising monies by internal taxes, except in strict conformity to thefederal plan; that is, by the agency of the state governments in all cases,except where a state shall neglect, for an unreasonable time, to pay its quotaof a requisition; and never where so many of the state legislatures as representa majority of the people, shall formally determine an excise law or requisitionis improper, in their next session after the same be laid before them. We oughtalways to recollect that the evil to be guarded against is found by our ownexperience, and the experience of others, to be mere neglect in the statesto pay their quotas; and power in the union to levy and collect the neglectingstates' quotas with interest, is fully adequate to the evil. By this federalplan, with this exception mentioned, we secure the means of collecting the taxesby the usual process of law, and avoid the evil of attempting to compel orcoerce a state; and we avoid also a circumstance, which never yet could be, andI am fully confident never can be, admitted in a free federal republic - I mean apermanent and continued system of tax laws of the union, executed in the bowelsof the states by many thousand officers, dependent as to the assessing andcollecting federal taxes solely upon the union. On every principle, then, weought to provide that the union render an exact account of all monies raised byimposts and other taxes whenever monies shall be wanted for the purposes of theunion beyond the proceeds of the impost duties; requisitions shall be made onthe states for the monies so wanted; and that the power of laying and collectingshall never be exercised, except in cases where a state shall neglect, a giventime, to pay its quota. This mode seems to be strongly pointed out by thereason of the case, and spirit of the government; and I believe, there is noinstance to be found in a federal republic, where the congressional powers everextended generally to collecting monies by direct taxes or excises. Creating allthese restrictions, still the powers of the union in matters of taxation will betoo unlimited; further checks, in my mind, are indispensably necessary. Nor doI conceive, that as full a representation as is practicable in the federalgovernment, will afford sufficient security. The strength of the government,and the confidence of the people, must be collected principally in the localassemblies. . . . A government possessed of more power than its constituentparts will justify, will not only probably abuse it, but be unequal to bear itsown burden; it may as soon be destroyed by the pressure of power, as languishand perish for want of it.
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It will be expected that the new government will provide for this also; andsuch expectation is founded, not only on the promise you hold forth, of itsreviving and supporting public credit among us, but also on this unavoidableprinciple of justice - that is, the new government takes away the impost, andother substantial taxes, from the produce of which the several states paid theinterest of their debt, or funded the paper with which they paid it. The newgovernment must find ways and means of supplying that deficiency, . . . in hardmoney, for . . . paper . . . cannot [be used] without a violation of theprinciples it boasts. The sum then which it must annually raise in specie,after the first year, cannot be less than 4,800,000. At present there is notone half of this sum in specie raised in all the states. And yet the complaintsof intolerable taxes has produced one rebellion and will be mainly operative inthe adoption of your constitution. How you will get this sum is inconceivableand yet get it you must, or lose all credit. With magnificent promises you havebought golden opinions of all sorts of people, and with gold you must answerthem, . . .
It may be said, that let the government be what it may, the sums I havestated must be raised, and the same difficulties exist. This is not altogethertrue. For first, we are now in the way of paying the interest of the domesticdebt, with paper, which under the new system is utterly reprobated. This makesa difference between the specie to be raised of 1,800,000 dollars per annum. Ifthe new government raises this sum in specie on the people, it will certainlysupport public credit, but it will overwhelm the people. It will give immensefortunes to the speculators; but it will grind the poor to dust. Besides, thepresent government is now redeeming the principal of the domestic debt by thesale of western lands. But let the full interest be paid in specie, and whowill part with the principal for those lands? A principal, which having beengenerally purchased for two shillings and six pence on the pound, will yield tothe holders two hundred and forty per cent. This paper system therefore, thoughin general an evil, is in this instance attended with the great benefit ofenabling the public to cancel a debt upon easy terms, which has been swelled toits enormous size, by as enormous impositions. And the new government, bypromising too much, will involve itself in a disreputable breach of faith. . . .