To apply these principles to our present situation without respect to the proposed plan of government;
in order to render the federal government adequate to the exigencies of the confederating states, it is necessary not only that the general government should be properly constructed in its forms, but that it should be vested with powers relative to all the federal objects of government, these objects are not only the powers of making peace and war, &c. but also with the power of making treaties respecting commerce,3
regulating and raising revenues therefrom, &c. to make requisitions of money when necessity requires it, from each of the states, and a certain well described power of compelling delinquent states to pay up their quota of such requisitions. Perhaps if each state had its own share of the domestic debt quotaed, so as they might each pay their own citizens, the general revenues would be sufficient for the other demands of the union in times of peace, if the government itself be not made too expensive by too great a number of officers being created.
Congress ought, however, to have all powers which cannot be exercised by one state, without endangering the other states, such as the power of raising troops, treating with foreign nations, &c.—4
The power of levying imposts, will, by the particular states, be irregularly exercised, and the revenue in a great degree lost or misapplied, therefore, it ought not to be left with the states, but under proper checks, vested in the general government. All these the minority were amongst the foremost willing to have vested in the federal head, and more than this, had never been asked by Congress, nor proposed by the greatest advocates for congressional power, nor is more than this consistent with the nature of a federal republic. When the existing confederation was adopted, powers were given with a sparing hand, and perhaps, not improperly that period, until experience should point out the discriminating line with sufficient experience, well knowing that it is easy for a government to obtain an encrease of power when common utility points out the propriety, but that powers once vested in a government, however dangerous they may prove, are rarely recovered without bloodshed, and even that awful method of regaining lost liberty is seldom effectual. It is now however evident that the power of regulating commerce, being of a general nature, ought to belong to the general government, and the burthen of debt incurred by the revolution hath rendered a general revenue necessary, for this purpose imposts upon articles of importation present themselves, not only as a productive source of revenue, but as a revenue for which the governments of the particular states are for well known reasons, incompetent.—The danger of entrusting a government so far out of the people's reach as Congress must necessarily be, strongly impressed the public mind about four or five years since, but now a conviction of the advantage and probable safety of such a measure, pervades almost every mind, and none are more willing for putting it in operation, under proper guards, than the opposers of the new system; they are also willing to admit what the majority of the states may judge proper checks in the form of the general government, as far as those checks, or the distribution of powers and responsibility of those who be vested with those powers, may be consistent with the security of the essential sovereignty of the respective states.
The minority of the convention (who I really believe, in their address, express the serious sentiments of the majority of this state) opposed vesting such powers in Congress as can be most effectually exercised by the state governments in a full consistency with the general interests of the confederating states, and which, not being of a general nature, are not upon federal principles, objects of the federal government, I mean the power of capitation, or poll tax, by which the head, or in other words, the existence of every person is put in their power by the new system as a property, subject to any price or tax that may be judged proper; I do not mean to say that this implies the power of life and death, although it certainly implies the power of selling the property, or if none is to be had, of imprisoning or selling the person for a servant, who doth not chuse, or is not able to pay the poll tax; the minority also objected to vesting Congress with power to tax the property, real and personal of the citizens of the several states, to what amount, and in what manner it may please, without any check or controul upon its discretion; also to the unlimitted power over the excise; if this could extend only to spirituous liquors as is usual with us, the danger would be less, but the power of excise extends to every thing we eat, drink, or wear, and in Europe it is thus extensively put in practice. Under the term duties, every species of indirect taxes is included, but it especially means the power of levying money upon printed books, and written instruments.5