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Source & Citation Info

title:“Puff's Notes of Robert Whitehill's Speech”
date written:1787-12-3

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:04 a.m. UTC
retrieved:April 20, 2018, 4:01 p.m. UTC

"Puff's Notes of Robert Whitehill's Speech." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 2. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1976. 464. Print.

Puff's Notes of Robert Whitehill's Speech (December 3, 1787)

ROBERT WHITEHILL: Mr. President: It has been said that Congress will have power, by the new Constitution, to lay an impost on the importation of slaves into these states; but that they will have no power to impose any tax upon the migration of Europeans. Do the gentlemen, sir, mean to insult our understandings when they assert this? Or are they ignorant of the English language? If, because of their ignorance, they are at a loss, I can easily explain this clause for them. The words "migration" and "importation" sir, being connected by the disjunctive conjunction "or," certainly mean either migration or importation; either the one or the other; or both. Therefore, when we say "a tax may be laid upon such importation," we mean, either upon the importation or migration; or upon both; for, because they are joined together, in the first instance, by the disjunctive conjunction "or," they are both synonymous terms for the same thing-therefore, "such importation," because the comparative word "such" is used, means both importation and migration.1

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