Mr. Grayson–Mr. Chairman,–I asserted yesterday that there were two opinions in the world-the one that mankind were capable of governing themselves, the other, that it required actual force to govern them. On the principle that the first position was true, and which is consonant to the rights of humanity, the House will recollect that it was my opinion to amend the present Confederation, and infuse a new portion of health and strength into the State Governments; to apportion the public debts in such a manner as to throw the unpopular ones on the back lands–to divide the rest of the domestic debt among the different States–and to call for requisitions only for the interest of the foreign debt. If contrary to this maxim, force is necessary to govern men, I then did propose as an alternative, not a Monarchy like that of Great-Britain, but a milder Government, one which under the idea of a general corruption of manners and the consequent necessity of force, should be as gentle as possible. I shewed in as strong a manner as I could, some of the principle defects in the Constitution. The greatest defect is the opposition of the component parts to the interests of the whole. For let Gentlemen ascribe its defects to as many causes as their imaginations may suggest, this is the principle and radical one. I urged, that to remedy the evils which must result from this Government, a more equal representation in the Legislature and proper checks against abuse, were indispensibly necessary. I do not pretend to propose for your adoption, the plan of Government which I mentioned as an alternative to a Monarchy, in case mankind were incapable of governing themselves. I only meant, that if it were once established, that force was necessary to govern men, that such a plan would be more eligible for a free people than the introduction of Crowned Heads and Nobles. Having premised this much to obviate misconstruction, I shall proceed to the clause before us with this observation, that I prefer a compleat consolidation to a partial one, but a Federal Government to either. In my opinion the State which gives up the power of taxation has nothing mo
re to give. The people of that State, which suffer any power but her own immediate Government, to interfere - with the sovereign right of taxation, are gone forever. Giving the right of taxation is giving a right to increase the miseries of the people. Is it not a political absurdity to suppose that there can be two concurrent Legislatures, each possessing the supreme power of direct taxation? If two powers come in contact must not the one prevail over the other? Must it not strike every man's mind, that two unlimited, co-equal, co-ordinate authorities, over the same objects, cannot exist together? But we are told that there is one instance of co-existent powers, in cases of petty corporations, as well here as in other parts of the world The case of petty corporations does not prove the propriety or possibility of two co-equal transcendent powers over the same objects. Although these have the power of taxation, it only extends to certain degrees and for certain purposes. The powers corporations are defined, and operates on limited objects. Their power originates by the authority of the Legislature, and can be destroyed by the same authority. Persons carrying on the powers of a petty corporation may be punished for interfering with the power of the Legislature. Their acts are entirely nugatory if they contravene those of the Legislature. Scotland is also introduced to shew, that two different bodies may with convenience exercise the power of taxation in the same country. How is the land tax there? There is a fixed apportionment. When England pays four shillings in the pound, Scotland only pays . E. 45,000. This proportion cannot be departed from, whatever augmentation may take place.2 There are stannary courts and a variety of other inferior private courts in England. But when they pass the bounds of their jurisdiction, the supreme courts in Westminster Hallmay, on appeal, correct the abuse of their powers. Is there any connection between the Federal Courts and State Courts? What power is there to keep them in order? Where is there any authority to terminate disputes between these two contending powers? An observation came from an Honorable Gentle- man (Mr. Mason,) when speaking of the propriety of the General Government exercising this power, that according to the rules and doctrine representation, the thing was entirely impracticable. I agreed with him in sentiments. I waited to hear the answer from the admirers of the New Constitution. What was the answer? Gentlemen were obliged to give up the point with respect to general uniform taxes. They have the candour to acknowledge that taxes on slaves would not affect the Eastern States, and that taxes on fish or pot-ash, would not affect the Southern States. They are then reduced to this dilemma.–In order to support this part of the system, they are obliged to controvert the first maxims of representation. The best writers on this subject lay it down as a fundamental principle, that he who lays a tax, should bear his proportion of paying it. A tax that might with propriety be laid and with ease collected in Delaware, might be highly improper in Virginia. The taxes cannot be uniform throughout the States without being oppressive to some. If they be not uniform, some of the members will lay taxes, in the payment of which they will bear no proportion. The members of Delaware will assist in laying a tax on our slaves, of which they will pay no part whatever. The members of Delaware do not return to Virginia to give an account of their conduct. This total want of responsibility and fellow feeling, will destroy the benefits of representation. In order to obviate this objection, the Gentleman [James Madison] has said that the same evil existed in some degree in the present Confederation. To which I answer, that the present Confederation has nothing to do, but to say how much money is necessary, and to fix the proportion to be paid by each State. They cannot say in what manner the money shall be raised. This is left to the State Legislatures. But says the Honorable Gentleman (Mr. Madison) if we were in danger we should be convinced of the necessity of the clause. Are we to be terrified into a belief of its necessity? It is proposed by the opposition, to amend it in the following manner that requisitions shall be first made, and if not paid, that direct taxes shall be laid by way of punishment. If this ultimate right be in Congress, will it not be in their power to raise money on any emergency? Will not their credit be competent to procure any sum they mayw ant? Gentlemen agree that it would be proper to imitate the conduct of other countries, and Gre1
at-Britain particularly, in borrowing money and establishing funds for the payment of the interest on the loans: That, when the Government is properly organized and its competency to raise money made known, public and private confidence will be the result, and men will readily lend it any sums it may stand in need of. If this should be a fact and the reasoning well founded, it will clearly follow that it will be practicable to borrow money in cases of great difficulty and danger on the principles contended for by the opposition, and this observation must supercede the necessity of granting them the powers of direct taxation in the first instance, provided the right is secured in the second. As to the idea of making extensive loans for extinguishing the present domestic debt, it is what I have not by any means in contemplation; I think it would be unnecessary, unjust, and impolitic. This country is differently situated and circumstanced from all other countries in the world. It is now thinly inhabited, but daily increasing in numbers. It would not be politic to lay grievous taxes and burdens at present. If our numbers double in 25 years, as is generally believed, we ought to spare the present race because there will be double the number of persons to pay in that period of time. So that were our matters so arranged that the interest could be paid regularly, and that any individual might get his money when he thought proper, as is the case now in England, it would be all that public faith would require. Place the subject, however, in every point of view, whether as it relates to raising money for the immediate exigencies of the State, or for the extinction of the foreign or the domestic debt, still it must be obvious that if a proper confidence is placed in the acknowledgment of the right of taxation in the second instance, that every purpose can be answered. However, Sir, if the States are not blameless, why has not the Congress used that coercion which is vested in their Government? It is an unquestionable fact that the Belgic republic on a similar occasion, by an actual exertion of force, brought a delinquent province to a proper sense of justice. The Gentleman said, that in case of a partial compliance with requisitions, the alternative proposed will operate unequally by taxing those who may have already paid, as well as those who have not, and involving the innocent in the crimes of the guilty. Suppose the new Government fully vested with authority to raise taxes, it will also operate unequally. To make up antecedent deficiencies they will lay more taxes the next succeeding year. By this means, those persons from whom a full proportion shall have been extracted, will be saddled with a share of the deficiencies, as well as those who shall not have discharged their full portion. This mode then will have precisely the same unequal and unjust operation as the other. I said yesterday that there were 1500 representatives and 160 Senators, who transacted the affairs of the different States. But we are told that this great number is unnecessary, and that in the multitude of counsellors there is folly instead of wisdom–that they are a dead weight on the public business, which is said in all public assemblies to devolve on a few. This may in some degree be true, but it will not apply in the great latitude as mentioned by the Gentleman. If ten men in our Assembly do the public business, may not the same observation extend to Congress? May not five men do the public business of the Union? But there is a great difference between the objects of legislation in Congress and those of the State Legislatures. If the former be more complicated there is a greater necessity of a full and adequate representation. It must be confessed that it is highly improper to trust our liberty and property in the hands of so few persons if they were anything less than divine. But it seems that in this contest for power, the State Governments have the advantage. I am of opinion that it will be directly the reverse. What influence can the State Governments be supposed to have, after the loss of their most important rights? Will not the diminution of their power and influence be an augmentation of those of the General Government? Will not the officers of the General Government receive higher compensations for their services than those of the State Governments? Will not the most influential men be employed by Congress? I think that the State Governments will be contemned and despised as soon as they give up the power of direct taxation, and a State, says Montesquieu, should loose her existence sooner than her importance. But,Sir, we are told, that if we do not give up this power to Congress, the impost will be stretched to the utmost extent. I do suppose this might follow, if the thing did not correct itself. But we know, that it is the nature of this kind of taxation, that a small duty will bring more real money than a large one. The experience of the English nation proves the truth of this assertion. There has been much said of the necessity of the five per cent impost. I have been ever of opinion, that two and a half per cent, would produce more real money into the treasury. But we need not be alarmed on this account, because when smugglers will be induced by heavy imposts to elude the laws, the General Government will find it their interest again to reduce them within reasonable and moderate limits. But it is suggested, that if direct taxation be inflicted by way of punishment, it will create great disturbances, in the country. This is an assertion without argument. If man is a reasonable being, he will submit to punishment, and acquiesce in the justice of its infliction, when he knows he deserves it. The States will comply with the requisitions of Congress more readily, when they know that this power may be ultimately used, and if they do not comply, they will have no reason to complain of its exercise. We are then told of the armed neutrality of the Empress of Russia, the opposition to it by Great-Britain, and the acquiescence of other powers. We are told that in order to become the carriers of contending nations, it will be necessary to be formidable at sea-that we must have a fleet in case of a war between Great-Britain and France. I think that the powers who formed that treaty will be able to support it. But if we were certain that this would not be the case, still I think the profits that might arise from such a transient commerce, could not compensate for the expences of rendering ourselves formidable at sea, or the dangers that would probably result from the attempt.
To have a fleet, in the present limited population of America, is, in my opinion, impracticable and inexpedient. Is America in a situation to have a fleet? I take it to be a rule founded in common sense, that manufacturers, as well as sailors, proceed from a redundancy of inhabitants . Our numbers compared to our territory are very small indeed. I think therefore that all attempts to have a fleet, till our Western lands are fully settled, are nugatory and vain. How will you induce your people to go to sea? Is it not more agreeable to follow agriculture than to encounter the dangers and hardships of the ocean? The same reasoning will apply in a great degree to manufactures. Both are the result of necessity. It would besides be dangerous to have a fleet in our present weak, dispersed, and defenceless situation. The powers of Europe, who have West-India possessions, would be alarmed at any extraordinary maritime exertions; and knowing the danger of our arrival at manhood would crush us in our infancy. In my opinion, the great objects most necessary to be promoted and attended to in America, are agriculture and population. First take care that you are sufficiently strong by land, to guard against European partitions:S ecure your own house, before you attack that of other people. I think that the sailors who would be prevailed on to go to sea, would be a real loss to the community: Neglect of agriculture, and loss of labour, would be the certain consequence of such an irregular policy. I hope, that when these objections are thoroughly considered, all ideas of having a fleet in our infant situation willbe given over. When the American character is better known, and the Government established on permanent principles. When we shall be sufficiently populous, and our situation secure, then come forward with a fleet-not with a small one, but with one sufficient to meet any of the maritime powers.2
The Honorable Gentleman (Mr. Madison) said that the impost will be less productive hereafter, on account of the increase of population. I shall not controvert this principle. When all the lands are settled and we have manufactures sufficient, this may be the case. But I believe, that for a very long time this cannot possibly happen. In islands and thick settled countries, where they have manufactures, the principle will hold good; but will not apply in any degree to our country. I apprehend that among us, as the people in the lower country find themselves straightened they will remove to the frontiers, which for a considerable period will prevent the lower country from being very populous, or having recourse to manufactures. I cannot therefore but conclude, that the amount of the imposts will continue to increase at least for a great number of years. Holland, we are informed, is not happy, because she has not a Constitution like this. This is but an unsupported assertion. Do we not know the cause of her misfortunes? The evil is co-eval with her exist-ence–There are always opposite parties in that republic. There are now two parties-the Aristocratic party supporting the Prince of Orange, and the Louvestein party supporting the rights of the people. France foments the one, and Great-Britain the other. Is it known that if Holland had begun with such a Government as this, that the violence of faction would not produce the same evils which they experience at this present moment? It is said that all our evils result from requisitions on the States. I did not expect to hear of complaints for non-compliance during the war. Do not Gentlemen recollect our situation during the war? Our ports were blocked up, and all means of getting money destroyed, and almost every article taken from the farmer for the public service, so as, in many instances, not to leave him enough to support his own family with tolerable decency and comfort. It cannot be forgot that another resort of Government was applied to, and that press warrants were made to answer for the non-compliance of requisitions-Every person must recollect our miserable situation during the arduous contest, therefore shall make no farther apology for the States during the existence of the war.–Since the peace there have been various causes for not furnishing the necessary quotas to the General Government. In some of the flourishing States the requisitions have been attended to; in others their non-compliance is to be attributed more to the inability of the people, than to their unwillingness to advance the general interests.–Massachusetts attempted to correct the nature of things, by extracting more from the people than they were able to part with:What did it produce? A revolution, which shook that State to its centre. Paper money has been introduced. What did we do a few years ago? Struck off many millions, and by the charms of magic made the value of the emissions diminish by a forty fold ratio. However unjust or unreasonable this might be, I suppose it was warranted by the inevitable laws of necessity. But, Sir, there is no disposition now of having paper money: This engine of iniquity is universally reprobated. But Conventions give power, and Conventions can take away. This observation does not appear to me to be well founded. It is not so easy to dissolve a Government like this. Its dissolution may be prevented by a trifling minority of the people of America. The consent of so many States are necessary to introduce amendments, that I fear they will with great difficulty be obtained. It is said, that a strong Government will increase our population by increasing of emigrants. From what quarter is emigration to proceed? From the arbitrary Monarchies of Europe? I fear this kind of population would not add much to our happiness or improvement: It is supposed from the prevalence of the Orange faction, that numbers will come hither from Holland, although it is not imagined the strength of the Government will form the inducement.
The exclusive power of Legislation over the 10 miles square is introduced by many Gentlemen. I would not deny the utility of vesting the General Government with a power of this kind, were it properly guarded. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it occurs to me that Congress may give exclusive privileges to merchants residing within the ten miles square, and that the same exclusive power of legislation will enable them to grant similar privileges to merchants in the strong holds within the States. I wish to know if there be any thing in the Constitution to prevent it. If there be, I have not been able to discover it. I may perhaps, not thoroughly comprehend this part of the Constitution, but it strikes my mind that there is a possibility that in process of time and from the simple operation of effects from causes, that the whole commerce of the United States may be exclusively carried on by the merchants residing within the seat of Government, and those places of arms, which may be purchased of the State Legislatures. How detrimental and injurious to the community, and how repugnant to the equal rights of mankind, such exclusive emoluments would be, I submit to the consideration of the Committee. Things of a similar nature have happened in other countries, or else from whence have issued the Hans-towns, Cinque ports and other places in Europe, which have peculiar privileges in commerce as well as in other matters? I do not offer this sentiment as an opinion, but a conjecture; and in this doubtful agitation of mind on a point of such infinite magnitude, only ask for information from the framers of the Constitution, whose superior opportunities must have furnished them with more ample lights on the subject than I am possessed of3
Something is said on the other side with respect to the Mississippi. An Honorable Gentleman has mentioned, that he was satisfied that no member of Congress had any idea of giving up that river. Sir, I am not at liberty from my situation to enter into any investigation on the subject: I am free, however, to acknowledge that I have frequently heard the honorable member declare, that he conceived the object then in contemplation, was the only method by which the right of that river could be ultimately secured. I have heard similar declarations from other members. I must beg leave to observe, at the same time, that I most decidedly differed with them in sentiment.–With respect to the citizens of the Eastern and some of the middle States, perhaps the best and surest means of discovering their general dispositions, may be by having recourse to their interests: This seems to be the pole star to which the policy of nations is directed: If this supposition should be founded, I think they must have reasons of considerable magnitude, for wishing the occlusion of that river. If the Mississippi was yielded to Spain, the migration to the Western country would be stopped, and the Northern States would, not only retain their inhabitants, but preserve their superiority and influence over that of the Southern. If matters go on in their present direction, there will be a number of new States to the Westward- Population may become greater in the Southern scale-The ten miles square may approach us! This they must naturally wish to prevent. I think Gentlemen may know the disposition of the different States, from the geography of the country and from the reason and nature of things. Is it not highly imprudent to vest a power in the generality, which will enable those States to relinquish that river? There are but feeble restrictions at present to prevent it. By the old confederation nine States are necessary to form any treaty.
By this Constitution, the President with two thirds of the members present in the Senate, can make any treaty. Ten members are two thirds of a quorum. Ten members are the representatives of five States. The Northern States may then easily make a treaty relinquishing this river. In my opinion, the power of making treaties, by which the territorial rights of any of the States may be essentially affected, ought to be guarded against every possibility of abuse: And the precarious situation to which those rights will be exposed, is one reason with me, among a number of others, for voting against its adoption.4