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title:“Melancton Smith's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates”
authors:Melancton Smith
date written:1788-6-27

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Smith, Melancton. "Melancton Smith's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 22. Ed. John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2008. 1929-33. Print.
Melancton Smith, Notes for Speech, New York State Library, Albany, New York

Melancton Smith's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates (June 27, 1788)

SMITH. We have come to that part of the system wch. requires great attention and careful invest[igation]— The powers with which this govt. is vested shd. be precisely defined and limited to their proper objects, as far as is consistent wt. human foresight— Bounds shd. be set to it over wch. it shd. not pass— This is necessy. in all govts.—but peculiarly so in the one before us—Because it is to form part of a complex plan—the State govts. are to exist for certain local purposes, the general govert. for certn. national purposes—the latter is to rest on the former—It must do so if we mean to retain in any degree the features of a federal govt.—It must do so not only for its organizn. but in some degree for its exercise— It is therefore highly necessary that the Line of jurisdn. shd. be accurately drawn between them that there be no interfering claims or clashing jurisds.—For if this be not the case, the compl. parts of our system will not harmonize—they will not move to the same point—but will be constantly contendg. wt. each other, retarding one anothers operations &counteracting each others views, until one or the other is destroyed and perhaps the Liberties or at best the peace & happs. of the Country will fall in the Conflict—1 In nothing is it more necessary to mark that Line, than in matters of Revenue— Money is the vital principle of government—with[ou]t [it] no govt. can exist— To raise it, is the most delicate thing in govt.—the feelings of the people are sooner touched in the exercise of it—oppression is most com[mo]nly exercised in this way— Both govts. must raise money—or they cannot exist—both therefore must have the power to raise it, or else, the one will exist at the will of the other— If it is possible, each shd. be conf[ine]d to certain objts.—this will prevent clashing of Laws—contention of power, and perpetual interferences of officers &c—This ought to be in that govt., if its aim is to maintn. the system in its complex form and not to redirect it to a simple one—how far it departs from this shall be the subject of our future enquiry.— I shall not expatiate on the extent of the powers given by this clause—or trace its operation, in all its [—] of extent—in all its windings & [turns?]. It is sufft. to say, what will not I presume be denied, that it comprehends every mode of raising money, whether by direct or indirect taxes under whatever name described—and that the Legisl. are limittd. in its exercise by no restrict. other than their own discr. wh. discr. ought to be guided by a regd. to the general welfare— The next clause restricts the power, not to lay a tax or duty on exports— Here then is a power in the genl. govt. over every k[in]d of Revenue—in a followg. Sect—the indvd. States are prohibd. from raisg. a Revn. from imposts, or fm. Tonnadge—The state of the matter between the govts. then, stands thus—The genl. govt. has a power to raise a revenue in every way, and an exclusive right by impost & Tonnage—the indivd. States have no exclusive right to raise money in any way—but a concurrent right to raise it by Taxes excises & duties—2 3 The genl. govt. has moreover the superior advantages—that in all cases of interference—their Laws are supreme—their courts are to determine—4 5 Let us enquire then whether it can fail, that the State govts. must be supplanted— It is to be recolld. that the power of laying direct taxes is co-ordinate—there will certainly be a contest between them, unless the demands of each shd. be limitted within the conven[ien]ce of the people to pay, or an agreement shd. take place to divide these [resources?]— This position is generally true that the wants of every govt. will be equal to their means of getting it Revenues—they generally exceed it—and lead them to run in debt—they will not theref[o]re be prevented from interfg. because they will not want it—It is not likely they will accomodt. on that point—they will interfere—Two powers of taxation acting with[ou]t limit. on the same object—They must interfere—they must act in opp.—become hostile & finally the weaker submit to the Stronger—trace this power in its operation, this will appr. more clear—two sets of officers to lay &collect—of courts to try &c—On the one day the collector of Congress calls, the next of the State—The one seizes the other replevins—the Courts of Law called upon—Like two men having a comml. Interest in one plantation—unless they agree to divide, or to improve—it by turns there wd. be eternal jarring between them— In that jarring of Int. wh. wd. prevail—the genl. govt. certainly would—this wd. be armed at all points, while the State defenceless— The genl. govt. will have a certain & very productive revenue from impost & post office— 6 The State govts. no exclusive source at all—Every source from which they can raise money will be those with which there will be a contest in the gener Govt—they must yield in the conflict—I have hitherto gone on the supp[ositio]n that the one govt. will have no constitut control over other.—but this is not the Case—The Law of the union supreme—when disputes arise about jurisn. the courts of the union to decide—7 According to the common course of things, if we contempl the opert. of causes to produce effects—the genl. govt. will prevail— It will do it by slow & imperceptible degrees— The power over the revenues, will move gradually if they move prudently It will act with caution—but the effect will not be the less certain— The people for a while will retain their attachment for the State govts—The genl. governt. must consult their inclins—But the attachment of the people will lessen, as the State govts. lessen—and when it is perc[eive]d that to provide for their existence, involves them in diffs.—exposes them to taxes &c—they will turn from them with disgust—It will become a mere empty form— No one will wish an office in it—the people will wish it demolished—and if that govt. if it is adopted w[i]th[ou]t amends. and succeeds in its exercise—will be followed by this event— Some, I know consider such an event as a desireable one—For my part, I contemplate it with apprehn—that it will be the period of our Liberties— I know that we are very liable to err in theoretical reasonings on political questions—when we have [no] Experience is for a guide—On this subject we have no example—no Republic that we know off. of the extent of this Country.—The ancient ones, of small extent compared—variant in their forms—The Roman territories extensive, but their form of govt. did not extend— Modern Republics not like ours—less extensive— If we consult authorities, they are again[st] the practicability— generally agree that a Republic must be of moderate extent— It may be said these auths. apply to democratic republics not to Represent[ative]
But the best authorities, say an extensive country is capable of being gove[r]ned only by despotism— It may be said, we have no examples in favr. of a confedera. on the plan I contd. for—True, we must therefore reason from the nature of [—]—from our own experience, and that of others so far as they will apply—To suppose that one Legislature, from a Country seperated at the distance of 1200 Miles—can form a system to collect taxes and excises wt. propriety & [energy?] over such an extent—seems equally repugnant to the reason of the thing and the exper. of mankind on the Subject— To effect it they must have a vast number of Officrs. & [tribunals?] subord. to each other— The expence must be enormous— The burden intolerable— And the govt. wd. be unable to superintend the bus[in]ess—Supposg the Legislr. to have the best views—It is impossible they shd. be acquainted suff. to legislate for the local concerns— Very few such can be fou[n]d—to do it, a man must have devoted consid. part of his Life to travel & study— All [Most?] govts. of great extent, subdivided for the purpose of laying taxes— Our own experience to be consulted— The State goverments have ansd. well the purposes of their institution— Considering our circumsts—emerged from a war—from a state in which all distinctions have been leveled—and the infancy of our govts.—want of experience & habit—they have succeeded, beyond expectation—The general govert. has failed—and one of its principle defects, is the want of means to procure money—but is it necessary to give unlimited power on this head—to justify this requis[ition]s are reprobated in every case—and represd. as utterly insufft. to rely upon in any degree—Our own experience does not justify the conclusion—the experience of other Countries contradict it—Holland has commanded monies as plentifully as any nation— Our own experience does not—abt. 10 years since Requiss. were first made—In that time, if my informn. is right—abt. 36 m[illio]n has been rqud. incl. the bounties pd. to men—abt. 24 mi[llion] has been pd.—We ought to make allowances for def[iciencies] arisg from distresses of the War— from dependance of States on other Sources as impost— As much def[iciencies] in State taxes, as in requis[ition]s—Always will be deficienc[i]es in taxes—probably more so if the gen. govt. lays taxes than in requis[ition]s— Defi[ciencie] s in taxes in all govts— Congress, from a series of experience supposed a limitted Revenue suffic[ien]t The system of 1783— The Idea of unlimitted novel— on the whole the position obvious that if we retain the State govts. we must divide revenue—8
* * * * *
R. R. LIVINGSTON. This power important— The remarks, made pertinent—agreed that we ought to avoid a consolidation—as Represt. on this plan impracticable— If excise limitted, to the present hour proper—but contemplating future kinds— But Manufactures will increase—Wine—Brandy—Malt Spirits— excise necesy, to morality— It may be said, this left with the State— The State govts. will have little to provide— the general Govt. to provide [for gen?]— If we mean to prevent direct taxes—we ought to give consd. 3 L 1. As it relates to general govts— 2d. As it relates to State govermts 3d. to the Citizens— As to the first—contemplated wt regard to prest. condn.— No govt but has been obliged, to tax, borrow and plate— may be our situation— The motion recognizes such necessity— Is the mode proposed, is it adequate or not—what is reqt. [i.e., requisition]—no State has complied Bounties were they obtd. by requ—could not have been obt— The State that has pd. most has pd— Some States have pd. nothg. Newhampshire had pd. Nothing compliance has proceedd— N York in war has pd during War—pd in peace— States at distance pd. Nothing— South Carolina pd. by Certificates Pensylv pd best— War establishmt, renders it necessary— Tax as dilat[or]y The money will be wanted soon—The States will refuse, & if they do unless—they know the cause & approve it—This amendt. supports the existence of all the officers— That they will [use] force to collect it— On a great emergency—we must borrow [- - - ] wish to pledge to borrow— the England mode to pledge a certain article Impost & excises will be very insufft—Necessary to borrow— peculiar advantg—to navig[atin]g State—esp[eciall]y this— The State the Seat of war particularly inter[este]d brings us back to defend ourselves— this renders it necessy.— to keep our resources—9 2d. View interference of the State & gen. Govt— Trace this Argt. it supposes the States govt Corrupt— The States will be kept up because they are necessy.— Examine does the Argt. lead to Corrupt[ion] for the Argt. rests on this— It is cons[titude]d of Reprt —of the People— of a Senate chosen by States— of a Presid—chosen by select. Citizs— They are such checks, in addt. to Oath,10 we are not to suppose why do not our State govts. raise armie—s they canno
If corrupt—what object they are annually to lay accots before the public— Suppose they did not acct. for money—the people would murmur— The gent.— it must be gradual— The system cant be laid in two years.11 It is said an object to destroy the State gvts—If they cant exercise the power, why cant they do not— The State Govt-as necesay.—as there are Officers— The Gen. he cannot conceive two taxes on the same Artl— The same artl will not be laid If our [mode?] pursued— Two Taxes laid by cliff. powers—in our State— things exist wh. the gn say cannot exist— Must suppose the resources are compt. to both govt— If they be the Citizens must pay both— The expences of Govt. will be limitted to their resources 3. As it respects citizens in particular—But little consequence if it must be pd— The horse will be the first posse [ssio]n The genl. Court to depend— No citizen will be willing to give up State govt. Interested in the govt. of the union— some Citizens a partial Int—if seat of war
* * * * *
HAMILTON. It is natural to suspect such a power of money—more than necessity of govt— men predjudiced-have read govt.— wrong Ideas—his Ideas to give a safe and equal repr—no danger to entrust rulers in Republics— owes it[s] origin to the present times— This a Republic Govt— one part to be chosen by the people for two Years the next—chosen for 6 Years by peoples Repre— —the presid. chosen mediately by the people for 4 Years— entitled to approbation—even admiration— has all Checks—not confd. powers—two Branches—submd. to a chief magisr—a court admi[r]ably calculated—holding places during good behavr—12
why do gentn. come forward—Nobody ever said before, that a govt. shd. not be entrusted wt all power necessary— To talk of despotism as appld. to this govt. abs[ur]d—all govts. has the purse and the absurd [i.e., sword]—no Instance except the shadowy govt. of ancient Republics— The maxim applies to the difft. departments— the Legisl. ought not to have the purse & Sword13
It is high time we shd. reason right—The saying, tht this govt. is unsafe—contrary to the opinions of all writers— What is an adequate representation— this State a mean— one to 4000— the US: may be 10.0000[00]— this wd. be a mob— The rule in a small commy.—will not apply to a large one— If it goes to 200—will be sufft. to deliberate—secure again [st] Corrupt—cant [be] made in 2 Years— no Idea 60 or 80—can combine— no man who does not substitute fancy to reality—
This govt. all the requisites that any writer or reasoner— The talk of danger to Liberty is verbage—what power is necessary— a question what is convenient— What the objects of the nat. gov— As applied to revenue, common defence implies a power of war offensive & defence— The sources of expence—the maintainance of internal policy—and defence—15 what is the propor. between them— In great B., where a monarch, a Court &c—the proportion, is abt. 14 to 1— where ought to be lodged—is it most necessary in the natl. or State govts— To the State govts. who have only 1/14— the Body who have the genl. govt— No limits to the power, who cannot be limd—if we are to appropriate we must give the 1/15— To a mind not predisposed, the argts. sufficient— —In order to borrow—must have funds— must run in debt—sound policy, to contribute as much as they can— must run in Debt more than is necessary (a) —This principle recognized by the confederation attestation to the principle— [they?] not effectual— This principle admitted in the amendment— If it necessary, give it all effect— Said—This doctrine oppd. to Liberty—An extensive Country must be a despotism—N. York—beyond the limits contemplated—misunderstood (b)The principle confd. to democracies—You may delegate from any extent—(c)No qualif. to this, but that an extensive govt. No attention of governt. to adminr. of justice and regulating internal police— admits there must be local governmt— The natl. govt. have no incl—because the State govts.—necy. props— It wd. be a suicide— it cannot take care of the affairs—& depends on the S. Govts—(d)No Presidt.—No Senate—investg. proposn.—no motive—a dream— would be impracticable— History proves that in all confd. govts. the members are stronger than head—Some of the ancient republics rested in the head—In Europe, the Govts. were divided into feudatories they generally prevailed—The Instances where the head has prevailed, the Barons have been oppressors— (e)The State governments will not be tyrannies—The people will have confidence, because we love our family— Are more numerous offices— have families connect[ion]s &c— the State govts. have the appd. of all militia officers— Judges &c— The objects of the two govts.— to pass all Laws of crimes,—the Courts, be in view the people— Agriculture, manufactures, as other go [v] ts— —The State govt. concurrent jurisdiction— The most part of the time, not taken up in making Laws for taxes— they will have most of the power they now have— The position of end of Liberty, most fanciful— The reasoning amot. to this, you must not trust the genl. govermt. because you have the greatest checks upon them— The State govts. ought to have the means of their own— admitting concurrent jurisdict—there is no supreme—inconst— Supposing one penny an Acre of Land by the general govt—the State govt. anotr. penny— the Courts to judge— walking in a Line of usurpation— the Judges appointed during pleasure— (f)Remember this is a true repub. gov. with all checks security
[Smith's marginal notes]
(a) Consent to the Checks
(b) I said so
(c) all the world
(d) on Election law the gen Gov. must have the means of their own existence
(e) another principle men will not submit to a phantom
(f) the cause must [go to?] the [- - - ]

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