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title:“Melancton Smith's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates”
authors:Melancton Smith
date written:1788-7-1

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:17 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Sept. 19, 2021, 10:18 a.m. UTC

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. 2035-38. Print.
Melancton Smith, Notes for Speech, New York State Library, Albany, New York

Melancton Smith's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates (July 1, 1788)

SMITH. The power. I admitted that the States wd. have concurrent jurisdn., in laying taxes, but I did not mean by this that they would have supreme, or uncontroulable power on this head—Two powers may exercise jurisdiction over the same object, and yet both be subordt. to a higher, and the one subordt. to the other— This is in fact the case in a variety of Instances—The cases of taxes adduced, are in point—The Counties have authority to lay taxes as well of the State—But the power of the former is under the controul of that of the latter— Whether the gen. government will have a constl. right to controul that of the States, depends upon the Constrn. of the Cons.— Men of eminent professl. abilities have favd. us with their sents. and hold diff. opins—when Doctors disagree— what is to be done— This conclus. fair, that in establishg. consti[t]ut[ion]s—in matters where the essl. rights of the people are concerned nothing shd. be left to doubtful construction— The Const. in the first instance is to receive its expl. by the Legislature— It is not to be supposed they are all of them to be men [of] legal knowledge— They will therefore understd. it according to the most obvious and natural construct.—witht. having recourse to those nice dist[inction]s & subtle reasonings for which the profession of the Law is renowned.— How then will they reason on that subject— The genl. govt. is vested with the supreme power of the union— the express design of this is to "form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare & secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and posterity." They are to seek these ends in the exercise of the powers, in such way as their prudence may direct, either by ordaining pos[i]t[i]v[e] rules, or controuling other subordt. powers— for the means shd. be adequate to the end—lesser Interests shd. submit to greater—There would appear no restrictns Except positive restraints or prohibitions— thus reasg. upon general prins., a controuling power wd. appear to be vested in Congress, by fair induct[ion] — But it does not depd. upon inference from genl. princips—The power to lay taxes is expressly given in all its latitude & extent—and that no doubt might remain, whether the general govt. shd. possess all incid[enta]l powers—It is declared they shd. have all powers proper & necessary for carrying it into effect—and lest it might yet be supposed this power might be impeded in its exercise by the States, it is [stated] that their Laws shall be the suprem[e] Law of the Land, any thing in the Laws & Const. of the States to the contrary notwithsg.—& lest some obstr. shd. arise in executg. the Laws, they appd. courts to decide & over & above require an Oath of all the offcrs. of the States to sup[por]t the Const.— The power to lay &collect taxes & to make proper & necessary Laws, must [certainly?] include in it, not only to provide by Law for the direct exercise of powers to raise a tax— But also for removg. out of the way every imped. that will prevent it—to controul all circumstances that may retard— to restrain & subjt. every power that rises up against or interferes wt. it— From hence, I think it follows clearly that whenever the St. Govts. interfere wt. the general gov.—they may controul them— whenever their Laws, if executed counteract the Laws of the gen. govt. to declare them void— It was well observd. yesterday, that the Idea of two supremes con[current] on the same object, it seems a contradiction— two powers to tax may exist, if they have a common umpire—&c— A hon Gen. fm N. Y. [Alexander Hamilton] has advanced a principle, fm wh. he has reasoned to prove the jurisd. is concurrent, or as he explains it, supreme & uncontroulable, in each Gov.— it is this—That all powers not expressly granted, in this constitution are reservd. to the respective sovereigns—contrary to what it is in del[e]g[ating] to State Legisls. for there all power not reserved is given, except as [natl. rights?]—The reason he says is, that in the one case sovereignties already exist and they cannot be divested of powers by implication—he infers fm this that a state can be deprivd. of a power only in one of 3 ways either by its being given exclusively—given in one clause to the genl. govt. and taken away from the States by another—or where it is p[h]ysically impossible both shd. exercise it— Suppose the distn. just, it does not invalidate the [– – –] reasonig— The power of the gen. govt. in regard to taxes in general, extends to every circums. respg. the collect—and the States are subordt. to the gen. govt. in every power it [exercises?] const[itutionall]y. —It is p[h]ysically impossible, that the State govts. can have the same power— The genl. govt. has a power to controul every circums. imped the Coll. of a tax, whether by State Laws const or otherwise— Now it [is] utterly imposs. that the state can have a power to controul every circum. respg. a Tax, when by Laws of the general govt. or otherwise— this wd. be to suppose two powers, both suprem[e] & both subordinate to each other— As to the principle that all power not given is resd.—I do not see how it applys to the general more than to a State govt—If the States delegated power it might—but—in this case, both are derived from the same source the people and both are to be construed the same way—It is true there is this difference, in the State govts., Legisl. powers are given in general terms—here partl. objects of Leg. powers are given in genl. terms, but the same rule of interpr. applies in both— the people in 1777 give power to one Body in 1788 to another—the grant of 1788 annuls the former so far as they are inconsistent, with[ou]t saying in express words it does so— It is said the gen. govt. will have no inducement to destroy the State—or to encroach they are necessary props— If they will be rival powers, as is admitted, sufft inducemts. in the passions of [them?].— The State govts. not necessy. to execute their Laws— But supposing them useful & necessy. props, they will have ind[ucemen]ts to reduce them to a State of entire depend[ence] & subord— sd. The State govt. will have more numerous Repr—This I fear will be used by & by, to persuade the people to consent—to abolish them— as the expence will be sd. to be needless— sd. to have more Offices in their gift This—I suppose not true, as it respects offices wh will be objects of ambition— The judiciary wh. all dependts.—Revenue— sd. More the Confidence of the people—this will be withdrawn, when they app[ea]r—an empty form— Observe, upon the assertn. that Gent. who opposed the impost incons[isten]t—

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