The amendments to the Constitution as altered and agreed to by the House, were read.
Mr. TUCKER then proposed the following amendment in substance: That Congress shall not exercise the power of levying direct taxes, except in cases where any of the States shall refuse, or neglect to comply with their requisitions.
Mr PAGE said, although I wish the way may be always open for every member of this house to propose amendments to the Constitution—yet as the business is so far completed with respect to the report of the committee, I think it will be best to proceed and finish this report, and in the mean time refer this to the select committee of eleven.
Mr TUCKER: I hope, Sir, the proposition will be attended to at the present time - as the house is upon the subject, and considerable progress is made, this amendment may be added with ease, if it should be agreed to—I think it best to finish the whole business now Congress has it before them.
Mr JACKSON opposed the proposition: I hope, Sir, that the experience we have had will be sufficient to prevent Congress ever divesting themselves of this power—This experience forcibly points out the impropriety of adopting this amendment—requisitions upon several States it is well known, tho made several years since, remain uncomplied with to this day; and no inducements in future can ever be supposed to be sufficiently operative, to induce so universal a compliance with requisitions, as to secure the public good, if a sense of common danger, war, and the facility of payment in a paper medium were not sufficient to do it: But this plan of requisitions is pregnant with difficulties of various kinds—it will excite jealousies—insurrections—and war, dissolve the Union, and expose us to the contempt and invasion of foreign powers: For if this power is taken from Congress, you divest the United States of the means of protecting the Union, or providing for the existence and continuation of the government.
Mr LIVERMORE supported the motion: He said, it is more important than all that has been agreed to: This is an amendment to some purpose, and which a number of the States have particularly called for: Without some to more purpose is held out to the people, that I have the honor to represent, they will consider these as a mere musketo bite—they will not give a pinch of snuff for them all.
Mr. PAGE observed, that this proposition is one about which the warmest friends to amendments have differed in opinion: Some of them have entirely ceased urging it, and others have become the most strenuous advocates for the reverse; and now say that the government ought never to give up this power: For my part, experience has fully evinced that no dependence can be placed upon requisitions: If in a time of war, and when we made paper money by hogsheads full, they were disregarded, I have no expectation that any dependence in the future can be placed in them - I shall therefore be against the proposition.
Mr. GERRY moved, that it be referred to a select committee.
Mr. TUCKER objected to this motion, he said the subject of amendments is still open - as the report of the committee is not yet completed.
Mr. GERRY advocated the object of the motion; but he did not think that object fully comprehended in the motion now before the house: He then entered into a general discussion of the question, and pointed out the consequences of the exercise of this power by the general government, as involving the annihilation of the State governments.
I do not see the arguments in favour of giving Congress this power in so strong a light as some gentlemen do: It will be to erect an imperium in imperio; which is always considered as subversive of all government. Whenever Congress shall exercise this power, it will raise commotions in the states; whereas the mode of requisitions will operate in such an easy way by being consonant to the habits of the people, that the supplies will be sooner realized into the public treasury in this, than by the other mode. Much time must be spent in forming a uniform system of taxation, which shall operate equally and justly through all the States, if it is possible to form such a system. It is said that requisitions have not been complied with in former times; but it is to be expected that there will not be so much difficulty in the future. The requisitions will be greatly diminished by reason of the supplies from the impost; besides, should any of the States not comply they will in that case be liable to the exercise of the power of Congress in the very heart of such States as are delinquent; this power would be so disagreeable, that the dread of it would serve to stimulate the States to an immediate and prompt compliance with the requisitions. This amendment is proposed by several of the States, and some of the most important; and for this, and other reasons which have been offered, I hope the amendment will be adopted.5
Several methods of disposing of this question for the present were proposed, but the motion for its lying on the table being put and negatived, Mr. PARTRIDGE, referring to his instructions, was solicitous that this amendment should not be too suddenly decided upon, moved the previous question, which was negatived.
Mr. SEDGWICK observed, that he believed he felt the force of the instructions from his constituents which they ought to have upon his mind, and to as great a degree as other gentlemen; but Sir, said he, a government entrusted with the freedom, and the very existence of the people, ought surely to possess, in the most ample manner, the means of supporting its own existence; and as we do not know what circumstances we may be in, nor how necessary it may be for Congress to exercise this power, I should think it a violation of the oath I have taken to support this constitution, were I now to vote for this amendment.
Mr SHERMAN observed that if congress should exercise this power, the taxes would be laid by the immediate representatives of the people; nor would there be any necessity for adopting one uniform method of collecting direct taxes: The several states may be accommodated by a reference to their respective modes of taxation.
The question upon the paragraph being called for from all parts of the house, the ayes and noes stand thus: