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title:“Newspaper Report of Massachusetts Ratification Convention Debates”
date written:1788-1-18

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:23 a.m. UTC
retrieved:May 12, 2021, 8:01 a.m. UTC

"Newspaper Report of Massachusetts Ratification Convention Debates." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 6. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2000. 1249-52. Print.

Newspaper Report of Massachusetts Ratification Convention Debates (January 18, 1788)

Mess'rs. KING, GORE, PARSONS, and JONES (of Boston) spoke of the advantage to the northern states, the rule of apportionment in the 3d paragraph (still under debate) gave to them-as also the Hon. Judge DANA, the sketch of whose speech is as follows:
The learned Judge began with answering some objections to this paragraph, and urging the necessity of Congress being vested with power to levy Direct taxes on the States, and it was not to be supposed that they would levy such, unless the impost and excise should be found insufficient in case of a war.1 If, says he, a part of the union is attacked by a foreign enemy and we are disunited, how is it to defend itself? Can it by its own internal force? In the late war, this state singly was attacked, and obliged to make the first defence. -What has happened may happen again. The State, oppressed, must exert its whole power and bear the whole charge of the defence: but common danger points out for common exertion; and this Constitution is excellently designed to make the danger equal. Why should one state expend its blood and treasure for the whole? Ought not a controuling authority to exist, to call forth, if necessary the whole force and wealth of all the States? If disunited, the time may come when we may be attacked by our natural enemies. -Nova-Scotia, and New-Brunswick, filled with tories and refugees, stand ready to attack and devour these states, one by one. This will be the case, if we have no power to draw forth the wealth and strength of the whole, for the defence of a part. Then shall we, continues the Hon. Gentleman, see, but too late, the necessity of a power being vested somewhere, that could command that wealth and strength when wanted.2 I speak with earnestness, said he, but it is for the good of my native country. By God and nature made equal, it is with remorse I have heard it suggested by some, that those gentlemen who have had the superiour advantages of education, were enemies to the rights of their country? Are there any among this honourable body, who are possessed of minds capable of such narrow prejudices? If there are, it is in vain to reason with them; we had better come to a decision and go home. After dilating on this matter a short time, the learned judge begged gentlemen to look around them, and see who were the men that composed the assembly. -Are they not, he asked, men who have been foremost in the cause of their country both in the cabinet and in the field? and who, with halters about their necks, boldly and intrepidly advocated the rights of America, and of humanity, at home and in foreign countries? And are THEY not to be trusted? Direct taxation is a tremendous idea: but may not necessity dictate it to be unavoidable? We all wish to invest Congress with more power. We disagree only in the quantum, and manner in which Congress shall levy taxes on the States. A capitation tax is abhorrent to the feelings of human nature, and I venture to trust will never be adopted by Congress. The learned judge pointed out, on various grounds, the utility of the power to be vested by the Congress, and concluded by observing, that the proposed constitution was the best that could be framed; -that, if adopted, we shall be a great and happy nation; if rejected, a weak and despised one: we shall fall as the nations of antient times have fallen;- that this was his firm belief; and, says he, I would rather be annihilated than give my voice for, or sign my name to a constitution, which in the least should betray the liberties or interests of my country.
Mr. WIDGERY. I hope, Sir, the Hon. Gentleman will not think hard of it, if we ignorant men cannot see as clear as he can. The strong must bear with the infirmities of the weak; and it must be a weak mind indeed that could throw such illiberal reflections against gentlemen of education, as the Hon. Gentleman complains of. To return to the paragraph.- If Congress, continues Mr. W. have this power of taxing directly; it will be in their power to enact a poll tax-Can gentlemen tell why they will not attempt it, and by this method make the poor pay as much as the rich.
Mr DENCH, was at loss to know how Congress could levy the tax, in which he thought the difficulty of many consisted-yet had no doubt but that Congress would Direct that these States should pay it in their own way.
Hon. Mr. FULLER begged to ask Mr. GERRY-"Why in the last requisition of Congress, the portion required of this State, was thirteen times as much as of Georgia, and yet we have but eight Representatives in the general government, and Georgia has three?"-Until this question was answered, he was at a loss to know how taxation and representation went hand in hand.
(It was then voted that this question be asked Mr. Gerry.- A long and desultory debate ensued on the manner in which the answer should be given- it was at last voted that Mr. G. reduce his answer to writing.)

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