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question is, whether these shall be satisfied by annual grants, perpetually renewed by a perpetual grant, once for all, or by a compound of permanent and occasional supplies. The last is the wisest course. The Federal Government should neither be independent nor too much dependent. It should neither be raised above responsibility or control; nor should it want the means of maintaining its own weight, authority, dignity; and credit. To this end, permanent funds are indispensable; but they ought to be of such a nature, and so moderate in their amount as never to be inconvenient. Extraordinary supplies can be the objects of extraordinary emergencies; and in that salutary medium will consist our true wisdom.
It would seem as if no mode of taxation could be relished, but the worst of all modes, which now prevails by assessment. Every proposal for a specific tax is sure to meet with opposition. It has been objected to a poll tax at a fixed rate, that it will be unequal, and the rich will pay no more than the poor. In the form in which it has been offered in these papers the poor, properly speaking, are not comprehended, though it is true, that beyond the exclusion of the indigent, the tax has no reference to the proportion of property, but it should be remembered that it is impossible to devise any specific tax that will operato equally on the whole community. It must be the province of the Legislature to hold the scales with a judicious hand, and balance one by another. The rich must be made to pay for their luxuries, which is the only proper way of taxing their superior wealth.
Do we imagine that our assessments operate equally? Nothing can be more contrary to the fact. Wherever a discretionary power is lodged in any set of men over the property of their neighbors, they will abuse it. Their passions, prejudices, partialities, dislikes, will have the principal lead in measuring the abilities of those over whom their power extends; and assessors will ever be a set of petty tyrants, too unskilful, if honest, to be possessed of so delicate a trust; and too seldom honest to give them the excuse of want of skill.
The genius of liberty reprobates every thing arbitrary or discretionary in taxation. It exacts that every man, by a definite and general rule, should know what proportion of his property the State demands. Whatever liberty we may boast in theory, it cannot exist in fact while assessments continue.
The admission of them among us is a new proof, how often human conduct reconciles the most glaring opposites; in the present case, the most vicious practice of despotic governments, with the freest constitutions and the greatest love of liberty.
The establishment of permanent funds would not only answer the public purposes infinitely better than temporary supplies, but it would be the most effectual way of easing the people.
With this basis for procuring credit, the amount of present taxes might be greatly diminished. Large sums of money might be borrowed abroad, at a low interest, and introduced into the country, to defray the
current expenses and pay the public debts; which would not only lessen the demand for immediate supplies, but would throw more money into circulation, and furnish the people with greater means of paying the taxes.
Though it be a just rule that we ought not to run in debt to avoid present expense, 80 far as our faculties extend; yet the propriety of doing it cannot be disputed, when it is apparent that these are incompetent to the public necessities. Efforts beyond our abilities can only tend to individual distress and national disappointment. The product of the three foregoing articles will be as little as can be required, to enablo Congress to pay their debts, and restore order into their finances. In addition to them
The disposal of the unlocated lands will hereafter be a valuable source of revenue, and an immediate one of credit. As it may be liable to the same condition with the duties on trade,—that is, the product of the sales within each State to be credited to that State, and as the rights of jurisdiction are not infringed, it seems to be susceptible of no reasonable objection.
Mines in every country constitute a branch of the revenue. In this, where nature has so richly impregnated the bowels of the earth, they may in time become a valuable one; and as they require the care and attention of government to bring them to perfection, this care and a share in the profits of it will very properly devolve upon Congress. All the precious metals should absolutely be the property of the Federal Government, and with respect to the others it should have a discretionary power of reserving, in the nature of a tax, such part as it may judge not inconsistent with the encouragement due to so important an object. This is rather a future than a present resource.
The reason of allowing Congress to appoint its own officers of the customs, collectors of the taxes, and military officers of every rank, is to create in the interior of each State, a mass of influence in favor of the Federal Government. The great danger has been shown to be, that it will not have power enough to defend itself, and preserve the Union, not that it will ever become formidable to the general liberty. A mere regard to the interests of the confederacy will never be a principle sufficiently active to crush the ambition and intrigues of different members. Force cannot effect it. A contest of arms will seldom be between the common sovereign, and a single refractory member, but between distinct combinations of the several parts against each other. A sympathy of situations will be apt to produce associates to the disobedient. The application of force is always disagreeable—the issue uncertain. It will be wise to obviate the necessity of it, by interesting such a number of individuals in each State, in support of the Federal Government, as will be counterpoised to the ambition of others, and will make it difficult for them to unite the people in opposition to the first and necessary measures of the Union.
There is something noble and magnificent in the perspective of a
great Federal Republic, closely linked in the pursuit of a common interest, tranquil and prosperous at home-respectable abroad; but there is something proportionably diminutive and contemptible in the prospect of a number of petty States, with the appearance only of Union, jarring, jealous, and perverse, without any determined direction, fluctuating and unhappy at home, weak and insignificant by their dissensions in the eyes of other nations.
Happy America, if those to whom thou hast intrusted the guardianship of thy infancy, know how to provide for thy future repose, but miserable and undone, if their negligence or ignorance permits the spirit of discord to erect her banner on the ruins of thy tra
RESOLUTION FOR A GENERAL CONVENTION OF
PASSED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF New York, SUNDAY, JULY 21st, 1782.·
Resolved, That it appears to this Legislature-after full and solemn consideration of the several matters communicated by the Honorable the Committee of Congress, relative to the present posture of our affairs, foreign and domestic, and contained in a letter from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, respecting the former, as well as of the representations, from time to time made by the Superintendent of the Finances of the United States, relative to his particular department— that the situation of these States is in & peculiar manner critical, and affords the strongest reason to apprehend, from & continuance of the present constitution of the continental Government, a subdivision of the public credit, and consequences highly dangerous to the safety aud independence of these States.
Resolved, That while this Legislature are convinced by the before mentioned communications, that, notwithstanding the generous intentions of an Ally, from whom we have experienced, and doubtless shall still experience all possible support; exigencies may arise to prevent our receiving pecuniary succors hereafter, in any degree proportioned to our necessities. They are also convinced from facts within their own knowledge, that the provisions made by the respective States for carrying on the war, are not only inadequate to the end, but must continue to be so, while there is an adherence to the principles which now direct the operation of public measures.
Resolved, That it is also the opinion of this Legislature, that the present plan, instituted by Congress, for the administration of their Finances, is founded in wisdom and sound policy. That the salutary effects of it have already been felt in an extensive degree; and that after 80 many violent shocks sustained by the public credit, a failure in this system, for want of the support which the States are able to give, would be productive of evils too pernicious to be hazarded.
Resolved, That it appears to this Legislature, that the present British ministry, with a disposition not less hostile than that of their predecessors, taught by experience to avoid their errors; and assuming the appearance of moderation, are pursuing a scheme calculated to conciliate in Europe, and seduce in America. That the economical arrangements they appear to be adopting, are adapted to enlarging the credit of their Government, and multiplying its resources, at the same time that they serve to confirm the prepossessions and confidence of the people; and that the plan of a defensive war on this Continent, while they direct all their attention and resources to the augmentation of their Navy, is that which may be productive of consequences ultimately dangerous to the United States.
Resolved. That it is the opinion of this Legislature, that the present