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situation, from which Massachusetts has scarcely emerged, evinces, that dangers of this kind are not merely speculative. Who can determine what might have been the issue of her late convulsions, if the mal-contents had been headed by a Cæsar or by a Cromwell? Who can predict what effect a despotism, established in Massachusetts, would have upon the liberties of New Hampshire or Rhode Island; of Connecticut or New-York ?
The inordinate pride of state importance, has suggested to some minds an objection to the principle of a guarantee in the federal government; as involving an officious interference in the domestic concerns of tho members. A scruplo of this kind would deprive us of one of the principal advantages to be expected from union; and can only flow from a misapprehension of the nature of the provision itself. It could be no impediment to reforms of the state constitutions by a majority of the people in a legal and peaceable mode. This right would remain undiminished. The guarantee could only operate against changes to be effected by violence. Towards the prevention of calamities_of_this kind, too many checks.cannot be provided. The peace of society, and the stability of government, depend absolutely on the efficacy of the precautions adopted on this head. Where the whole power of the government is in the hands of the people, there is the less pretence for the use of violent remedies, in partial or occasional distempers of the state. The natural cure for an ill administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is, a change of men. A guarantee by the national authority, would be as much directed against the usurpations of rulers, as against the ferments and outrages of faction and sedition in the community.
The principle of regulating the contributions of the states to the common treasury by QUOTAS, is another fundamental error in the confederation. Its repugnancy to an adequate supply of the national exigencies, has been already pointed out, and has sufficiently appeared from the trial which has been made of it. I speak of it now solely, with a view to equality among the states. Those who have been accustomed to contemplate the
circumstances, which produce and constitute-national wealth, must be satisfied that there is.no.common, standard, ur barometer, by which the degrees.of.it can be ascertained. . Neither the value of lands, nor the numbers of the people, which have been successively proposed as the rule of state contributions, has any pretension to being a just representative. If we compare tho wealth of tho United Netborlands with that of Russia or Germany, or even of France; and if we at the same time compare the total value of the lands, and the aggregate population of the contracted territory of that republic, with the total value of the lands, and the aggregate population of the immense regions of either of those kingdoms, we sball at once discover, that there is no comparison between the proportion of either of these two objects, and that of the relative wealth of those nations. If the like parallel were to be run between several of the American states, it would furnish a like result. Let Virginia be contrasted with North-Carolina, Pennsylvania with Connecticut, or Mary. land with New-Jersey, and we shall be convinced that there spective abilities of these states, in--relation-torevenue-bear little or no analogy to their comparative stock in lands, or to their comparative population. The position may be equally illustrated, by a similar process between the counties of the same state. No man acquainted with the state of New York will doubt, that the active wealth of King's county bears a much greater proportion to that of Montgomery, than it would appear to do, if we should take either the total value of the lands, or the total numbers of the people as a criterion.
The wealth of nations depends upon an infinite variety of causes. Situation, soil, climate, the pature of the..productions, the nature of the government, the-genius.of-the-citizens'; the degree of information they possess; the state of commerce, of arts, of industry; these circumstances, and many more too complox, minuto, or adventitious, to admit of a particular specification, occasion differences hardly conceivable in the relative opu. lence and riches of different countries. The consequence.clearly 18, that there can be no common measure of national wealth ;
and of course, no general or stationary rule, by which the ability of a state to pay taxes can be determined. The attempt, therefore, to regulate the contributions of the members of a confederacy, by any such rule, cannot fail to be productive of glaring inequality, and extreme oppression.
This inequality would of itself be sufficient in America to work the eventual destruction of the union, if any mode of enforcing a compliance with its requisitions could be devised. The sufforing states would not long consent to remain associated upon a principle which distributed the public burthens with so lunequal a hand; and which was calculated to impoverish and oppress the citizens of some states, while those of others would scarcely be conscious of the small proportion of the weight they were required to sustain. This, however, is an evil inseparable from the principle of quotas and requisitions,
There is no method of steering clear of this inconvenience, but by authorizing the national government to raise its own revenues in its own way. Imposts, excises, and in general all duties upon articles of consumption, may be compared to a fluid, which will in time find its level with the means of paying them. The amount to be contributed by each citizen will in a degree þe at his own option, and can be regulated by an attention to his resources. The rich may be extravagant, the poor can be frugal. And private oppression may always be avoided, by a judicious selection of objects proper for such impositions. If inequalities should arise in some states from duties on particular objects, these will, in all probability, be counterbalanced by proportional inequalities in other states, from the duties on other objects. In the course of time and things, an equilibrium, as far as it is attainablo, in so complicatod a subject, will be established ovory..where. Or if incqualities should still exist, they would neither be so great in their degree, so uniform in their operation, nor so odious in their appearance, as those which would necessarily spring from quotas, upon any scale that can possibly be devised.
It is a signal advantage of taxes on articles of consumption,
tbat they contain in their own nature a security against excess. They prescribe their own limit; which cannot be exceeded without defeating the end proposed—that is, an extension of the revenue. When applied to this object, the saying is as just as it is witty, that "in political arithmetic, two and two do not always make four.” If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption—the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as wben they are confined within proper and moderate bounds.
This forms a complete barrier against any material oppression of the citizens, by taxes of this class, and is itself a natural limitation of the power of imposing them.
Impositions of this kind usually fall under the denomination of indirect taxes, and must for a long time constitute the chief part of the revenue raised in this country. Those of the direct kind, which principally relate to lands and buildings, may admit of a rule of apportionment. Either the value of land, or the number of the people may serve as a standard. The state of agriculture, and the populousness of a country, are considered as having a near relation to each other. And as a rule for the purpose intended, numbers in the view of simplicity and certainty, are entitled to a preference. In every country it is an Herculean task to obtain a valuation of the land; in a country imperfectly settled and progressive in improvement, the difficulties are increased almost to impracticability. The expense of an accurate valuation, is in all situations a formidable objection. In a branch of taxation where no limits to the discretion of the government are to be found in the nature of the thing, the establishment of a fixed rule, not incompatible with the end, may be attended with fewer inconveniences than to leave that discretion altogether at large.
NEW YORK, DECEMBER 15, 1787.
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED, AND CONCLUDED.
In addition to the defects of the existing federal system, enumerated in the last number, there are others of not, less importance, which concur in rendering that system altogether unfit for the administration of the affairs of the union.
The want of a power to regulate commerce, is by all parties allowed to be of the number. The utility of such a power has been anticipated under the first head of our inquiries; and for this reason, as well as from the universal conviction entertained upon the subject, little need be added in this place. It is indeed \evident, on the most superficial view, that there is no object, pither as it respects the interests of trade or finance, that more strongly demands a federal superintendance. The want of it has already operated as a . bar to the formation of beneficial treaties with foreign powers; and has given occasions of dissatisfaction between the states. No nation acquainted with the nature of our political association would be unwise enough to enter into stipulations with the United States, conceding on their part privileges of importance, while they were apprised that the engagements on the part of the union, might at any moment be violated by its members; and while they found, from experience, that they might enjoy every advantage they desireil