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Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Carlson, Marybeth (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Virginia (1)
8 (1988)

Introduction,   pp. xxiii-xxxix


Page xxxii

l. DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTION
ble to the act that "permitting any power, other than the general
assembly of this commonwealth, to levy duties or taxes upon the cit-
izens of this state within the same, is injurious to its sovereignty, may
prove destructive of the rights and liberty of the people, and so far
as congress might exercise the same is contravening the spirit of the
confederation in the eighth article thereof." The Virginia delegates to
Congress, especially James Madison, were completely surprised by this
action. Because amendments to the Articles of Confederation needed
the unanimous approval of the state legislatures, the Virginia repeal
(along with Rhode Island's refusal to ratify in November 1782) killed
this first attempt to establish a federal revenue.
In April 1783 Congress, still intent on obtaining an independent
revenue, submitted a comprehensive economic program to the states.
Among other things, the states were asked to grant Congress, for
twenty-five years, the power to levy a five percent ad valorem duty on
imported goods and to grant it annually a supplemental income of
$1,500,000 for the same period of time (CDR, 146-48). The duties
were to be collected by officers appointed by the states but "amenable
to and removeable by" Congress alone. Opposition arose in the spring
session of the Virginia legislature, where the majority was hostile to
this extension of congressional power. After considerable debate, a bill
was brought forth in which the proceeds of the Impost would go into
the state treasury. Supporters of the Impost rejected the idea, as they
did a compromise measure that would have kept the collection of the
Impost totally under state control, though the proceeds would go to
Congress. At an impasse, the legislature postponed the question until
its next session. By the end of 1783 the climate of opinion had changed,
and the legislature on 18 December granted Congress the Impost,
stating in the preamble to its act of ratification that the Impost would
"lighten" the burden of taxes on real and personal property. This
would be "a great ease and relief to the people." The legislature,
however, did not grant Congress the supplemental funds. (Only five
states did.) The Impost, though, was eventually defeated in 1787 when
New York refused to ratify it under conditions that were acceptable
to Congress.
In December 1783 the legislature also turned its attention to foreign
trade, another area in which Congress sought to increase its authority.
The legislature on 12 December "authorized and empowered" Con-
gress to retaliate against British restrictions on American ships in the
West Indies trade by prohibiting the importation of West Indies goods
in British vessels. Other states also encouraged Congress to retaliate,
and on 30 April 1784 Congress resolved that the states grant it power
to regulate commerce for fifteen years (CDR, 153-54). Virginia quickly
xxxu


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