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Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut
3 (1978)

V. Commentaries on the Constitution, 13 November 1787-7 January 1788,   pp. 456-534


Page 513

V. COMMENTARIES
lent us their money in the time of our distress must be paid. Gratitude
and justice requires it; and this is not all, they can make reprisals
upon us, and let us know that we must pay, or the worst will be our
own. Our own patriotic citizens who have lent their money to the
public ought to be and must be paid. Money must be provided for
our current national expense.
How shall these things be done? We have strained the point of dry
taxation to its highest pitch. The farmer, who has a moderate decent
farm just sufficient comfortably to support himself and family, finds
it exceedingly hard to save enough out of his yearly earnings to pay
the frequent demands of collectors. There is an easier way, my fellow
citizens, to raise such sums of money as are necessary for public use;
indirect taxation, duties laid upon those foreign articles which are
imported and sold among us. Such duties are paid, in the first place,
by the merchant; by the man that is buying, and selling, and getting
gain, and has the money to pay. It is true that he will not bear the
whole of this in the end; he will ask a higher price for his goods. But
I ask you, is it not easier for you to give a little dearer for the goods
you buy when you can pay in your way, and if they are higher, can
buy a little the less; is not this easier than it is to have a collector
come and dun you for a round sum of money, and pay it you must
or your cattle and land must be sold at public vendue? Everyone
must see that this way of indirect taxation is by far the easiest for the
people. Reason shows us that this must be the case. The experience
of all civilized nations shows us the same. In England, more than
three-fourths of the public revenue is raised by indirect taxation; much
the same way likewise may be said of the other European nations.
This advantage will also arise from taxing foreign commodities, that
it will in reality encourage our own produce and manufactures. It
has heretofore been our foolish policy to load our own commodities
with taxes and let those of foreigners go free. We tax all our own
commodities, not excepting the most favored, not excepting even our
wool and flax. Although we do not charge our sheep in the list, yet
we tax the land which they feed upon, which operates as a tax upon
the wool itself. We tax the ground on which our flax grows, the oxen
employed in tilling it, and the polls of those employed in raising and
dressing the flax; so that in reality, this useful material for our own
domestic manufactures pays a heavy tax. The lands on which our
orchards grow are taxed; and thus the wholesome juice of our own
apple pays a heavier tax than those fiery distilled spirits which destroy
the health, property, and morals of the people. Now by taxing our
own commodities higher than those of foreign nations, we discourage
our own and give the preference to foreign produce and manufac-
tures. This, my countrymen, is going on in the high road to national
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