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

VI. The Connecticut Convention, 3-9 January 1788,   pp. 535-562


Page 548

CONNECTICUT/7 JAN.
favor of the Southern States. Some other objections were likewise
made against this paragraph. [Connecticut Courant, 14 January]
In answer to them, OLIVER ELLSWORTH expressed himself nearly
to the following effect.
Mr. President. This is a most important clause in the Constitu-
tion; and the gentlemen do well to offer all the objections which
they have against it. Through the whole of this debate, I have at-
tended to the objections which have been made against this clause;
and I think them all to be unfounded. The clause is general; it gives
the general legislature "power to lay and collect taxes, duties, im-
posts and excises to pay the debts, and provide for the common de-
fence and general welfare of the United States." There are three
objections against this clause. First, that it is too extensive, it ex-
tends to all the objects of taxation; secondly, that it is partial;
thirdly, that Congress ought not to have power to lay taxes at all.
The first objection is that this clause extends to all the objects of
taxation. But, though it does extend to all, it does not extend to
them exclusively. It does not say that Congress shall have all these
sources of revenue, and the states none. All, excepting the impost, still
lie open to the states. This state owes a debt; it must provide for the
payment of it. So do all the other states. This will not escape the
attention of Congress. When making calculations to raise a revenue,
they will bear this in mind. They will not take away that which is
necessary for the states. They are the head and will take care that
the members do not perish. The state debt, which now lies heavy
upon us, arose from the want of powers in the federal system. Give
the necessary powers to the national government, and the state will
not be again necessitated to involve itself in debt for its defense in
war. It will lie upon the national government to defend all the
states, to defend all its members from hostile attacks. The United
States will bear the whole burden of war. It is necessary that the
power of the general legislature should extend to all the objects of
taxation. That government should be able to command all the re-
sources of the country, because no man can tell what our exigencies
may be. Wars have now become rather war [s] of the purse, than of
the sword. Government must therefore be able to command the whole
power of the purse; otherwise a hostile nation may look into our
Constitution, see what resources are in the power of government, and
calculate to go a little beyond us. There they may obtain a decided
superiority over us and reduce us to the utmost distress. A govern-
ment which can command but half its resources is like a man with but
one arm to defend himself.
548


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