University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

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

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

Page 550

the collection of this vast sum by direct taxation. In Holland, their
prodigious taxes, amounting to forty shillings for each inhabitant,
are levied chiefly upon articles of consumption. They excise every-
thing, not excepting even their houses of infamy.
The experiments which have been made in our own country show
the productive nature of indirect taxes. The imports into the United
States amount to a very large sum. They never will be less, but will
continue to increase for ages and centuries to come. As the popula-
tion of our country increases, the imposts will necessarily increase.
They will increase because our citizens will choose to be farmers,
living independently on their freeholds, rather than to be manufac-
turers and work for a groat a day. I find by calculation that a gen-
eral impost of 5 percent would raise the sum of £245,000 per annum,
deducting 8 percent for the charges of collecting. A further sum
might be deducted for smuggling, a business which is understood too
well among us, and which is looked upon in too favorable a light. But
this loss in the public revenue will be overbalanced by the increase of
importations. And a further sum may be reckoned upon some ar-
ticles, which will bear a higher duty than the one recommended by
Congress. Rum, instead of 4d. per gallon, may be set higher without
any detriment to our health or morals. In England, it pays a duty
of 4s. 6d. the gallon. Now let us compare this source of revenue
with our national wants. The interest of the foreign debt is £130,000
lawful money per annum. The expense of the civil list is £37,000. There
are likewise further expenses for maintaining the frontier posts, for
the support of those who have been disabled in the service of the con-
tinent, and some other contingencies amounting together with the
civil list to £130,000. This sum added to the interest of the foreign
debt will be £260,000. The consequence follows that the avails of the
impost will pay the interest of the whole foreign debt and nearly
satisfy these current national expenses. But perhaps it will be said
that these paper calculations are overdone, and that the real avails
will fall far short. Let me point out then what has actually been
done. In only three of the states, in Massachusetts, New York, and
Pennsylvania, £160 or 180,000 per annum have been raised by impost.
From this fact, we may certainly conclude that, if a general impost
should be laid, it would raise a greater sum than I have calculated.
It is a strong argument in favor of an impost that the collection of
it will interfere less with the internal police of the states than any
other species of taxation. It does not fill the country with revenue
officers, but is confined to the seacoast and is chiefly a water opera-
tion. Another weighty reason in favor of this branch of revenue is, if
we do not give it to Congress, the individual states will have it. It

Go up to Top of Page